Greater Riverdale Organization (GRO)
The Greater Riverdale Organization expanded on, and replaced, the Riverdale Community Organization (RCO) – a lively and effective organization fighting for issues relevant to Toronto east-side neighbourhoods. In the early 1970s, most of the greater Riverdale community was working class and lower income, and City Hall seemed to be biased against their priorities.
GRO was adamantly against the planned Scarborough Expressway, which was to have headed north from the Gardiner Expressway, up Leslie Street, and then proceeding east above Gerrard Street. The plan for this originally included the demolition of 1,200 houses – most of them owned by working class families. A later modification of the Scarborough Expressway plan diminished the proposed number of demolitions to about 600 homes, but the GRO was not dissuaded from its opposition.
At least 1,000 people attended what has been called “Canada’s First Community Convention” in Autumn 1972 – an event that RCO/GRO was involved in. Indeed, the GRO was so effective that the Canadian Liberation Movement affiliated with it as a prime example of community organizing.
There were many issues to be dealt with in greater Riverdale, including pollution issues. GRO successfully lobbied for the City of Toronto to purchase (and then close down) a business called Valley View Dairy – which, in the midst of residential housing, maintained a herd of dairy cows that were smelly, while transport trucks in and out of the property were noisy and polluting. GRO also fought against a local business called Canada Metals, whose plant was a major lead polluter in Riverdale.
GRO also worked on issues such as community health care and community housing on Toronto’s East Side, and convinced local public schools in Greek neighbourhoods to teach the Greek language.
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