City replaces this man's homemade Tom Riley Park staircase for $10K after controversy, safety concerns

A new concrete staircase opened in Etobicoke's Tom Riley Park Friday, just days after the city tore down a set of wooden stairs built by a retired mechanic at a fraction of the cost staff had projected.

'This is fantastic, but I still think mine are better looking,' Adi Astl says

Adi Astl, a 73-year-old retired mechanic, left, who built a homemade staircase for $550 at a steep popular shortcut in Tom Riley Park, commended the city for quickly addressing the issue with a new set of stairs, which opened on Friday. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

A new concrete staircase opened in Etobicoke's Tom Riley Park Friday, just days after the city tore down a set of wooden stairs built by a retired mechanic at a fraction of the cost staff had projected.

"The stairs are on time and on budget," city spokesperson Wynna Brown said in a statement obtained by CBC Toronto. The final cost of the installation was $10,000. 

Adi Astl, 73, touched off a controversy in the neighbourhood when he built the homemade stairs, without the city's permission, to help pedestrians make their way down a shortcut on a steep grassy knoll without falling.

He described a slippery slope, consisting of just bare stones. People would hang onto a rope that was there, he explained. 

'This is fantastic, but I still think mine are better looking,' Adi Astl said. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

Astl decided not to wait for the city to act, taking matters into his own hands last month. He built the stairs for just $550 with materials he bought himself after the city told him it would have to spend between $65,000 to $150,000 to solve the problem.

Last week, the city demolished Astl's wooden staircase, citing safety concerns. 

A photo shows how people used a rope to get down the hill in Tom Riley Park in Etobicoke before the stairs were built. (Greg Ross/CBC)

Initially, city staff told Astl he had violated a bylaw by building the staircase. Once the steps were built, the city put up yellow caution tape and signs saying the steps are unsafe because of liability issues. But people continued to use the stairs. 

"What's important to understand is that the city needs to build things that can stand the test of time, that are safe, that people don't get hurt using them, so things do cost a bit more when you are building them for the public realm," Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation spokesperson Matthew Cutler said.

'This is fantastic ... mine are better looking'

A woman walks on a homemade staircase in Tom Riley Park, near Islington Avenue and Bloor Street West, in Etobicoke. (Greg Ross/CBC)

Mayor John Tory blasted the city's initial estimate as "outrageous" and "crazy," last Friday, saying that anyone who looked at it should have known that it didn't bear "any resemblance to reality."

The city later said it wanted to find a solution by working with Astl, the local councillor and surrounding community.

Tory praised Astl for putting the issue on his radar. 

City staff put the finishing touches on a new concrete Tom Riley Park staircase after replacing a homemade staircase built by an Etobicoke resident earlier this month. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

"We're going back to the drawing board on this to get a proper estimate," Tory told CBC Toronto, while warning other Toronto residents not to take matters into their own hands. 

"The other thing we can't do as a city is just have everybody decide they're going to go out to Home Depot and buy some lumber and build a staircase in a park," he said. 

Astl's homemade staircase was taken down last week. 

"I think the mayor is amazing," Astl told CBC Toronto at the stair's reopening Friday. "This is fantastic, but I still think mine are better looking."