To hear him tell it, Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster’s LaSalle Waterfront Park is the “crown jewel” of the LaSalle neighborhood, a place where residents routinely go without running water in the wintertime because of a botched city repaving job that left uninsulated pipes too close to the surface and susceptible to freezing.
“Building up LaSalle has been one of my top priorities as mayor,” Dyster wrote in a 2011 campaign letter that bragged about the park project. “From paving and reconstructing streets, to investing in the library and neighborhood parks, to attracting new businesses, we’ve worked hard for LaSalle.”
The park has been largely ignored by LaSalle residents, and a lack of surveillance cameras and routine police patrolling have made it a magnet for hobos, vagrants, drug dealers, drunks and petty criminals of every stripe.
The park’s cost to the taxpayers is uncertain, but what is certain is that the restrooms have been repeatedly vandalized since its’ 2012 opening, there are no security cameras anywhere and that it is closed for much of the year because city crews don’t bother plowing the parking lot when it snows.
While Dyster paints a picture of families happily picnicking, roasting weenies and sipping lemonade, one recent incident showed that a simple repast at the park might just as likely consist of some fortified beer and a human finger.
A human finger.
Recently, city police issued an arrest warrant for Adam Robert Linton, 44, a heavyset white man cops say bit a drinking buddy’s finger off following a June 5 dispute at the park.
A highly intoxicated Eric Mercilliott, 57, of 71st Street, was found in the park’s parking lot, bleeding profusely from his right hand, and holding a good sized chunk of his right ring finger in his left. Mercilliott was drunk to the point where he couldn’t even remember what his friend’s name was, much less what they had been arguing about prior to getting his finger bitten off.
All he knew was that he and his friend were sitting at one of the shiny new picnic tables beneath the shiny new pavilion the mayor had thoughtfully provided, drinking beer and generally enjoying each other’s woebegone company when things took an ugly turn.
After biting the finger off, Linton spat the masticated member to the ground and fled the scene on his Trek bicycle, police said. The sight of a drunken, 230-pound white man with blood all over his face peddling a small mountain bike furiously away from the scene of a heinous crime is, perhaps, best left to the imagination.
Suffice it to say that neither Mercilliott nor Linton likely woke that morning knowing how the day would turn out.
Although Mercilliott couldn’t remember his drinking buddy’s name, he was able to pick him out of a photo lineup. Apparently Linton had had some prior difficulties with law enforcement here and cops had a pretty good idea who it was.
Just another day, another picnic in the park brought to you by Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster.