Locust Point vows to repair and replace vandalized sign

Nick Virello stands with the damaged “Welcome to Locust Point” sign he made by hand. He is now repairing it.

It was a sign of welcome in Locust Point.

That was, until, vandals nearly ripped apart the “Welcome to Locust Point” sign sometime on Sunday, June 24.

The Locust Point Civic Association had put it up at Locust Point Drive and Longstreet Avenue about two months ago.

Now community leaders at the association, and Nick Virello, who made the sign in his garage on Tierney Place, have vowed to repair and once again erect the wooden sign – turning a negative into a positive.

“We are not going to be intimidated,” said Al Belfiore, president of the LPCA. “We will do whatever needs to be done to protect this sign, including 24-hour surveillance.”

Vandals stole an oar that was attached to one of the metal posts holding up the welcoming homemade sign, but apparently gave up trying to tear off another oar and a decorative gold-painted globe on the top center of the sign, Virello said.

They also began to rip apart part of the oak front facade, apparently attempting to separate it from plywood backing. The sign was made by Virello and took about three weeks to craft, Virello said.

“Nick put up a good amount of his own money, and this vandalism just saddens me because it seems stupid and vindictive,” said LPCA board member Chrys Napolitano. “It is really unfortunate, but this is the kind of thing that happens when people don’t have any involvement in the community, and neither do their children.”

A woman who lives nearby said she saw a man running into a blue custom van with one of the oars before it peeled away from the scene, Napolitano said.

She says she has received several e-mails about the situation and believes that the vandalism – with no clear motive – could be a turning point in engaging the larger Locust Point community in the joing civic association and becoming involved in their neighborhood.

And now is an especially good time, with a new playground funded by a grant from Councilman Jimmy Vacca at the association’s beachfront clubhouse set to open this summer, Napolitano said.

“If more people get involved we may be able to prevent things like this from happening,” Napolitano said. “I really want to turn this into something positive and say that if it gets you angry, get involved. It certainly does not discourage me and it certainly doesn’t discourage the [LPCA] board.”

Virello chucked it up to mischievous teenagers who are not thinking, and said that the damage to the sign could have been far worse.

“They could have hit the thing with a sledge hammer,” he said.

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