Tuesday, September 16, 2014

New Concordia dorm in building where 31 died in fire, but it's not haunted, no way

  Concordia has finally completed a long process of transforming the Grey Nuns Convent at Guy and Dorch into a student dorm.
   Not to incite panic but the last time that the joint devoted itself to young people ended up in disaster as 31 babies were killed in a fire there on Feb. 14, 1918.
   The electrical fire started on the fifth and sixth floors in the St. Matthew wing. It spread up curtains and onto the wood floor of the dormitory where tiny children, many newborns, were caught in the fire.
   Thirty-one of the 170 small children at the scene died of smoke inhalation.
   About 285 war veterans getting treatment one floor below managed to flee the flame, as did another 85 other sick folk and 105 elderly women.
   The 20 nuns and 20 assistants were unharmed as well.
   Mayor Mederic Martin was hit by a car while hanging around the scene but suffered only bruises to the ribs.
   So, is the old convent building safe after all of those babies died? Can you hear haunting children's screams?
   I was given a tour several years ago after being repeatedly turned down to visit as a journalist.
   I eventually just showed up without identifying myself as a writer and was graciously offered a fantastic tour of the place.
   It's a fancy place indeed. Most impressive.
   But haunted? I don't know. Safe? I don't know. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Montreal clean-up squad

   Don't have much of a background on this Montreal picture shot on Clark South of Dorch but it's epic. Amazing that Geoffrey Rush once swept our streets.  

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Why the city turns a blind eye to parking lot-owning scofflaws

Viger and Pap, one of Montreal's countless illegally unpaved parking lots
   Although you wouldn't know it, a strict set of rules dictate how a parking lot is supposed to look in Montreal.
  Parking lots are expected to be paved, landscaped, have lines separating spaces, the minimum size which is dictated in a city bylaw.
   But of course that bylaw has largely gone ignored.
   A few years back I hounded the city until they gave me access to someone from the inspector's office who said that owners are able to skirt fines by switching official ownership.
   It seemed slightly hard to believe.
   In recent years the city has put massive pressure on parking lot owners to build on their land, with a carrot-and-stick strategy dreamed up partially by Robert Libman when he served under Mayor Tremblay.
   So the secret reason that inspectors turn a blind eye on parking lot transgressions?
  The city would rather these lots remain unpaved with the hope that they'll be turned into condos or office buildings than to force owners to invest big money to pave and organize these lots, which would then likely enshrine their flat and vacant parking vocation for a long time to come and ultimately hinder their eventual transformation into something more useful and ambitious. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Newly-completed intersection remains closed because officials can't figure out dumb traffic lights

   I'm told that a big factor in the ongoing delay to finally open the now-completed intersection at Decarie and Upper Lachine/De Maisonneuve is that officials can't figure out how to get the traffic lights to work with the various directions of traffic trying to through the interesection.
   Not to insult anybody but Montreal's traffic planners might think about taking their pensions and leaving the job to somebody whose practices methods are not from the 70s as the answer is about as clear as day: roundabouts.
   As we've stated here repeatedly, roundabouts greatly diminish accidents by slowing traffic and eliminating left turns, which are the most dangerous maneuvre in driving.
   We have already urged this very thing two years ago but the senseless perpetuation of the old-fashioned and outdated traffic light system - which is massively unpopular among drivers - shows Montreal to be a backwards-thinking place that can't commit to improvement.
   Traffic lights cost $200,000 to purchase and about $2,000 a year to operate, according to an interview I conducted about five years ago with a local traffic bigwig.
   Traffic bigwig Ottavio Galella, who has major influence in such issues, doesn't seem to like roundabouts.
   Here's what he told me five years back: "For traffic volumes which are limited it makes sense but we cannot modify tens of thousand of existing intersections with roundabouts , financially it doesn't make sense. There are situations that warrant such geometric designs which work very well by the way yet it is not a miracle solution for all the users and it is actually a problematic design for the handicapped for the visually impaired and for other vulnerable users so generally the generally the design is appropriate in low density areas or some industrial park and it certainly constitutes a good solution under specific circumstances but should not be used as an overall tool or approach to solve the issue of traffic."

