Monday, June 12, 2006

Introduction: Union Station

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"Toronto won all the marbles a long time ago, at least the ones that matter most. How you feel about that, and how you feel about us, is the least of our worries. We don't have the time to care. We have to go to work." (Fiorito 1).

So starts the book on Toronto I picked up.

Joe Fiorito starts off his book's introduction by dilly dallying about how Toronto has changed over the years yet still seems not grown up. He also takes brief looks at how others perceive Toronto to be. But perhaps the most striking thing he uncovers is that "Toronto is a work in progress..." (Fiorito 3). To help explain what the Fiorito means by this he uses the analogy of New York City of around 1900 when that particular city was trying to find its identity as well by taking in anyone or anything that was willing to venture to a newly developing city. New York City today, in case you have haven't noticed, is pretty well grown up and has its own identity as North America's, if not the world's, financial and entertainment capital. Unlike New York City, though, Toronto is not done yet growing up.

Finally, Fiorito notes he is not interested in examining the stories of the bankers or business leaders with mucho buckos. He is interested in everyone else as this is, what he calls, a "contemporary history."

Is all of Fiorito's belief true that Toronto has a lot of growing up to do? Is this the basis for his book? From my vantage point as a person who has resided just to the north of Toronto for most of my life and who has lived in New York City for a year, the answer is yes Fiorito is right.

Toronto has several things and is in also in the process of completing several things that it still needs to be one of the world's best cities.

Lets take a look from my own point of view what Toronto already has.

1. A definitive tower or building that helps defines the city like Paris' Eifle Tower, London's Big Ben or New York City's Empire State Building. Toronto has the CN Tower right on the waterfront that dominates the Toronto skyline from every angle. The CN Tower also provides views from it's observation deck just like the Eifle Tower and the Empire State building do.

2. Historic Sports facilities like Madison Square Garden and Yankee Stadium in New York City. Toronto, being a much younger city, has some catching up to do. Sure there was Maple Leaf Gardens and Exhibition Stadium which saw three of Toronto's sports teams emerge as expansion teams. But the Rogers Centre and Air Canada Centre are sure to become more dominant as our sports teams build up a little more history. Really only the Toronto Maple Leafs have the history to match that of the Yankees and the Rangers of New York City in comparison. Again, the closing of the Maple Leaf Gardens was big loss in city building in that regard.

3. Arts & Cultural centers like Carnegie Hall and the Gugenheim in New York City. Toronto is right up there again or is about to be in the very near future. Toronto posesses the awsome accoustics yet the intimate surroundings of Massey Hall for concerts that are apparently similar, but on a much smaller scale, than Carnegie Hall in New York. I will admit I have only seen the outside of Carnegie Hall. Toronto is also on the brink to matching the architecture of the Gugenheim and even the Metropolitan Musem of Modern Art of New York with the coming finishing of the renovations to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and Ontario Museum of Art.

What Toronto needs:

1. Transit systems that work like New York City's integrated subway, bus and train system that is quick and convenient. The worst thing in Toronto is perhaps the traffic and somewhat ineffective transit system. Toronto is way behind in developing a subway system and integrate itself with the suburban transit systems. For example of being behind, the Queen Street Subway in Toronto was planned for before the turn of the 20th century and still has yet to be built!

2. A developed watefront that showcases the city. Toronto has taken only symbolic steps by floating ideas and politicians patting themselves on the back after renouncing the development plans over and over and over and over....again. The time is to act now in order to get finish this step.

Fiorito is right. Toronto does have some work to do just like New York City has proven it has done. However, Toronto does have one advantage over New York City. Toronto has already observed what went right and what went wrong in New York's development. Obviously, New York didn't really have that advantage.

So, on I go reading Fiorito's book on Toronto's contemporary history of how Toronto is on its way to growing up.

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