The Sam the Record Man sign.
The Sam The Record Man sign before it was removed in 2008. PHOTO: CREATIVE COMMONS

Sam The Record Man sign dispute reaches community council

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By Latifa Abdin 

In a motion put forward by Ward 27 councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, future of the once prominent Sam the Record Man sign was decided Tuesday by the Toronto and East York Community Council.

After several disputes, the council was in favour 7-4 of letting Ryerson University renegotiate a new deal with the city in which they don’t have to install the iconic sign on top of their upcoming Student Learning Centre.

Councillor’s Gord Perks, Janet Davis, Kristyn Wong-Tam, Joe Mihevc, Adam Vaughan, Mike Layton and Ana Bailao voted in favour of Ryerson commemorating the sign in a different location.

Julia Hanigsberg, Ryerson’s Vice-President of Administration and Finance, stated during the meeting that Ryerson was not aware of the environmental concerns when they agreed to put the sign back up.

Hanigsberg also mentioned that Ryerson will help city staff find a place where the Sam sign can be installed.

“Ryerson is a tremendous city builder for this city,” said Hanigsberg.

The Ryerson representatives also showed a proposed a website to honour Sam The Record Man and his sign.

The website can be viewed here.

Councillor Josh Matlow stated that the website looked awesome but, it didn’t replace Sam’s sign.

The initial contract, which was signed in 2008, between the owners of the iconic shop and Ryerson was agreed upon, on the condition that the university reinstalled the sign on the new student centre at Yonge St. or on Gould St.

In 2011, the university said it would not be able to install the sign due to safety concerns regarding mercury leakage from the sign, cost of maintenance and issues regarding its incorporation to the design of the centre.

Instead Ryerson proposed to keep the sign preserved for two years and different ways to commemorate the shop, including a website that detailed the shop’s history and a plaque at the student centre.

But many people said that would not have been enough.

“It’s not simply commemorating the signs, it’s commemorating the man – Sam,” said Councillor Adam Vaughan.

From Facebook groups to speakers and councillors at the meeting, people are saying that the sign is a vital part of Toronto’s history and heritage- and that Ryerson should be forced to commit to its original agreement.

Councillor Mike Layton said that he supports Wong-Tam’s motion because it puts Ryerson back on the hook to fulfill their side of the bargain.

“I don’t necessarily think a plaque in the ground and some coloured concrete is enough,” said Layton.

Music journalist, and former Ryerson student, Nicholas Jennings, who spoke at the meeting, said that the sign was the most recognizable landmark in Toronto until the CN Tower was built.

“Toronto needs a reminder of its historical heritage and it should be prominent,” said Jennings.

“Yonge Street was the birthplace of Toronto sound.”

Now with the amendment made to Ryerson’s proposal to keep the sign in storage for two years, the university will have to find a location for the sign or it will have to hold up its end of the original 2008 agreement, according to councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam.

Jane Binet, musician and five-time Juno winner, was also present at the meeting.

“If Sam was here right now … He’d say forget it man, it’s over,” said Binet.

Matlow passionately questioned Ryerson representatives as to whether or not there were ever plans to reinstall the sign on the new centre. He said that the university should be held to the terms of its original agreement.

“We’ve demolished so many buildings and taken away so many places that should be a part of our heritage in the name of progress,” said Matlow.

 

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