What happens when gentrification is met by extreme abhorrent objection?
A Junction neighbourhood found out when Ralph Scala and his father Felice, took extreme bullying to a new level.
The Junction area is one with a colourful past. Named after the ‘Junction’ or crossing of train tracks, this area became built up by manufacturing factories that could maximize their proximity to the trains. The boom of this manufacturing hub was met with a screeching halt during the great depression. Many of the people who lived and worked here were left unemployed, with pubs and taverns remaining some of the only businesses operating in the area. This created the perfect storm of bad behaviour. Residents quickly rallied and won a ban against the sale of alcohol within the Junction, and it remained this way until 2001!
The elimination of this prohibition coincided with Toronto’s housing boom, as hip bars and restaurants popped up left and right, creating the perfect storm for rapid gentrification. However, a long time junction resident took this gentrification as a threat to the neighbourhood and reigned terror on new residents.
Imagine moving into your new home with your family, only to find that each morning a piece of your property has been vandalized. For new residents of Dundas St. W. & Quebec Ave, from 2001-2009, this was a struggle. As they settled in, many of them started to notice small acts of vandalism and soon realized they were being systematically targeted and intimidated. Ready to start the day, they would jump in the car only to find their tires had been slashed or their car had been keyed. Sometimes even rocks would be thrown into their windows. Someone was aggressively trying to keep them from enjoying their homes.
Who could possibly be responsible for these deliberate acts of terror?
Known as the neighbours from hell, Ralph Scala and Felice Scala had a reign of terror locked down on Quebec Avenue. Often pacing along the street with an un-muzzled pit bull, they kept their neighbours fearful about venturing outside. No age for them was off limits, as they would flood an 86-year-old neighbours lawn, and then heckle outside of a 3-year-olds window at night. Local businesses would soon find out that the Scalas were not to be messed with after banning them from their premises. Accelerant would be pushed through their doors, and their storefront windows smashed. All these incidents were very hard to pin down the Scalas, as they were not caught in the act.
left to right: Ralph and Felice Scala (image: Toronto Star)
Uttering threats and escalating the slightest of misunderstandings into major disputes continued for 5 years. When it was revealed that the Scalas had hired local youth to vandalize their neighbours properties, action was set to have the Scalas held criminally responsible. Forty-nine charges, including mischief, criminal harassment, and threatening were laid against the Scalas of which they plead guilty too in 2009. After brief jail time, they were ordered to leave the Junction neighbourhood for 3 years and were prohibited from owning a dog.
Today, the Scalas are living in Etobicoke and said to be keeping a low profile. For their neighbours in the Junction, they still have uneasiness from the chance they may one day return. It is believed they still own their house in the Junction. For now, the senseless harassment has ended and the Junction neighbourhood has become more and more gentrified. Proof that even a family of bullies can’t keep the wheels of change from rolling into their neighbourhood.
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