The bid by a leading Common Council member to end “senseless” vandalism in an East Side park is gaining traction, as two business owners in the Lovejoy District have increased the bounty sixfold for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators.
One day after Council President and Lovejoy District Member Richard A. Fontana offered $200 for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for damage to Houghton Park, Mark Williamson and John Murphy have added another $1,200 to the total reward.
Williamson, owner of the Bowl-Inn Bowling Center, 727 Bailey Ave., added $800 Monday, while John Murphy, owner of O’Connell-Murphy Funeral Home, 2286 South Park Ave., tacked on another $400. The total is now $1,400.
The two also are working to round up more support from other business owners in the neighborhood. Williamson said several others plan to contribute, as well, but haven’t stepped forward yet.
Even with the larger reward, Murphy acknowledged that he was skeptical of an arrest in this case. But he felt that the community needs to take a stand.
“Are we going to catch the people who did this? No. I live in the real world,” he said. “However, let’s deter it by having a camera in the area to pick up the activity. This should have been done a while ago.
“The city has taken money to continue to replace things that have been vandalized, and nothing’s been done. If I’m the vandal, I’m going to keep doing it, because there’s no consequences.”
And both business owners called on Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown to provide money for such security cameras and beefed-up patrols to prevent further damage in the park. That would either enable police to catch perpetrators in the future or would act as a deterrent to future crime.
If not, they said, they will work the streets and phones to raise money from within the neighborhood to pay for it themselves.
“We believe this is a quality-of-life issue for the area, and business owners need to step up and help the local politicians on this effort,” Murphy said. “We understand that we can’t depend on our local politicians to be there and do all these projects. But we want to be able to be there and raise this money and be able to go to the mayor and say this is how we can prevent this.”
Already, they’ve started discussing a bowling-themed fundraiser, which Williamson said his bowling alley does all the time for youth sports leagues or neighborhood residents with illnesses. Bowl-Inn posted plans for such an event, to restore the park, on its Facebook page Monday. Donations are being accepted through both the bowling alley and the funeral home.
The anger by Fontana and the business owners was sparked by an apparent arson that damaged a new shelter and picnic tables at the park, located in the Kaisertown neighborhood in Fontana’s district. The damage, which Fontana learned of and viewed late last week, left parts of the structure’s concrete base and metal roof charred black.
Anyone with information about vandalism in the park is asked to call Fontana’s office at 851-5151 or the Police Department at 847-2255.