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Why this senior citizen has embarked on a new career - as a tenant organizer

Six weeks after their controversial, $70 million redevelopment plan was rejected by the province, the Columbus Centre's administrators are facing new criticism — this time from seniors in one of its retirement residences.

Some of the residents at the Casa Del Zotto retirement home, on the Columbus Centre's campus at Dufferin Street and Lawrence Avenue West, have been complaining about what they call shoddy maintenance and inadequate security.

"Give me half an hour; let's talk. Let's talk peacefully and try and sort it out," tenant organizer Sabina Pamfili said Monday. "There are issues that can be solved easily."

And the centre's administrators, Villa Charities, appeared to be offering an olive branch on Monday.

A spokesperson for Villa sent CBC Toronto a statement, that reads in part:: "Villa Charities has always had open lines of communication with our residents and is aware of the issues and is working to address them."

Water stains on a ceiling tile pointed out Monday by Sabina Pamfili. (Gary Morton/CBC News)

Those issues, according to Pamfili, a 13-month resident of Casa Del Zotto, include water stains on ceilings in common areas, carpets that aren't cleaned frequently enough and a walls that are in need of a coat of paint.

"They clean," Pamfili told CBC Toronto Monday during a tour of some of the common areas. "But if you look in the corners you will see the dirt."

She said she's complained to the building's management, but the problems continue.

The Casa Del Zotto is home to about 200 seniors on the campus of the Columbus Centre. Pamfili says she has the support of about 40 per cent of them. (Google Maps)

She said she's also worried about the fact that Casa Del Zotto has no security desk at the front doors, or surveillance cameras.

"Villa Charities is committed to providing excellent services for all our residents," its statement reads.

The Columbus Centre has spent the last few years promoting a redevelopment plan that would have seen its main building razed and replaced with a modern glass and steel structure, a new theatre, and a rebuilt Dante Alighieri Academy, which is adjacent to the main Columbus Centre campus.

Pamfili inspects a hallway carpet at the Casa Del Zotto Monday. (Gary Morton/CBC News)

Members and local politicians complained, saying the redevelopment would not respect the Columbus Centre's contribution to the area's Italian culture and heritage.

In February, the Toronto Catholic District School Board, at the direction of the provincial government, pulled its support for the project, which ended the development plan.

'Not sour grapes'

Pamfili sais the current controversey has nothing to do with any bitterness left over from the aborted redevelopment plan.

"It's not sour grapes," she said of her complaints. "It's justified. There are a lot of people who are dissatisfied."

She said she has the support of about 40 per cent of Casa Del Zotto's 200 residents.

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