Deli restaurant owner Zane Caplansky has a message for Markham residents upset about the massive cow statue the city installed in their front yards: I’ll take it!
“If you’ve got a beef with that statue, you’ve got a beef with me, because I’m all about beef,” he said Thursday, less than 48 hours after Charity Crescent homeowners met with Councillor Alan Ho to express distaste over the cow their street is named after.
But the donor of the statue, Helen Roman-Barber, who is developing Markham’s Cathedraltown neighbourhood in honour of her family’s deep history in the area, has different plans.
“Good luck, guy. Good luck, guy,” she said.
Her father Stephen Roman’s Romandale Farm, the land on top of which Cathedraltown now rests, bought the famed cow named Brookview Tony Charity from a farm in Port Perry in 1985 for a then-record $1.45 million.
Charity was a nine-time all-Canadian or All-American show cow. Never defeated in her class, she was said to be the most productive milking cow in the world in the 1980s.
Inside Roman-Barber’s office on King St. hang photos of Charity — and other family heirlooms.
The tables are covered in magazines from her ancestors’ lineage in Slovakia.
Roman-Barber plans to build Cathedraltown a traditional town square, too.
Many of the streets are named after bulls and cows Roman owned. She glows about the calves her father gave to the papal farm in Castel Gandolfo in Italy.
“This is not a normal piece of suburb,” she said, proudly.
“The people who bought the original houses in Cathedraltown were all aware of all this history, because it was in the sales centre: the history of Romandale Farm, the street names, my dad. But people who have bought recently don’t have any of that.”
She says residents don’t understand the planning that went into Charity’s statue.
“When people cite safety concerns, that’s been gone into so in depth; there are no safety concerns,” Roman-Barber said. “The city also had to approve what we did to prove it was safe. It was a double tier of approvals.”
Roman-Barber commissioned artist Ron Baird to recreate Charity in stainless steel in honour of her father.
Even the direction the statue is facing was designed so that the cow would overlook the 30-year-old trees Roman-Barber had planted in the parquet (instead of planting new trees) to the dome of the Slovak Catholic cathedral.
Residents have asked Ho to look to move Charity to a nearby pond, where she could still face the cathedral.
He says council couldn’t persuade Roman-Barber to put the piece elsewhere during the planning process.
Caplansky won’t give up hope. On Thursday, he met with Luke Robertson, one of Mayor John Tory’s staff, to make clear his interest in the statue for his Yorkville location.
He says it could be a beacon for beef lovers and an attraction the city would fall in love with.
“Are you kidding? It’s beautiful. I think the cow, itself, is stunning,” he said.
Bob Forhan, Roman-Barber’s land-use planning consultant, says Caplansky and residents shouldn’t get their hopes up; Charity isn’t moving.
“Charity was planned to be in her crescent. It’s called Charity Crescent, and that was 20 years ago,” he said. “There’s no way she’s going to go anywhere else, because she’s in her crescent where she belongs. That was where she was farmed.”
“To us, history is important, the most important,” Roman-Barber said.