Residents angry after staff destroy beloved 20-year-old garden oasis

A community garden oasis was destroyed by Toronto Community Housing staff, and local residents are angry and are demanding answers from the city of Toronto.

The once-stunning garden was created over a number of years by Brian Gorrell and another resident of 133 Broadway Ave.

One resident, Tom Cohen, described it as “the only real human touch in that canyon of tall towers, and full of the most whimsical sculptures and furnishings,” adding that Gorrell is not in good health and the city tore up his work on Feb. 7 while he was at an appointment with a doctor.

In a Toronto Star article, a TCHC spokesperson said the removal was the result of fire hazards present and the use of indoor electrical extension cords.

Jane Auster, of the South Eglinton Davisville Residents’ Association, said that reasoning is “a bit rich since it was deep in winter time when there could not have been fire hazards present.”

Gorrell told the Star that he had not received a single complaint about the garden until January, when he received two letters from TCHC.

“They never gave me any options. They never told me they would take the entire garden,” Gorrell told the Star.

According to Auster, the uproar over what happens has grown steadily especially since local councillor and mayoralty candidate Josh Matlow flagged the incident.

“There have been several letters sent to the city, letters to local media, calls for the city to rebuild the garden as completely and faithfully as possible,” Auster says. “This whole incident has been heartbreaking, as this garden oasis had been a bright and green spot for many years in a neighbourhood surrounded by concrete.”

The building is an older, mid-rise rental building near the corner of Broadway and Redpath. Brian (a.k.a. Bry) Gorrell, is a 53-year-old artist for whom this garden became a passion project over a decade and with an estimated investment of more than $20,000 of his own money, Auster says. 

“Building management never had any problems with the garden or complaints about it. In fact, probably quite the opposite, as this garden was a bright spot in the front of their building,” Auster says. 

Optimistically, Auster is hopefully that there will be a complete rebuild of the garden by city staff with the oversight of Brian Gorrell.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO