Take Back Cabot Square

The people at Sharpie must be loving the spring of discontent that has blossomed into the season of protest and flourished from there so naturally into mayhem. I would venture that it’s been veritable decades since so much ink has been spilled in the names of Hell No, and We Won’t Go, and their various derivatives.

In so many ways, it’s wonderful. It’s all too rare that the voices of those who disagree are heard on the evening news, and it’s true that in my heart I believe that if we are to remain a society and not a bureaucracy in which people serve as mere cogs in corporate wheels, we the people must never shut up.

That being said, I’m careful about which causes I get behind. If I don’t feel strongly, odds are I won’t post about it, let alone show up. While I do possess an immutable tendency to play Devil’s advocate, I feel it a matter of integrity that I only raise my voice for matters I would go blue in the face standing up for.

Case in point, I would go to an abortion rally if the right was threatened, but I stayed clear of tuition talks (while it was still about tuition), deeming both sides so offside that I couldn’t in good conscience throw my personal weight behind either. Now, of course, with law 78, and the sweet sounds of the casseroles (that make me misty, by the by, for the same reasons Norma Rae made me cry), I feel distinctly that we’re all in this together, and the argument has drastically changed. Anyone who thinks this is still about the students needs to catch up; even the lawyers marched the other night, but this isn’t about that…the pull of it is admittedly hard to resist.

Nonetheless, before my heart joined that protest, my mind, fired by the passion that’s hit our airwaves, but unable to fully agree, wandered over to issues I feel a little more clear cut. After all, protesters as of late have proven themselves to be an inexhaustible and creative force, and I can’t help but wonder if the energy could be applied to local, attainable social goals; you know, while the sentiment of uprising and reconstruction is hot.

And I thought of Cabot Square.

Oh, you may know it as Crack Park — the one across from the old Forum, the small oasis of green goodness that the strip desperately needs, the one that’s currently owned and operated by some of the crudest forms of humanity. I can think of no other spot in town that doesn’t even try to conceal its seedy side in the sun; it doesn’t pretend to have dignity or shame. Are you really drunk, smoking, pregnant, and fist-fighting on the sidewalk in the afternoon? Really?

A run into the nearest dep is an adventure prepared by Goodall and Jung’s lovechild, quintessential anthropology, as popularized by reality TV. I have seen more police, ambulance, and security interventions at that corner than any other single spot in town. This includes my years living in some of the most colorful spots in NDG; take that, urban myths. Cabot Square is technically just outside of Westmount, but I feel safer on Walkley, or Berri Square, if I’m out that way.

In the 5 years that I worked at a studio on the infamous corner, I’ve seen the problem get worse, and while heads shake, and ladies tsk, the situation is vastly ignored as we turn away and write-off the park at least, and the area mostly.

Let me say that I am the first one (statistical fact) to bring a warm cup of tea to a cold, un-sheltered soul, and I have always been glad I did. Once, at a studio party, a woman who did postures but apparently knew very little of yoga, asked that I shoo a man who was looking to warm up from our foyer and into the winter. I brought him a plate instead.

I am also the first to curse and yell at classless vagrants who used to use said same foyer as a urinal and sometimes worse, before glass doors were installed, and privacy ruined. I am the bad cop who chased away belligerent daytime drunks blocking the entrance, and even called 911 for a non-responsive woman, who when they were able to wake her, assured the EMT it wasn’t her they were looking for. Sigh.

Last spring my dear Mabel brought her son to the Children’s hospital, and afterwards, having to wait for the bus there anyway, they popped over to Cabot Square to air the offspring and catch a breather, when in broad daylight, a man started coming toward them, undoing his pants as he walked. Mabel did what any mama bear would do: she got up on the picnic table, made her firecracker 5’2” frame bigger with arms overhead, and screamed the fucker down. She shouldn’t have had to.

Years back, late one night, I met an arch-angel at Cabot Square. He told me his whole story, and while I don’t remember any of it, I do remember the moment, and relish ones like it. Still, it isn’t worth the cost of so many bad stories, and I can surely find arch angels somewhere that isn’t across the street from a hospital, a library, a church, 2 malls and countless small businesses, all of which would be arguably far more successful if the Square pulled its pants up. It’s not the right place for a shit show.

While residents and business owners have been calling for years for the government to revitalize the area as a whole, that’s a large scale effort, and one that sounds a bit like passing the buck. How about a grass roots approach with the specific goal of making Cabot Square safe and family friendly for one afternoon and show the bigwigs what can be done when you actually put in the work.

I want balloons! Children! Friendly fluffy dogs! A day where the park is a park and not a cesspool. Maybe a day so lovely I could actually take a calm, slow gander at the metal sculptures that have sprung up around the park without waiting to be ambushed, or wondering why that man is screaming at me like we’ve been in a fight I wasn’t aware of for a heated while now.

When I came up with this Brilliant-if-I-do-say-so-myself idea, there was no law 78, and I was hoping the cops would join in our joyful take-back. I would’ve filed paperwork for days to get this done, but now I’m in no mood for glorified permission slips and Mother May I’s, and I get the feeling that this will have to wait on the back burner until at least fall. While I’ve never grown a grassroots park take-back revolution, I’m pretty sure it starts with a seed, and that this is it.

