Two men work to restore cement on a Pastorius Park bench that was vandalized. Cornerstone Pointing and Masonry owner John Leyden said tools were probably used to detach the bench from the concrete. (Photo by Lane Blackmer)

by Lane Blackmer 

The Friends of Pastorius Park are baffled by a spree of vandalism in which several of the park’s concrete benches were displaced and destroyed.

Last week, vandals displaced and threw parts of a concrete bench in the park’s pond. They also uprooted another concrete bench anchored on the side of the warming hut and toppled over several trashcans with concrete bases.

Peter O’Connor, president of the Friends of Pastorius Park, said the group has long fought graffiti and litter, but the recent attacks on park benches were new.

“Every year we’ll go though [spurts of vandalism], but it’s not this bad,” he said. “We’ll usually just find smashed beer bottles and drug paraphernalia.”

O’Connor and the Friends were quick to respond to the vandalism. On Wednesday, O’Connor sent a mason to the park to fix the damage

John Leyden, owner of Cornerstone Pointing and Masonry, and his workers fixed the bench on the side of the warming hut and performed general repairs to stone steps on Wednesday.

After assessing the damage, he was convinced the vandals came to the park, tools in hand, to destroy the benches

“They were using tools [to uproot the bench],” he said. “[My workers] couldn’t move it without tools.”

Leyden also said the damaged bench that had been thrown in the pond was beyond repair.

Elizabeth Shammash, who lives near the park, said she comes often and thinks the park is usually kept clean and usually doesn’t have any vandalism.

“It really makes me sad,” she said. “I think this is a very special park. Generally the people who come here really take care of it.”

Although the friends moved quickly to repair the benches, O’Connor said that whenever the group comes across any act of vandalism, it will notify the police before cleaning up whatever mess is made.

“There’s nothing we can do other than call 9-1-1,” he said. “[And police and park rangers] can’t be there 24 hours a day.”

But O’Connor added that he plans on looking at options to better deter vandalism at the park. He said measures taken in years past to better light the park resulted in smashed lights.

In late April, the Friends will have a meeting with police in attendance, to talk about the problem.