Joye Brown has been a columnist for Newsday since 2006. She joined the newspaper in 1983 and has Show More
State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho, in accepting a series of guilty pleas stemming from the 2013 dumping of tens of thousands of tons of glass, concrete, cement and other contaminated materials at four locations in Suffolk, had this to say about one site — a community park in Brentwood.
“Roberto Clemente Park must not remain closed,” Camacho said.
“Right now, it is simply a chained-up, vacant, deserted eyesore,” he said. “It is a symbol to everyone [in] ... our county and community of the failure, betrayal, abandonment and neglect, and the Town of Islip bears some responsibility for that.”
Strong words from the bench on a day last week when residents living near the park, at a veterans housing complex and near two other sites learned who was responsible for the dumping the debris.
Now, perhaps, will come more answers as to why the dumping went on for so long. And why the Town of Islip didn’t move with urgency enough to stop it.
On March 30, Thomas Datre Jr. pleaded guilty to four counts of endangering public health, safety or the environment in the dumping of debris at the four sites. That same day, a corporation owned by Datre’s parents, Thomas Sr. and Clara Datre, pleaded guilty in a separate case to charges of willful failure to pay prevailing wages.
All had been charged under an indictment unsealed in December 2014 in Suffolk. While the pleas resolved several cases at once, still to come are those involving former Islip Town Parks Commissioner Joseph J. Montuori Jr. — who was forced to resign — and his former assistant, Brett A. Robinson — who was fired — as a result of the dumping scandal.
Each faces 12 charges related to dumping in the Clemente park soccer field and recharge basin — including conspiracy, two counts of official misconduct and three charges of reckless release of an acutely hazardous substance into the environment. They have pleaded not guilty.
When did the town know about the dumping? And what did they do about it?
According to Newsday reports, town park police reported seeing dump trucks. At one point, after a Newsday reporter who was standing with town officials in Clemente Park for a news conference asked about dump trucks that were plain sight, the town investigated — and then issued permits for grading work to continue.
Did they know the fill contained toxic materials back then? And if not, why not, especially since chunks of glass, rebar and hunks of concrete that were visible above ground might have provided a clue.
Perhaps the last few cases stemming from the dumping will provide more pieces of that puzzle.
Meanwhile, Camacho put off sentencing for Datre Jr. and other defendants specifically, to speed cleanup at the park and other sites according to a report by Newsday’s Sarah Armaghan.
“If I were ... you,” Camacho said, “I would spend every waking moment between now and the date I sentence you to think of things you can do to repair the damage you have done.”
“Not just the physical damage, but the emotional damage ...[to] an entire community.”