Vandals destroy new bull in front of Uncle Jack’s

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The half-ton, red-orange bull statue that had inhabited its own piece of sidewalk outside Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse on Bell Boulevard for the past two weeks is in pieces, and the restaurant’s owner is offering $5,000 for information leading to the arrest of the culprits.

When William Degel went to work Sunday, he found his new, custom-made mascot lying in the street with its horns, tail and hind legs scattered beside it. The 1,000-pound, cast-iron bull had formerly been secured into the sidewalk with six-inch bolts, Degel said.

It took four people to drag the damaged statue from the street back to the sidewalk, convincing Degel that the vandalism was carried out by a group.

“No one person could have done that,” Degel said.

He first commissioned the bull, which he chose because it symbolizes strength and power, in the hope that it would become a Bayside icon outside his high-end steakhouse at 39-40 Bell Blvd. The bull is valued at $10,000.

“Bayside needs something people can rally around,” Degel said. “There are no monuments or meeting places in the area.”

Degel said he still believes the bull can gain prominent status in the community because he is committed to getting it back up as soon as possible, and since Saturday he said he has received much sympathy and encouragement from various members of the community.

“So many people have come in here upset about this,” he said. “I never thought anyone would vandalize it. I don’t think negative.”

Degel did not call the police until Tuesday because of the holiday weekend, he said. The 111th Precinct could not be reached for comment.

The bull was intact when Uncle Jack’s closed Saturday night, Degel said, and he was told by someone who works at Maguire’s pub across the street that the bull had not been touched when the pub closed at 4:30 a.m. Sunday. At 7 a.m., Bayside civic leader Frank Skala said he saw the vandalized bull in the street on his way to church.

Degel was in the midst of planning a communitywide contest to name the bull and wanted to place the statue on a granite slab adorned with a plaque.

“I was very passionate about the bull,” Degel said. “It’s a unique thing to put out there, and people were rallying around it.”

The restaurant has a security camera set up right outside the restaurant, but during recent construction, one of the camera’s chords was accidentally cut. As a result, Degel said, the incident probably was not recorded, but he hopes someone witnessed the destruction and will respond to the $5,000 promised for information.

Degel also said that because the bull had been up for only two weeks he did not have time to get it insured.

The statue became a topic of mild controversy after someone lodged a complaint with the city Department of Transportation saying it was put up without permission. A department official then visited Uncle Jack’s, did not fine the restaurant, and said Degel could keep the statue as long as he obtained a permit for it. He is still in the process of getting the permit.

Degel is determined not let the vandals get in the way of something he believes will make a positive impact on the Bayside community and his restaurant, he said.

“I will, no matter what, fix that or have another one made,” Degel said. “The vandals are not going to stop me. I won’t let them win.”

Posted 7:20 pm, October 10, 2011
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