Toronto man builds park stairs for $550, irking city after $65,000 estimate
A new concrete staircase opened in Etobicoke's Tom Riley Park Friday, just days after the city tore down a set of wooden stairs built by a retired mechanic at a fraction of the cost staff had projected.
"The stairs are on time and on budget," city spokesperson Wynna Brown said in a statement obtained by CBC Toronto. The final cost of the installation was $10,000.
Adi Astl, 73, touched off a controversy in the neighbourhood when he built the homemade stairs, without the city's permission, to help pedestrians make their way down a shortcut on a steep grassy knoll without falling.
He described a slippery slope, consisting of just bare stones. People would hang onto a rope that was there, he explained.
Astl decided not to wait for the city to act, taking matters into his own hands last month. He built the stairs for just $550 with materials he bought himself after the city told him it would have to spend between $65,000 to $150,000 to solve the problem.
Last week, the city demolished Astl's wooden staircase, citing safety concerns.
Initially, city staff told Astl he had violated a bylaw by building the staircase. Once the steps were built, the city put up yellow caution tape and signs saying the steps are unsafe because of liability issues. But people continued to use the stairs.
"What's important to understand is that the city needs to build things that can stand the test of time, that are safe, that people don't get hurt using them, so things do cost a bit more when you are building them for the public realm," Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation spokesperson Matthew Cutler said.
'This is fantastic ... mine are better looking'
Mayor John Tory blasted the city's initial estimate as "outrageous" and "crazy," last Friday, saying that anyone who looked at it should have known that it didn't bear "any resemblance to reality."
The city later said it wanted to find a solution by working with Astl, the local councillor and surrounding community.
Tory praised Astl for putting the issue on his radar.
"We're going back to the drawing board on this to get a proper estimate," Tory told CBC Toronto, while warning other Toronto residents not to take matters into their own hands.
"The other thing we can't do as a city is just have everybody decide they're going to go out to Home Depot and buy some lumber and build a staircase in a park," he said.
Astl's homemade staircase was taken down last week.
"I think the mayor is amazing," Astl told CBC Toronto at the stair's reopening Friday. "This is fantastic, but I still think mine are better looking."