Mayor Tory says a staff estimate that pegged the cost of building a small staircase in an Etobicoke park at up to $150,000 is “completely out of whack with reality” but still doesn’t justify the actions of a man who decided to bypass the parks and recreation department and complete the project himself.

Retired mechanic Adi Astl told CP24 that he recently built a small eight-step wooden staircase down an embankment in Tom Riley Park for $550 after getting frustrated with the city’s insistence that the project would cost between $65,000 and $150,000. Astl raised money from the community to tackle the job himself and then enlisted the help of a homeless man in the park who offered his assistance in exchange for a little money and breakfast.

Shortly after installing the staircase late last month, Astl said a bylaw enforcement officer placed yellow tape up around the stairs and contacted him to inform him that he had violated section 608 of the Toronto Municipal Code.

Astl, who has not been charged, said he just wanted to build the staircase as a shortcut for the countless seniors and young children he saw walking down the steep hill to get to a community garden and soccer field that are located in that end of the park. He said that safety should be “more important than money.”

Tory, however, told CP24 on Wednesday that it was inappropriate for Astl to take matters into his own hands, regardless of how “unrealistic” the initial estimate from staff was.

Tory said he supports the decision by staff to order the removal of the eight-step wooden staircase but will also send them “back to the drawing board” to come up with a more reasonable estimate of what it might cost to do the project right.

“I think everyone will understand that it will be more than $550. We just can’t have people decide to go out to Home Depot and build a staircase in a park because that’s what they would like to have,” he said. “We have broader responsibilities in terms of the liability we face, the safety requirements and the accessibility requirements.”

Tory said that staff with the city’s department of parks and recreation based their initial estimate on past staircases that were built in other parks. He said that estimate was likely not intended as a predictor of what the project in Tom Riley Park would cost and “should have never seen the light of day.”

Tory added that while he would like to see the city build a staircase for residents, there is a process that must play out.

“I have asked them (staff) to go back and look at what might be a more acceptable number if you were to build this staircase,” he said. “I say if because there is an entrance to park that is fully accessible 200 feet away and as much as I respect the residents wish to have shortcut access we need to figure out where that priority ranks for the money.”

The councillor for the area, Justin Di Ciano, conceded that Astl built the staircase to “a standard that is not the city’s standard” on Wednesday but said the hill is certainly safer than it was previously when residents climbed the grade while grasping a rope that someone had left in the area.

Di Ciano said he has asked staff to leave the stairs for now while he works with the city’s parks and recreation department to come up with a more permanent solution that won’t cost taxpayers an arm and a leg.

“I think we all need to have a bit of common sense here,” he said.

Astl, meanwhile, said he is still confused as to why the city’s original estimate came in so high.

He said he has been getting phone calls “all morning” from people who support his initiative.

“I thought they were talking about building an escalator,” he said of the initial estimate.