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City staff to review ways of guarding city hall forecourt

City staff to review ways of guarding city hall forecourt

Hamilton City council got a look at a couple of sobering reports about the possibility of an enraged terror attack by vehicle such as the one in North York in 2018 that killed 10 people and wounded many others.

Some members of Hamilton city council balked at the $800,000 price tag for installing removable metal bollards around Hamilton City Hall to thwart would -be attacks by vehicles. But in the end they asked city staff to see what could be done at a lower price.

The triggering issue in Hamilton occurred during what had become the regular confrontations between right-wing yellow-vesters in the City Hall Forecourt and groups opposed to them. On one occasion somebody drove a school bus up on the sidewalk in front of the forecourt alarming some of those present and making everyone aware of the vulnerability of the plaza to attack.

One of the consultant reports noted that in order to minimize the chance of a vehicle attack, other jurisdictions “have primarily put in place measures that reduce vehicular access to public spaces, as well as seek to maximize the “standoff” distance between the road and “target” locations. Most common amongst such initiated security controls have been barrier methods of protective security, notably crash-rated security barriers, steel bollards, or simple temporary concrete blocks, all of which are intended to limit access by a vehicle seeking to attack a crowded public space.

The Bay Street corner of the city hall forecourt with metal bollards

But as the report points out, some people object to turning public places into fortresses, noting: “this barrier approach to securing public realm is seen by many as disproportionate as it impacts the livability, walkability, character and accessibility of public space significantly. For some, such hyper-security risks, and their security measures, create “sterile” public space where the general public fear to gather.

removable bollards at the Jackson Street entrance to City Hall

One interesting feature of the report was that it supplied crash-test data to show how well various barriers would stand up against a crash by vehicles of various sizes. The report analyzed several vehicle attacks including Charlottsville Virginia and Times Square New York.

In the end the report recommended a combination of removable and fixed stainless steel bollards at various points of entry around city hall as providing protection but at the same time being the least visually intrusive. Councillor Sam Merulla pointed out that the City Hall Forecourt is not the only public gathering place that is unprotected, citing Gage Park as another vulnerable site.

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