City not a 'heartless ogre' says mayor

Dave Bartlett
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

New homes found for most of those displaced by convention centre expansion

These old buildings on New Gower Street in St. John's are on the site of the future expansion of the convention centre. - Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Mayor Dennis O'Keefe says almost all of the people who will be displaced by the expansion of the St. John's Convention Centre now have new places to live.

The only exception are those who live at 145 New Gower St.

And he takes umbrage at some of the media coverage of the issue, calling it unfair and inaccurate.

"(The city) ended up getting painted as the ogre in this - that we were going to expand the convention centre, we were going to kick these people out and nobody was going to help them. And that was totally false," he said.

"The city is not the heartless ogre it was painted out to be."

O'Keefe said the word "eviction" has negative connotations and, to the city's knowledge, no one at this point has been given an eviction notice and he hopes it never comes to that.

"The reality is, we've been on top of this for months," the mayor said, adding the city has been trying to figure out the best course of action for helping tenants since at least last May.

From the start, he said, the city knew it would be displacing people - whether deals can be reached with the owners of the buildings at the corner of New Gower and Waldegrave streets or the city ends up expropriating them if deals cannot be reached.

O'Keefe said all those who lived at 26 and 30 Waldegrave and 147 New Gower have found housing with the help of their landlord.

"He has taken his responsibility seriously and he's arranged for their relocation," O'Keefe said.

But the owner of 145 New Gower has not replied to letters from the city, so the handful of people who live at that address are still there, as far as the city knows.

"We're not sure the numbers there because the owner of the property hasn't gotten back to us, but there may be two or three in that building," said O'Keefe.

"It could be a few more," added David Blackmore, the city's director of buildings and property management, who joined the mayor for the interview.

"We really can't approach these people without the owner's approval."

"We still don't own the property," O'Keefe added.

The only legal obligation a landlord has to cancel a lease or ask people to move out is that tenants be given three months' notice to find a new place to live.

But O'Keefe said the city decided early on it had a moral responsibility to try and help the tenants, even before it takes over the properties.

But that isn't without its challenges considering that there's an affordable housing shortage in the city.

O'Keefe said the waiting list for its 426 housing units is in the hundreds, and while St. John's is building 30 more affordable housing units, those will only go so far.

That's why, O'Keefe said, the city has partnered with groups like the Salvation Army, Stella Burry Community Services, Choices for Youth and the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing and Homelessness Network on housing issues. Some members of those groups sit on the mayor's advisory committee on affordable housing.

He said while people have to take some responsibility for their own living arrangements, the city knows some people need more help than others to find accommodations.

Blackmore acknowledged questions have been raised about the condition of the buildings that will eventually be dismantled, but he said city inspections determined there are no safety issues, though there is some cosmetic work outstanding.

He said it could be the fall or even next spring before the city begins to take down the buildings, so the city still has time to help the remaining tenants find new homes.

The Salvation Army's New Hope Community Centre has been acting as a liaison between the city and residents, but the person in that role was on vacation this week and not available for an interview.

Organizations: St. John's Convention Centre, The Salvation Army, Stella Burry Community Services Newfoundland and Labrador Housing New Hope Community Centre

Geographic location: New Gower, St. John's

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page



Recent comments

  • To seanoairborne
    April 15, 2012 - 12:54

    96% of the Salvation Army Money goes to help the poor. This can not be proven, because as a Church they are not held to the same financial accountability! The only way this could be true is if supporting their pastoral staff and conversion programs are part of it. I know a number of Salvation Army officers (ask Pastors) who live quite well. I have seen some money reports of some of their corps (aka churches) and very little goes to helping the poor. Then of course, they do some good stuff, like help the Hurricane Igor victims but this was only doable because the Radio stations raised millions for them and where did this money go and, even more interesting, where did the interest on these millions go? Doing good in every part of the world, I think not! There is no larger provider of food, aid, health, and education worldwide than the Catholic Church then you have other global Churches. Other Churches like the Anglians are also very global. The Salvation Army is mostly based in the well off English speaking countries like USA, Canada, England, and Australia. They may have a pin in the map in other places, but is just that, a pin in the map. Then they do a lot of false advertising or misrepresenting themselves. How many people know that they are a Church? Not many. People are unaware who they are handing their money over to because the Salvation Army often forgets to tell their true nature.

  • Joseph McGrath
    April 15, 2012 - 11:14

    I am not sure what you mean by the word orge Doc?It means I believe 1. A giant or monster in legends and fairy tales that eats humans. 2. A person who is felt to be particularly cruel, brutish, or hideous.As far as heaping praise on a slum landlord is concerned you ought to be ashamed of yourself.As a taxpayer I am not pleased to see you support slum landlords and low life who feed on the pocket book of the less fortunate ,in this case elderly people who pay $1100 bucks each month to sleep on the floor and live in filth.This is all happening right under the nose and eyes of the whole City council and every one on that sinking ship ought to be deeply ashamed of that.You got more than enough inspector generals working there and wasting our tax dollars to at least let them root out this type of human disgrace.If you think eveything is just dandy in the city or that the slum landlord is your new hero then I say move on and let someone else do the job of mayor.You appear to be rather cocky and satisfied about this matter but let me tell you straight up that the people of St.John"s are not.I hope you speek for yourself and no other councillor?????What "FOOLS" elected politicans sometimes show themselves to be.

