Popular representations of Moss Park

By Ai Y


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[photograph of a mural on Moss Park Discount Store on the corner of Sherbourne St and Queen St]

Mainstream news sources such as the National Post, illustrates Moss Park as a site/sight of danger, and a space in need of “cleaning-up.” The author, Csanady, of the article “Toronto’s rough Moss Park neighbourhood becoming the city’s next gentrification battleground” provides insight on the growing “revitalization” (read: gentrification) of the neighbourhood, through the response by three community members, and representatives from organizations such as 519, and a community garden.

The author evaluates the gentrification as a re/structuring of the community with changes in built structures such as the John Innes community centre. The article evokes ideas of moral panic through the use of adjectives (like “infect”) that imply “sickness” to describe the community, and problematizes the ways that housing shelters and sex workers “keep the sidewalks crowded and the social services overloaded” (Csandy, 2016).

The descriptors used by Csanady implies the ways that the cityscape and public space must to be changed and “cleared out” or “cleaned up” to be fit for the White, middle-class, able-bodied, condo dwellers (White, 2011). Questions on why people do not have access to housing, or why there are cuts made in social services in this neoliberal state must be posed (Billingham, 2002). Privatization of public spaces takes away accessible spaces for people who actually are in need of open public spaces, especially unofficial third spaces.

Screen Shot 2017-01-09 at 12.33.14 AM[screenshot of results from the google search “moss park toronto.” Retrieved January 9, 2017]

The author’s discussions on gentrification is confusing and conflicting. Although the author includes a quote from a community organizer on the strength in community-owned spaces, it is used in a way that assumes that Moss Park community members are not part of LGBTQ communities -the shift in the renewed John Innes community centre that was initially planned as an LGBTQ-focused space (now an “inclusive space”) is interpreted as an exclusive space for LGBTQ folks.

The ways in which the space is imagined to be constructed is negating the very voices this article relies on: the Moss Park community. The idea of inclusivity, diversity, and multiculturalism is appropriated or used as a project for the middle-class (Hackworth & Rekers, 2005). Perhaps further understanding of discussions at the structural level on safe spaces, issues with inclusivity projects, and community centres as a space for the “community” (that includes LGBTQ people) must be recognized.

Screen Shot 2016-11-19 at 12.46.11 AM
[a screen shot of a google search of the intersection Jarvis and Gerrard, which illustrates the public discourse of the perceived safety of the Moss Park neighbourhood. Retrieved November 19, 2016]

The dominant ideas through the cybertopography of the Moss Park neighbourhood perpetuates the idea of an “unhealthy” space, despite the  ways that the place offers material influences to a “healthy space”such as green spaces/spaces with nature (Hartig et al., 2014; Pietilä, M., et al., 2015), third spaces like benches (Ottoni, 2012) walkability (Eriksson & Emmelin).

The results of search engines show what kind of questions the public is asking, and the criminalized activities or injuries within the space. There is a need for a shift in the social landscape of the neighbourhood, which would further ameliorate the perceived health of the Moss Park community itself.



References:

Billingham, Chase. M. (2015). The broadening conception of gentrification: Recent developments and avenues for future inquiry in the sociological study of urban change. Michigan Sociological Review, 29(Fall 2015), 75-102.

Csanady, Ashley. (2016). Toronto’s rough Moss Park neighbourhood becoming the city’s next gentrification battleground. National Post.

Eriksson, Malin. & Emmelin, Maria. (2013). What constitutes a health-enabling neighborhood? A grounded theory situational analysis addressing the significance of social capital and gender. Social science & medicine,97, 112-123.

Hackworth, J., & Rekers, J. 2005. “Ethnic Packaging and Gentrification: The Case of Four Neighborhoods in Toronto.” Urban Affairs Review, 41(2): 211-236.

Hartig, Terry., et al. (2014). Nature and Health. The annual review of public health,35, 207-228.

Ottoni, Callista A. (2016)“Benches become like porches”: Built and social environment influences on older adults’ experiences of mobility and well-being. Social science & medicine, 169, 33-41.

 

Pietilä, M., et al. (2015). Relationships between exposure to urban green spaces, physical activity and self-rated health. Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism.

White, K. (2011). The Aesthetics of Mad Spaces: Policing the public image of graffiti and “Mental Illness” in Canada”. In L. Rubin (Ed.), Mental illness in Popular Media: Essays on the Representations of Disorder. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc.

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