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Park Ave cafe crime - help get this Macbook back

Montrealers surely know the phrase "nothing good ever happins on Park Ave." (Did you just make that up or is that real? I'm not from here - Chimples).
   So when a creepy young thief stole an expensive laptop from the errant bag of a female customer at the Cafe Elmundo  at the corner of Milton it doesn't come as a total shock.
   It won't knock the Cafe Reggio Violi hit off its number one perch as all-time cafe crimes committed in Montreal but it's still awfully gross.
    Thankfully those same cafe cams that catch you in compromising positions, also spotted the bangs and polo-shirt-wearing twenty-something thief full on.
   His lack of sombrero, hat, cap, or even shades and beard have exposed his face for all to see. Anybody who went to a reputable theft school would see that as a rookie error.
  We say, "hey guy just return it and apologize."

Monday, September 08, 2014

'40s Montreal brothel trial re-enacted

   Lucie Delicanto Bisanti of 847 Stuart in Outremont was a 38-year-old veteran of the local prostitution business by 1944 and whose court hearing has been immortalized in a YouTube video re-enactment made by the local history museum.
   She says that at the brothel, hookers would wear bathing suits whereas the women who organized the brothel would wear white aprons and often be quite fat.
   The brothel on St. Lawrence was more upscale than the one on de Bullion, the woman explains.
   We know that in 1950 there were two brothels on De Bullion between Dorch and St. Cat (one on each side), another one block east at 1244 Berger and another one just a stone's throw away on Charlotte Lane. They would be shut down but simply reopen at another place, with the knowledge of the police. One hooker said that she was arrested 85 times.
And here's another re-enactment.

  If you disliked that, well ..hell.. it sure beats this popular video of a girl burping in prominent spots around Montreal, which is getting an amazingly bad 2-1 ratio of likes to dislikes.

Man disappears in West End

  Troubling story about young Matthew Kustra, a 26-year-old father of a three-year-old, who disappeared from the West End last Thursday.
     He hasn't been seen since last Thursday at 10 p.m. when he was at the PJ's Pub, a sports bar on St. James St. W, owned by Peter Sergakis.
    Kustra, who stands 5'6", was clad in a dark grey T-shirt, blue jeans and Nikes, according to a Facebook page created by his girlfriend Sarah Sisti.
 Kustra was reportedly a former co-owner of the Liquid Lounge, a bar on Sherbrooke just west of Claremont.
   He is an avid hockey player who often plays in night leagues.
  The Liquid Lounge was previously known as the Crossroads, which had a reputation for being a coke bar but frankly, I've been several times and always found it just like any other place, although, admittedly it was firebombed in May.  

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Jarry's fugly sidewalk poles look like they'll finally get removed

 This pathetic sight of electrical poles in the middle of a sidewalk on Jarry east of St. Michel might soon finally change, as road repairs, (left) suggest that the strip will finally see its poles buried.
  Some suggest that the burying of poles can raise home values by about five percent and it's considered safer as well as being more pleasant and possibly help that vacant lot (pictured below) finally find a buyer.

   The new poles can be seen here on the left. Note, however, that it could still be months, if not years before the unsightly wooden poles, which adorn both sides of the street disappear. A similar event in Ste. Anne de Bellevue was taken last year and now both the new poles and the old poles are up with no idea of when the old ones will be taken away. 

Cuz taxi driver hair is easier to cut

   Taxi drivers can get a bargain haircut if they get clipped at this joint on Jarry just East of St. Michel, provided they go either Sunday, Monday or Tuesday.
   No discount for blood donors, single parents, orphans, bone marrow donors, at least nothing posted, alas. Such is the hierarchy of the way we judge goodness in this city, I guess.
   Believe it or not this is not the first article I've posted about Montreal taxi drivers' hair

Friday, September 05, 2014

Montreal cops caught in full do-nothing mode

Cops are in full do-nothing mode these days, as witnessed in this photo sequence of a young man walking a pit bull without a leash on St. Catherine Friday.
   The man stops to talk to police, who one might assume would have told him to put a leash on a potentially killer beast but indeed they simply smile and chat and allow the boy and his dog to continue without leash.
   Montreal cops have given a lot fewer tickets since their pension dispute began - 41 percent fewer traffic and parking tickets according to one recent report.
   Police officers are useful and necessary and I support them but there's clearly far too many of them and we could manage paying a lot fewer of them, as crime has diminished radically in recent years but policing staff levels have not and as these photos attest, they're not doing much of anything useful anyway. 

How'd Snowdon once earn a rep as a big shopping district?

 A Coolopolis reader asks how Snowdon earned the moniker in the 50s as "the second largest shopping area outside of downtown."
  So in a search for an answer, I thought I'd turn to the crowd of reader (You mean "readers" surely? - Chimples).
   The reply might be contained in the 2nd Memories of Snowdon book, which author Bill Conrod was gracious enough to send to me from his home in Ottawa. (Ottawa? Sheesh! - Chimples).
   I'm told that the answer does not lie in the first book and was too busy to read through the sequel to find out if it's in there. (Too busy? But not too busy to play 1,000 geography and history trivia games on QuizUp?- Chimples).
   Here's the note:
In the 1950s and even in the early 1960s, it was often said that
Snowdon was "the second largest shopping area outside of downtown." Do you or your readers have any idea where this originated?
   As a onetime Snowdon resident many decades ago, I too would say it to people. Nonetheless I was a little sceptical at the time and thought it sounded more like business hype than truth. Snowdon area had many commercial enterprises stretching from just east of Westbury on Queen Mary west to about Earnscliffe. Decarie had businesses on both sides from Cote St. Luc to about Isabella years before the expressway was built.
   But there were a lot fewer businesses in the 1940s. It was in the 1950s that many of the apartment buildings on Queen Mary started converting their ground floors to retail space. Perhaps the idea started when Morgan's (The Bay) opened their first store outside of downtown Snowdon in the early 1950s. But even that was a novelty for only a few years. By the mid-1950s, there were Morgan's stores in Dorval and at Pie IX and Jean Talon. So that can't be it.  
   Indeed Queen Mary and Decarie, the epicentre of Snowdon, was a busy place in the 1940s with the streetcar turning loop and the many routes starting or terminating there. By then Decarie had also become the main road route to St. Laurent and the Laurentians. But again the shopping area wasn't really. Perhaps it was because adjacent Hampstead allowed no commercial operations in their city and residents had to go to Snowdon to shop. But then, Hampstead wasn't as populous as it is today.  
   In any case, the streetcar loop had been moved to Garland Terminus about a mile north of Queen Mary and Decarie by 1949 so you didn't have the same foot traffic. In fact I might even argue that Snowdon's downward slide began in the 1950s when more people were buying their first cars and moving to newly developing suburbs. As an original old streetcar suburb Snowdon just did not have the parking space for all these new cars. That's why so many of the new shopping centres of the early 1960s with their free parking lots became so popular. Where did that "second after downtown" statement originate? Surely in the 1950s there were equally populous and important commercial neighbourhoods in Montreal that would prove it untrue.
Conrod's reply: I would agree that the Morgan people must have been behind it. Definately car ownership forced a change in shopping habits. The Buskards would drive to Dorval to buy groceries, probably because it was easy to park there. Your right in reminding readers that the change from Snowdon Junction to the Garland turn-around influenced the drop-off shopping in Snowdon. I might suggest that Gerry Snyder might have been behind the boast about the "second largest". Ask his son, Glen.