  • dawn
    April 15, 2012 - 11:05

    These houses should have been torn down years ago. They are an eye sore . And if memory serves me right , there was someone mudered in one of the green houses years ago? O'Keefe says they are helping the tenants find new places to live , but then it says the landloard is helping find them places? I guess no real difference than people getting evicted so that the landlord can out up the rent .

  • Brett
    April 15, 2012 - 09:39

    Don't expand the convention centre? Boy are you guys living in the past. Quite frankly everyone knew the convention centre was going to be expanded for a couple years now. The houses will not be torn down for another year. Why can't the people living in them find other accommodations? Are they renting for $500/month? Is it the city's fault that the landlord was charging subsidized rates for rent? I think that the last 2 years would be plenty of time for 3 houses worth of residents to find alternate accommodations. I'm not being heartless, I just think that you cannot not look to solve your problems. The city is growing, prices are going up and each individual is responsible to make sure they can afford to live in it. The whole cost of rent situation has been about 6 years in the making.

  • Alexis
    April 14, 2012 - 21:40

    Could build a lot more affordable housing units with the money being used to expand an already adequate convention center...

    • Christopher Chafe
      April 15, 2012 - 09:43

      That's why we are seeing more and more conferences go to Halifax and other places in the maritimes.

    • seanoairborne
      April 15, 2012 - 13:02

      You're talking about a welfare state,not a city!It costs money to run a city and you can't run a city properly built on the dole.Take a lesson from Detroit where the population is down to 800,000 when it used to be almost four million because of the generous welfare benefits bestowed upon its lazy citizens.The same lazy citizens that now control it.And they still have their maulers out for more money to squander.A city in financial ruin with thousands of abandoned shacks as far as the eye can see.I'm all for affordable housing but not on the backs of the taxpayer.

    • seanoairborne
      April 15, 2012 - 15:08

      You're talking about a welfare state,not a city!It costs money to run a city and you can't run a city properly built on the dole.Take a lesson from Detroit where the population is down to 800,000 when it used to be almost four million because of the generous welfare benefits bestowed upon its lazy citizens.The same lazy citizens that now control it.And they still have their maulers out for more money to squander.A city in financial ruin with thousands of abandoned shacks as far as the eye can see.I'm all for affordable housing but not on the backs of the taxpayer.

  • Leo Stamp
    April 14, 2012 - 21:16

    If these are the row of houses going east from what is now Barters Hill , Walgrave St and NewGower going east toward what used to be Mammy Gosses tavern full marks to city council, They should have been destroyed years ago.

  • tom
    April 14, 2012 - 19:28

    Why oh why are we even expanding the convention center? Seriously, we don't use the one we have now but had to build. There has got to be a better use for our tax money.

    • Christopher Chafe
      April 15, 2012 - 09:44

      I suppose if they built the pretty tiny Heritage homes (barf) there it would be ok would it?

  • Church and State
    April 14, 2012 - 18:07

    Salvation Army is involved? WHY? This is nothing more than a Church group. A chruch group that does no more or no less than any other Church group. The only difference with this one is that they do not follow the Gospel message In Matthew 6 "But take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward." If there should be a seperation of Church and State the Salvatoin Army Church should not be favoured by the CIty or any government.

    • seanoairborne
      April 15, 2012 - 10:55

      The Salvation Army provides 96 pct of their donations to the poor and needy.I know because I do volunteer work with them.No other religious group or non-profit organizations come remotely close to what this group does every day,365 days a year in all corners of the world.And they don't ask you to convert like most religious organizations are want to make you do.I suspect that the Salvation Army is involved in this decision by the city because of their outstanding work with the truly poor,the downtrodden and the homeless.And they are truly accepting of other peoples religious beliefes, no matter what the denomination.They could care less if you're Catholic,Baptist,Mormon etc,etc,etc.There's a whole lot us Catholics and other religious faiths that could learn much from the Salvation Army's great works amongst the destitute ,the mentally ill and just plain old no hope folks in the world. You can spout bible versus till the proverbial cows come home ,but to me it's all just hot air when it comes to really helping others,like most religious organizations are want not to do, unless one agrees with their doctrine.And one last thing,you're woefully wrong about the Salvation Army just being another religious group.They are far and above the rest of them.You don't have to take this Irish Catholics word for that,just get on line and do some research before you go embarassing yourself in the future with inane and unfounded comments!