I have been following with interest and some concern the skirmish between Villa Charities/the TCDSB on one side and the Dufferin & Lawrence Community on the other side regarding the ill-conceived plan to demolish the Columbus Centre.
As one of the many financial contributors to the construction of the Centre I wish to express and explain my own position on the matter.
In the fall of 1979, a few months after I opened my law practice, the late Emilio Gambin, Q.C., came to visit me in my office.
I had articled for his firm (Gambin & Bratty) and, out of respect and seniority, I addressed him as Mr. Gambin,. He called me “Chich” just like my old friend John Guido used to call me when working together at Gambin & Bratty.
I still remember the conversation which went as follows:
“Chich” he says, “we are going to build a community centre at Dufferin & Lawrence and we need you to help…. we’ve got you down for a $10,000.00 pledge”.
“Mr. Gambin” I say, “you’ve got to be kidding me. In case you forgot I opened my office in May” and I don’t think I’ll take home $10,000.00 this year.
“Don’t worry Chich, you can pay in five yearly instalments of $2,000.00 and you don’t have to pay your first $2,000.00 until the end of next year. And by way, we’ll throw in a free membership for five years”.
The $10,000.00 donated to the Centre are arguably the best and most significant donation I have ever made.
For over twenty years after the completion of the Centre, I enjoyed its facilities, playing squash with the likes of Frank Soppelsa, Tony Lecce, Rocco Russo, Bruno Bertolin, Robert Galati and many others. The Centre also gave me the opportunity to strengthen my friendship with Con Di Nino, Tony Fusco, Tony Pascale, Tony Di Poce, my old school buddy Pal Di Iulio and many other regulars of the Centre.
I still remember the black & white picture taken on a flatbed truck at Varsity Stadium hanging on a wall in the Caffè Cinquecento of Pal and I taken in 1970. As members of the St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto, we came first in the Home Coming Parade with the slogan “ Make Wine Not War”.
One of my friends I used to play squash with is now a member of the Villa Charity board and tries to justify the plan to demolish the Centre on the basis that it has not been self-sustainable for many years.
While this may be true I am not sure that demolishing the Centre is the only way to fix Villa Charities’ balance sheet.
Villa Charities should focus its efforts on how to make the Centre sustainable rather than seek its demolition.
The Centre was built, in large part, by the community and for the community. I don’t believe that Villa Charities ( and certainly not the TCDSB ) have the legal and moral right to demolish it!
Barrister and Solicitor