Thorncliffe Park, nestled in the central valley that defines Toronto’s residential core, is a lot like other arrival cities Doug Saunders visits around the globe: it’s filled with highrises, populated with immigrant populations from all over the world, and it houses one of the highest levels of poverty in the city. But it’s also notably unique in its high levels of engagement, social programs, and satisfaction. The residents of Thorncliffe Park, despite their trials and tribulations as the newest Torontonians in the city, love where they live and they make it known.
Back in May The Toronto Star reported that “Thorncliffe Park may hold the keys to better voter turnout” due to its extremely high voter turnout rate, despite being a low-income neighbourhood and being ethnically diverse. In a study for the Maytree Foundation (Maytree is one half of the backers for the City Builder Book Club), researchers found that strong social networks bring out the vote and said that the 30,000-strong neighbourhood is a model for understanding how similar communities work. Local politics are a big deal in Thorncliffe Park, so last week when community organizers put together an event for mayoral hopefuls to come out to the neighbourhood and meet the community, residents were greatly disappointed that Mayor Rob Ford skipped it – even though any amateur researcher could quickly surmise that there would be a strong turnout. Not a good call on his part.
Anyone who has read “Arrival City” would know that it’s always wise to pay attention to neighbourhoods like Thorncliffe: these vertical villages are teeming with people — citizens of their cities — who invest in each other and invest in where they leave. And with time, these investments transform their neighbourhoods into model communities with great services, higher price tags, and a brand name.