(I’m pretty sure we just had a Lorax moment, right there).

Let’s start a movement @McMoxy

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  • You mean by take back the square, by displacing the homeless and addicts? I`m very disappointed in this articl.. . C`mon, ignoring the homeless or making them feel unwelcome in public spaces is not a long term solution to the problem of poverty. The right place for a shit show indeed….where is the right place? In a poorer neighborhood or just where you don`t have to see it? For someone who spent multiple paragraphs telling us how great and charitable you are, you are certainly not showing your much vaunted compassion with this article. Re-think your argument and perhaps refrain from displaying your naiveté and perhaps, maybe try to commit an act of journalism….I`ll give you a hint. Sergakis has a lot to do with why that neighborhood is the way it is. That should put you on the trail, if you are ever interested in writing a more serious piece on the devaluing and (soon to be) gentrification of the area.  

    • Dawn here. I’m not ignoring the homeless. In fact, I’m trying to draw a much needed distinction between people who are down on their luck and striving for better, and those who are drunk and fighting, and screaming abuses at strangers. I feel there’s a distinct difference: The difference between someone who accepts food, and one who wants only money. I can’t imagine why…can you???
       And in fact, while you’re giving hints, check my own, and FTB’s coverage of the Sergakis’ contributions.

    • lol. So, wait, you’re going to act like a stuck-up little entitled bitch because you don’t agree with an article? Miss, Dawn is as left-leaning as they come, and she has a heart of gold. You should rethink your comment and understand that just because an article isn’t playing to your morbid fantasies of socialist grander, that it’s all bad.

      Really, your comment is just a disgrace to society in general. It’s funny you mention commiting to an act of journalism when the very universities that teach it have their students rioting in the streets… but that’s besides the point.

      This article was extremely well-written. I look forward to hearing from you in 10 years when your “movement” is crushed and you’re the one populating Cabot with a crack pipe in one hand and a dying baby in the other. Then again, I probably wouldn’t associate with you anyway…

      I know, I’m mean. Hate me. Cry me a river. 

  • there is 0 class analysis happening in this article and it makes me concerned for the discourse among our privileged class which has the means and the power to empower and actually make a difference in the lives of people our privilege disenfranchises. A grassroots movement would mean meeting with the people who “urinate” in Cabot park, who shoot up, do drugs, who hang our pregnant and drunk in the middle of the afternoon, who sleep there and who vandalise the statues. It would mean organizing efforts to empower these users of the public space by caring for them so that they have the means to care for themselves and the park. It does not mean moralizing their behaviour, judging their actions and kicking them out so the middle class can ignore the plight of the poor, the addicted and the disempowered. Cabot Square is important in that it is a central reminder of the inherent inequalities of our society; It reminds us of the miscreants that capitalism is wont to create. Reclaiming Cabot Park would mean valuing what’s already there, the people included.

    • This comment is utterly pathetic in every single way fathomable right down to its concluding statement.

      “Cabot Square is important in that it is a central reminder of the inherent inequalities of our society”

      So, what you’re saying is the park is symbolic for a reason to hate capitalism, bitch and moan, and it should remain a cesspool so society can see the error of its ways. How about while we’re at it, we give each and every drug-addict, whore, and homeless person a free education and $500,000?

      Cleaning up a public park is a great idea, and I support it. Take back things that belong to the public… that doesn’t mean turn them into a breeding ground for disease and wet dreams on the downfall of western society and the devolution into a European failure extraordinare. 

      Yeah, let’s just completely forget about the middle class — they don’t matter. Not like they don’t pay taxes or anything…

  • Im not arguing your point of view, Pigeon park, as I know it, has been that way for 30yrs…But maybe you should do a little background work.For the past couple of years differebt orgs.; Native, Church, Sustainable living, have been holding family oriented events there that encourage education, togetherness & acceptance. Last year a farmers’ market popped up on Thurs. & Fri. afternoons. I walk thru that park almost everday, and feel secure. In typical media fashion you are amplifying the negative. Perspective is 9/10s of the law tho.

  • As Angela says– displacing is not the answer. Shortly though, those new condo-owners will boo-hoo to the cops and the ‘vagrants’ will be displaced. It’s always about the money… so maybe that will “take back” the square… for the privileged. The homeless will shift to the next available park/space. Problem not solved.

  • I tend to agree with Dawn regarding the park and the area. That whole part of town has been run-down for decades and could definitely use a facelift. Montreal is a city that prides itself on being safe, and welcoming to all. Unfortunately parks like Cabot Square scare off both citizens and tourists, and at some point we will need to find a solution.

    How to go about that is not an easy task, and one that organizations have been trying to do for a little while. The photo above was from one of those recent church/community/environmental group cleanups. The event cleaned up the park (slightly) aesthetically, but during speeches even those were interrupted by drunks trying to get on stage and get in on the show.

  •  When people go out to a picnic  or a park they want to be enjoying themselves. This unfortunately may not be possible in this park, cause you’ll be harassed for your beer/alcohol, and or money.

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