There was an epic length article a few years ago in Toronto Life that focused on The Docks and owner Jerry Sprackman, a man who never met a zoning ordinance he couldn’t brazenly ignore (un-archivably-linkable, of course — wither Toronto Life, says no to summer fiction and the internet too). It told the story of how, against odds and laws and city planning, he built an adult(ish) wonderland on our Industrial Rivera. He seemed like a straight Steve Rubell, taunting authories with his hedonistic creation and making a bundle. And now the spectacle that never was supposed to be has lost it’s liquor license and most likely will close, cuz there are no teetotalers in Sodom.
Certainly the Docks is a site of unspeakable acts against Toronto civilization — it’s the wet t-shirt of Clubland; the vomit machine on the edge of town; the place where girls who drive Pontiac Sunfire’s try ecstasy for the first time and dance to Nickleback with their arms in the airâ€¦
Bad taste is not illegal though, so most of us just avoided The Docks and the city carried on just fine, just as we avoid Peter and Richmond most of the time, only looking up when somebody gets shot or a 12-year-old girl gets stabbed on Adelaide at 2am. One part of town was paying a lot of attention though: there were celebrations on the Toronto Island today, where folks have been fighting with the docks for years. Corks popped, and white-haired-ladies were all smiles as they rotated on CP24 all day long.
Last year, when Islanders were cranky about Wakefest making noise in the harbour (perhaps itself an abomination of sport for some, but hey…), Eye Weekly ran a perfect editorial, at once supporting their right to live on the island (a city park) but clearly telling them to deal with the noise and stop being such pushy squares. In part, it read:
We’d like to register a noise complaint. We understand how sound carries across the water, so sometimes what seems a perfectly reasonable decibel level on one shore sounds like an overwhelming cacophony when it reaches the other. It’s possible the noisemakers are decent people, but really: we’ve got to live here, so could they please shut up?
We’re speaking, of course, of the residents of the Toronto islands, whose self-righteous, high-pitched whinging has been making it impossible for the rest of us to concentrate for more than a generation.
We don’t begrudge them their homes, nor the fact that they rent land from us at a price significantly lower than market value. But it’d be nice if they keep in mind that they live on land owned by all of us and set aside for community use, surrounded by land set aside for community use, across the water from land we very much want to develop into a vibrant part of Toronto. Sometimes the community will want to build a nightclub. Sometimes the community will want to give noisy kids a place to play. And if the island residents can’t handle the decibel level, they can always move to the suburbs. Things would sure get a lot quieter on the waterfront if they did.
And though I’m no fan of the Docks (and admittedly I don’t have to listen to it’s deep bass late into the night), I wonder if this is a slippery slope towards cleansing the city of some of the things we expect from big cities. As folks move into condos in Clubland, many of them demand (often in organized campaigns) more sedate and quiet nights. That 12-year-old should be in bed and not stabbed, but the area was zoned for clubs, and moving into that zone and complaining about noise is like moving next to the airport and complaining. Does it stop at a place like the Docks, or does it keep muffling things until somebody who complains about hearing Bach drift out of the Royal Conservatory of Music windows is taken seriously? I may not have liked the tune the Docks was playing, but what if it’s the first step in turning wonderful, vibrant Toronto into some kind of over-sanitized Singapore?