5 Years!

welcome to the world’s largest Abandoned Urban Space!
Here we will be doing stuff in regards to Turcot Yards and how I have come to get involved with it and it s inevitable developement,
But for now it is a spectacularily empty and vast urban space located on the Southwest side of Montreal.
Stay tuned,

5 years ago I posted those words (guess they didn’t have spell checkers back then) not having a clue how this blog might develop. At the time I was simply feeling that it might be convenient to have an online place to put my pictures and possibly discuss the history of Turcot Yards. And in the beginning I was more drawn to the vast expanse of Turcot rather than the interchange because it was so rich with possibilities. Turning Turcot Yards into a freeway and the Falaise Saint Jacques into an organic noise barrier just seems like the dumbest, most boring, possibility of them all.

I did not see myself playing any kind of a role as an urban activist. As I have said many times I felt more like some lone wolf (madman) in the Turcot wilderness searching for members of his own species. And in 2005 it was crazy to suggest that sustainable principals be applied to any redevelopment of the Turcot Yards! So the first few years were about the walks through the yards, some speculation about what could be done, and a look at similar projects around the world. And then the Ministry of Transport announced their plan to rebuild the Turcot Interchange in June of
Stuff started to happen.

I met Jody Negley of Village des Tanneries in Saint Henri not long after that. I consider Jody the founder of the whole Turcot movement because she was the first person I knew to raise concern about the MTQ’s plan, especially in regard to demolitions in les Tanneries. She could see the block that was to go down out her front windows. The revolution began on Jody’s kitchen table. Jody deserves recognition from the city for her devotion to Village des Tanneries not just as a Turcot activist, but also as a community organizer who has brought a whole lot of great ideas, activities, and permanent enhancements to the neighborhood!
I began attending community meetings in les Tanneries and decided to start blogging about what these people were going to do. Through these meetings I also met Pierre Zovile and Sophie Thiebaut and Derek Robertson who have all worked tirelessly not only in the resistance to the MTQ plan but also in providing alternatives, let alone working with other projects around town and across the Island. Members of my own species were indeed found and I am quite proud to know these remarkable individuals.
There are many, many other people who deserve a nod here.
Mobilizations Turcot, Jason over at Turcot.ca, Allanah and Jacob at Spacing Montreal, Kate at Montreal City Weblog, and hundreds of others who have all contributed in some ways to this amazing Turcot adventure in urbanism. Thanks!
The architect, Pierre Brisset, has been a critic of Montreal’s transport issues for decades. He is also one of the more interesting characters you will meet on the way to the protest march, passionate about the city, caring of it’s citizens, and very, very well informed. He has drawn up an alternative plan for Turcot which addresses the health and sustainability issues that the MTQ prefers to simply dress up in shrubs and grass. Pierre should be given the keys to the city and the Order Of Canada for his work during this whole Turcot adventure. Simple as that!
I also feel it is important to mention Richard Bergeron and Projet Montreal. Someone pointed him out to me at a meeting in Saint Henri and I was quite impressed by his modest appearance, his comfort levels rubbing elbows with ordinary folks, and a sincere capacity to listen. There was a genuine “grassroots” quality to this man that was a stark contrast to what we normally expect from politicians. And the Projet Montreal platform seemed to be just what Turcot, and the City, needed.
It was at a small gathering in the Biker’s Garden in les Tanneries that I had the conversation with Craig Save, Projet Montreal’s version of Superman, that led me to decide to run in the 2009 election in Verdun. That was an excellent experience going door to door and getting some first hand insights into how indifferent and how passionate people in a given neighborhood can be.

There have been protest marches, including one up a freeway ramp, BAPE (bureau d’audiences publique sur l’environment) hearings, public consultations, and more protest walks. I have had the good fortune to make some pretty good friends around town, meet tons of interesting creative people, and a whole lot of good things have happened.

Turcot, Meadowbrook, Griffintown. I really, really have come to admire the people who have fought on these projects because I have seen with my own eyes just how incredibly difficult it is to fight City Hall. I want to say that again, it is incredibly difficult to fight City Hall. But it can be done, hell, it should be done. There are no regrets to be found anywhere on the faces of these good people. And the next time you are going to vote, keep in mind that the people who are willing to fight for the betterment of your community are working a hundred times harder than the people who will hurt it by keeping their heads buried in the status quo!

5 years seems like a nice round number and certainly a time to consider moving on to other things. But the Turcot adventure is not over and it would just feel a little weird not seeing this thing through to the end. Just the same it appears I am at a crossroads again, after all I haven’t actually been inside Turcot Yards in over a year, and am getting too old to be playing cat and mouse with security :), or maybe just at the beginning of the next thing? I may start doing some different things on this blog, maybe not, there is still a lot of exploring to do in this insanely remarkable city, it’s all open as I far as I can see…
Stay tuned,

P.S. I really want to take a moment to thank all the people ( 241,623 as of this writing, not bad for such a little niche part of the internet) that do read this blog and occasionally comment. You have taught me a lot of things and have kept the conversation going and for that I will be forever grateful.


5 responses to “5 Years!

  1. Thank YOU Neath! Only a year and a half ago I lived in 617 St-Remi the sister building to 780 St-Remi and have done my fair share of romping in the “wasteland” behind there. I’ve had an interest in urban planning for a few years and living right on the periphery of such a contested space certainly augmented it, thanks in no small part to your blog.

    I live one metro station further down now, but still hold that part of St-Henri and Les Tanneries dear in my heart. I sincerely hope that something positive comes from all the work and controversy surrounding the Turcot yards.

    Without a doubt your work on this blog has been a big part of raising the awareness of numerous people to the issues afoot in Montreal, not just in this little corner of the city but of planning and civics at large. You should be proud of that and I hope that you keep it up. It makes me feel much more connected and invested in the city to hear the news and commentary from your blog.

    I have done my part in spreading the word about Projet Montreal and problems with the Turcot on my facebook page and in personal conversations. I also think that more and more small community interventions like guerrilla gardens or parc benches are powerful forces in uniting and empowering communities.

  2. Thanks for reading. I have become very fond of the entire South West during this time. I have only ever lived in Ville Emard and Verdun, but Saint Henri, Griffintown, The Point, Little Burgundy, somehow all seem like neighborhoods where I have lived now. There is simply something wonderful about this area and it’s a shame the way Montreal has approached development in these areas. You can’t buy and sell character and that is what the SouthWest is extremely strong on. Ironic then to see them destroying the very things that make these neighborhoods great!

  3. Thanks neath, you cut a path for many urban photographers toward broader collective involvement.

    The emphasis you place on local people is refreshing. Too often in public forums we are led to forget how kitchen tables and door-to-door contacts still play a role in getting some action and in building pressure to oppose mindless bulldozing.

    Congrats on 5 years of rabble rousing and inspiration.

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