When 73-year-old Adi Astl learned that the city he lived in was going to spend $65,000 to add a short set of stairs to a nearby park, he thought it was ridiculous. When he learned that the city government was estimating it could cost as much as $150,000, he figured they’d all lost their minds. And that’s when the retired mechanic decided to set them straight by sending them a clear message.
Astl saw the need for the stairs because several people had slipped while walking down a steep embankment from the parking lot to the park. What he didn’t understand, though, was why the city of Toronto wanted to take that much of the taxpayer’s money to put in a staircase.
“I thought, ‘This was ridiculous.’ You could build an escalator for that much,” he told Today.
So that’s when Astl rolled up his sleeves, bought some wood, and asked a homeless person at the park to help him build his own set of stairs. They completed them in just a handful of hours. The total cost? $550.
Not surprisingly, the city determined Astl’s stairs violated their stringent safety regulations, and they informed him they’d have to rip them out and replace them with their own staircase. But the message he sent them still felt like a two-by-four to their collective heads.
Toronto Mayor John Tory got involved and scolded his own city staff, saying, "The original cost estimate for the city of Toronto to build stairs in Tom Riley Park was absolutely ridiculous and out of whack with reality. I want to thank Mr. Astl for taking a stand on this issue. His homemade steps have sent a message that I know city staff have heard loud and clear. The city always needs to be looking for simple, cost-effective solutions to problems no matter how big or small they are.”
The city says it has figured out how to reduce the cost of their new staircase to $10,000 instead of $65,000 to $150,000, while still meeting all required safety standards. Even though it cost Astl some time and money in the first place — just to have his project torn out — he’s happy with the city’s decision.
He explained, “I achieved what I wanted to achieve: to have a safe spot for people to go to the park.”
Meet Astl, take a closer look at the stairs, and see how people reacted to them in the CTV News report below:
What do you think about Astl’s message to city government? Comment, react to, or share this on Facebook.