Downtown Bureau

A Poverty of Insight

Beasly is home to some of the city's best music, theatre, art, culture, dining, and architecture. Bland suburbanites beware.

By Jason Leach
Published February 15, 2006

Once again the Hamilton Spectator has managed to outdo itself with this current 'poverty project'. You may recall the 'Lament for a Downtown' series they did several years ago, which basically ripped apart downtown Hamilton.

This new endeavor is the Beasley version. For those of you who don't know, Beasley is the neighbourhood north-east of the Gore between James, Barton, Wellington and King. According to the Spectator, it is a hell hole and a place that you should avoid like the plague.

Better yet, go live there if you have the plague.

I don't live in Beasley, but I know people who do, great folks who work hard and enjoy living in an urban neighbourhood. Some of the best music, theatre, art, culture, dining and architecture can be found in this neighbourhood.

Just beyond the neighbourhood's border are spots like Bayfront Park and the West Harbour, the Farmers Market, Central Library and Hess Village. Vancouver's Eastside this ain't. Not by a mile.

I live in the Strathcona neighbourhood on the other end of downtown. The ethnic makeup of my neighbourhood is similar to Beasley. There are fewer crackhouses and shelters in my area (although the city and Good Shepherd are about to change that) but the northern stretch of Strathcona between Dundurn and Queen is the most ethnically diverse neighbourhood in the entire city.

According to the Spec that instantly equals poverty. Yes, it's true that many immigrants land in our nation with no material possessions. But having lived in the 'middle class' south mountain and now living among the newest members of our city, I wouldn't go back for anything.

What our immigrant population lacks in wealth they more than make up for in work ethic, entrepreneurship, and attitude. They are thrilled to be in our city. They want to start restaurants and shops to serve the growing immigrant population and the adventurous Canadian-born folk like me.

They take care of their properties and walk the streets, bringing vibrancy and life to Hamilton's neighbourhoods, which are otherwise dominated by cars spewing litter out the windows from fast food chains.

Yesterday, while riding the #8 York bus downtown, I took notice of the fact that of the 12 people on the bus, I was the only white guy. This is the norm in downtown neighbourhoods.

Perhaps Spectator reporters would pull the bell and run for their lives at the next stop, but many Hamiltonians love living in a safe, multicultural urban core.

My wife and I have drastically improved our health since using the Farmers Market for our groceries each week and never going out to eat at a suburban chain restaurant with their chemical version of 'food' aiding the growth of all sorts of disease in North America.

For those of you unfamiliar with King East and James North, Beasley's two main commercial arteries, take a Saturday and stroll the markets, shops and galleries of this area.

Next time you're going out on a Friday night, check out one of the dozens of great eateries along King East, King William and James Street. Some of the best food in Hamilton can be found in Beasley along with some of the best ambiance and culture.

Nobody will really ever know what goes in the Spectator board room, but I would guess that their number one advertisers – the suburban home builders and box stores that furnish said homes – probably have something to do with another series beating the heck out of downtown.

After all, if the Spec can successfully scare a few dozen more families out of the city and into a bland burb in no-man's land, they've done their job.

Don't kid yourself into thinking that the 'corporate media' industry is more concerned with 'media' than 'corporate'. They aren't. Money is what matters and the Spec is doing a killer job at ensuring that their largest advertisers stay on board and keep the money flowing.

The real losers are you and me, and the downtown... and small business owners... and the city's image... and hard working families... and...

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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