Opponents of 109OZ, the six-storey condo planned for 109 Ossington Avenue, were mystified early last June when the posters they’d put up around the neighbourhood kept vanishing. They weren’t illegal, after all, and would the developers really bother?
“Then we started hearing these rumours that there was a guy doing it,” says Benj Hellie, the Ossington Community Association’s corresponding secretary—specifically, a short, middle-aged man with blonde hair who, Hellie heard, had been obsessively tearing down posters from utility poles in the area for decades.
Weeks later, when members of the group tried again, they finally saw the man. “He was like half a block behind us taking them down,” says Hellie. “It was like this real Keystone Cops or Three Stooges moment.” Another member, Jessica Wilson, explained to the man what the posters were for, and that they weren’t making any money from what they were advertising. Would he mind, she asked, leaving them up?
The man, who only gave his first name, agreed, and now, the Ossington Community Association’s posters are the only ones in the area that he leaves alone.
Others aren’t so lucky. A few blocks west of Ossington, Helder Ramos says he’s considering giving up. The coordinator of the Dundas West Business Improvement Area, which represents stores from Lansdowne Avenue to Rusholme Road, is all but resigned to seeing posters he puts up one day come down the next. For last month’s sidewalk sale, which his group helped organize, “we ended up not even putting up the rest of the posters [we’d made], because there was no point…that happens all the time.”
There was, it seemed, one possible culprit when The Grid first heard about the disappearing posters: Michael Rosenberg, the eccentric anti-technology activist who has a Kensington Market storefront and who, a decade or so ago, developed something of a reputation for taking posters down across Toronto’s downtown west end. (If you have a library card, you can read Gerald Hannon’s excellent 1999 profile of Rosenberg in This Magazine here.) But Rosenberg clarified in a recent phone interview that it wasn’t him. “What I was doing at one point was taking down posters that were covering other people’s posters,” he explained. “I’m not, like, against postering, and I don’t know what was going on at Ossington, but it had nothing to do with me.” When we found a photo of Rosenberg to show Jessica Wilson, she said he wasn’t the poster-remover; Helder Ramos said he recognized Rosenberg, but had never seen him in the neighbourhood.
So, without a last name or a way to reach him, The Grid wandered around Dundas and Ossington for four hours last Thursday afternoon, hoping the short man with cleaning supplies would show. But he never did.
Ramos had a better idea for how to track the guy down, though. “All I can say,” he said, “is put up a poster, and then wait.”
Know anything we don’t about Little Portugal’s mystery poster-cleaner? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.