Better Without Them: Open Letter to Hamilton Pride and to Try Hamilton Performers

Submitted anonymously to North Shore
        Advertising and sponsorship are everywhere and as we enter festival season, no one will be surprised that each one comes with its own sponsor’s logo all over it. It can almost just become invisible, our eyes slipping past it to see when the bands are playing or when food is served. Sometimes however, that sponsorship is more than just simple advertising. Sometimes the presence of a certain logo changes the nature of an event, twisting summer good times to serve an ends we might not be comfortable with at all.
        Unfortunately, we’ve all gotten used to seeing Ambitious Realty’s name plastered around the city and in the coming weeks, they’re affiliated with two big events: Try Hamilton up on Concession Street and Hamilton Pride. Yes, an event like Pride might need sponsors, but Ambitious Realty isn’t just another rich company. Ambitious Realty are predators, and I want to encourage you to refuse to support any event they’re a part of.
        Far more than other real estate company operating in the city, Ambitious seeks to rebrand Hamilton in order to attract outside investment and to be the vanguard of the rapid changes sweeping the city. They are speculators, young and rich, positioning themselves in neighbourhoods where more established investors won’t go. They do this not to improve the area for existing residents, as their vague rhetoric about “positive change” might suggest, but to profit immensely when we and our neighbours can be pushed out(this is called gentrification). They are indeed activists, but they are promoting a vision of the city where the wealthy can do whatever they want, talking about blank slates before those they’re evicting are even out the door. But their vision of the city can’t come into being if we don’t go along with it.
        Ambitious on its own might seem like a small fish, but it has an oversized role in hyping all the opportunities for profit that gentrification in Hamilton represents. As well, it’s part of a network of other, similar investment and property management companies that, together, have a lot of power to reshape the city.
        To get just a small sense of their reach, Ambitious Realty was founded by Derek Doyle, Joe Accardi, Anthony Quattrociocchi in 2014, all of whom quickly went on to start a cluster of other businesses profiting off the same dynamics. Doyle remains a realtor and speculator, gleefully tracking down buildings to put on the market and buyers who dream of getting rich off them, and never gets tired of giving himself awards through the various associations he’s involved in (Young Entrepreneurs and Professionals, Hamilton Hive, the Chamber of Commerce). Joe Accardi also runs Red Brick Rentals, notorious for buying up apartment buildings and carrying out aggressive renovictions, using the terrible conditions of the units they manage to force tenants out in order to increase the rent as much as possible after minimal renos (rents have almost doubled in certain Red Brick buildings in east Hamilton). On the commercial side, he’s also behind Forge and Foster, busily working to attract the higher-class businesses into a neighbourhood he thinks can be gentrfied. Anthony Quattrociocchi started Yoke Group, one of the major actors in the Barton Business Improvement Area evicting, renovating, and raising rents along the street, while also aggressively lobbying for police and bylaw enforcement and for city subsidies. 
        Plugging into an event like Pride isn’t just advertising for these creeps – putting forward a shallow version of progressive politics is part of the branding their speculation relies on. They need our skills and connections in order to do this, because no number of reposts about International Women’s Day can replace the cred they get by actually claiming to be involved, and this is much more important to them than it is to a group like Remax. 
        Try Hamilton is even worse – it is run by Krysta Boyer who worked for Ambitious until a few months ago and remains deeply connected. Although Try Hamilton attaches itself to things like the Barton Street Festival or invites musicians to play in the street during its events, it is explicitly for investors from outside the city to see the opportunities for profit that exist in Hamilton. And where does that profit come from? From you and your friends getting priced out and someone coming in who can pay more. Events like Try Hamilton are about making things worse for working class people and although outdoor music on Concession street is fun, we shouldn’t be supporting a group whose ambition means poverty and displacement for thousands of people. 
        Pride is a grassroots event run by a committee of volunteers and I don’t want to disrespect the hard work that has gone into organizing that festival for so many years. Hopefully the LGBTQ community can realize that we’ve made a mistake, that Ambitious Realty is proudly making things worse for marginalized queers in this city, and that on principle we should have nothing to do with them. If it’s too late to reject their support for this year, it’s not too late to make it clear that they aren’t welcome next year.  The musicians who agreed to play at Try Hamilton definitely aren’t in it for the money (who becomes a musician for the money?) and almost universally don’t benefit from the kinds of things that Ambitious Realty stands for. Ambitious has been directly involved in the closure of venues and practice spaces over the past few years — they want to use you to sell your neighbourhoods out from under your feet. I’d like to encourage you to not lend your name, time, and talent to a group of people who’ve dedicated themselves to getting rich off rising inequality.
        We all want to find ways to come together and have fun this summer as a community, but I think we can do it without the cynical predators of Ambitious Realty and their network of profiteers. We’re better off without them, even if it means making do with less funding. See you in the parks and in the streets…