It took just a few minutes in early June for vandals to damage the new Brent Watt Park on Tile Street in the late city councilman’s beloved 5th District near the University of New Haven.

Among other issues, the damaged blue “Brent Watt Park” sign in the park, located in the Allingtown section, looks like Bigfoot took a bite out of it.

It took Watt’s sister and successor on the City Council, Councilwoman Robbin Watt Hamilton, D-5, a few weeks to get over her disappointment and decide what to do about it: hold a fundraising drive to replace the sign and make other improvements to the park.

The drive was to include a charity cookout on Sept. 29 in the park, which was dedicated in July 2017 to the late Brent Watt, who died June 25, 2016 after a long, chronic illness.

But after creating fundraisers on Facebook and at, Hamilton and the people working with her raised all the money they needed — $1,160 and counting for a drive that originally had a goal of $1,000 — in just three days.

So the cookout is still happening — from noon to 3 p.m. Sept. 29.

But now it will be a celebration of what a community can do when it pulls together — with free beverages, burgers, hot dogs, chili, pasta salad and apple crisp for all who attend, Hamilton said.

The cookout will include entertainment by the West Haven Seahawks cheerleaders at noon and St. Luke’s Steel Band at 1:30 p.m., Hamilton said.

“I’m really excited about it,” Hamilton said. “It’s really exciting how something that was meant to be negative, how it managed to be turned around.

“It’s overwhelming how many people got involved,” she said, pointing out that those who gave crossed both factional and party lines.

“I think a lot of it has to do with the legacy of my brother,” Hamilton said. “He always reached across party lines.”

The fundraising committee included Hamilton and her five fellow members of the 5th District Democratic Committee — Christopher Suggs, Michelle Mays, Jeffrey Moreno, Denis Wright and Mackii McMillian — along with Kathy Tucker, Sammy Rivera, Roberta Garlock and Gary Donovan.

The list of donors includes people from across the West Haven social and political spectrum.

During the course of the drive, “people were so happy” to be able to help fix the damage, said Hamilton. “When it happened, Mayor (Nancy) Rossi reached out to me. She wasn’t happy about it. She promised me that the sign was going to be replaced.”

But knowing the city’s finances were bad shape, Hamilton sought to pay for the damage — and some further enhancements — some other way.

“It took three days,” she said. As of Wednesday night, “we’re $160 over.”

Anything donated in excess of the $1,000 will be used for other enhancements to the park, including securing two benches that also had been knocked over by vandals, Hamilton said.

Meanwhile, “on Sept. 29 we’re having a free cookout” to celebrate, Hamilton said. “We wanted to do something for the summer, anyway.”