On Living in a Gentrifying Neighbourhood, Pt. V
October 2, 2013 § 6 Comments
In the mid-1980s in Vancouver, the BC provincial government built the SkyTrain, a new light-rail system connecting the western suburbs of New Westminster and Burnaby to the City of Vancouver. SkyTrain caused a lot of disruption when it was built, as you might expect for a brand new system. When it finally opened, just in time for Expo ’86, people were excited. Vancouver finally got rapid trasit! But some people weren’t so happy, the people who lived along the line in New West, Burnaby, and East Vancouver (it’s worth noting the SkyTrain went primarily through working-class neighbourhoods). I recall a news segment that investigated the claims of the noise. In particular, I remember a glass of water on a counter next to an open window as the SkyTrain went by. The water didn’t move. At all.
Nonetheless, I can understand in the inconvenience of the SkyTrain for those whose day-to-day lives were affected by it. They were there before SkyTrain, it moved into their neighbourhood.
But let us now consider Pointe-Saint-Charles. The Pointe has been home to a train yard since the Grand Trunk Railway built its yards there in 1853. For those of you who are mathematically challenged, that’s 160 years ago. In other words, the trains have been in the Pointe for a long, long time. And for much of its history, the trains were part and parcel of the experience of living in the Pointe. There was a train yard there. Life goes on.
But, as I’ve been noting in this series, the Pointe is undergoing redevelopment and gentrification. And nowhere is this clearer than in that part of the southern part of the Pointe which, even a decade ago, was a pretty dodgy part of town. Here, people have been snapping up cheap housing, both the 19th century stock and hideous new condos, and movingin. The Pointe, ever-so-slowly has become a more happening place because of this gentrification and that closer to the north end of the neighbourhood, near the Canal and the Nordelec building (which is in the process of being condofied now). In short, the yuppies (of whom I was obviously one when I lived there) are moving in.
For the most part, the process of gentrification has been more or less smooth in the Pointe, but, then again, I’m not one of the people being priced out of the neighbourhood. But the tension that exists in Saint-Henri was lacking in the Pointe. But, there were subtle changes in the culture of the neighbourhood when I lived there. This was seen most obviously to me in the case of the community garden at the end of our block. A couple of years ago, the arrivistes took control of it and essentially pushed the old-timers out of the garden. Not cool.
So, today I was reading the news on CBC Montréal, and I came across this little gem. Some of the yuppies who’ve moved into that southern part of the Pointe (taking advantage of cheap housing and pushing the poor out) are crying foul over the sound of the trains at all hours of the day. Yup. Imagine that! Trains! In a train yard! One resident hears the trains and he gets afraid of what might happen. Others complain sound like The Grinch, complaining about the noise, noise, noise!
Certainly, some of this is in response to the disaster in Lac Mégantic. But, it is worth noting that in all my years in the sud-ouest, I cannot recall a single accident involving trains in Pointe-Saint-Charles or Saint-Henri. Accidents between cars, bikes, and peoples, certainly. But not trains.
So, these people want Canadian National to reduce the trains and the noise they make. This is not unprecedented. There is a condo building on rue Saint-Ambroise in Saint-Henri, right where the CN tracks go through Saint-Henri. When it was first opened up, the people who bought in there respectfully asked that the Canadian National STOP running trains through their backyards. That line, which is connected to the largely disused yards in the Pointe, remains one of the busiest train tracks in North America, used by CN and ViaRail between Montréal and Ottawa and Toronto. I’m not making that up.
It would seem to me that one of the basic facts of living in a city is that there is noise. And if you are on the market for a new condo, you would look at what’s around you in your new neighbourhood and consider the inconvenience of the noise factor, or other things that might upset you. And, if you move into a condo near a train yard, you might want to consider the fact that it’s going to get loud occasionally. Trains are like that, they’re loud (I can hear the Commuter Rail train from my house here at all hours of the day and night, in fact, one is going by right now!). It is asinine and selfish to move into a neighbourhood with a train yard in and then act surprised when there are trains that make lots of noise. It is the height of idiocy, quite frankly. If you don’t like the noise, then go live somewhere else. It’s that simple. And so, that is my solution for these fine people in the Pointe. Sell. Move elsewhere.