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SOME MARION ROAD RESIDENTS WORRY BIAS CASE HAS HURT AREA'S REPUTATION

Eggertsville's Marion Road was forced into the glare of a civil rights battle this week and when the lawsuit was resolved, neighbor had turned against neighbor and accusations of racism had flown in all directions.

What happens next?

One Marion Road resident, Rita Evelt, has been ordered to pay more than $8,000 in damages after a jury found that a black woman, Isadora Bluford, who wanted to buy a house next door, dropped her plans because of threats.

Now that the worst is past, some neighbors have found time to react to the spectacle. Some voiced outrage that their neighborhood was tarnished, that one woman's actions might have stained the reputations of others.

"I was very angry about what she (Rita Evelt) said about the neighbors," said one resident, who asked not to be named. "If I thought I could sue her, I would -- for defamation of character."

Mrs. Evelt used as her defense claims that she was merely passing along threats she overheard from her neighbors. But neighbors who testified didn't support her claims.

Another resident of Marion Road, which is between Eggert and Longmeadow roads, said the problem was with Mrs. Evelt and not with the neighborhood in general.

Mrs. Evelt could not be reached to comment because she has changed to an unlisted phone number. Her attorney, David G. Jay, said he thought there would be no adverse effects on the neighborhood from the case.

Not everyone in the neighborhood reported deep feelings about the affair. The spacious, tree-speckled street makes for a sedate and loose-knit neighborhood of $60,000 homes. When turning onto the drowsy, four-block road from noisy Eggert Road or Niagara Falls Boulevard, the quietness comes as a shock and many people there just like to keep to themselves.

"I have nothing to do with my neighbors down the street," said Nelson Provenzano, who lives only four doors from 103 Marion, where Mrs. Bluford had hoped to live.

"I don't really see the neighbors very much. I stick to myself," said Grace Cattoni, another Marion Road resident.

Not everyone is pessimistic about how the affair will affect the community. Town of Amherst Supervisor Jack Sharpe said he doesn't believe one such incident should pollute the reputation of the whole neighborhood.

"We don't discriminate out here," he said. "If there is discrimination (in this incident), it should be corrected."

Sharpe added that the Marion Road area is a pleasant one, free from trouble in the past.

"Of course it's not a bad neighborhood. It has never been a bad neighborhood. It has never been a problem in the past," he said.

Sharpe added that Amherst has an office to deal with discrimination and that Mrs. Bluford never filed a complaint there.

Many Marion Road residents said they knew about the affair but refused to comment, while some claimed to know nothing about what had happened. Other neighbors said they didn't know enough about the case to be able to comment.

"The first thing I learned about it was in last night's paper," said Karl Salvet, who lives at 175 Marion, only 15 houses down the road from No. 103.

Despite everything that has happened in the past week, many Marion Road residents denied Mrs. Evelt's charges of racial prejudice.

"I have no qualms about black people living there," Mrs. Cattoni said.

"If a black person can afford to live there, than all the power to them," added another resident.

Others pointed out that there has never been any problem of this sort in the past and that, in fact, there are several black families living on adjoining streets.

One woman, who also asked that her name be withheld, noted that she has lived in the same location for 22 years and that she has never seen anything like this happen before.

"I don't care who lives there," she said.

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