Brentwood residents protest Roberto Clemente Park cleanup delays

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Frustrated Brentwood residents set up beach blankets and coolers on the grounds of Islip Town Hall Tuesday, sending a message to local officials that a cleanup at tainted Roberto Clemente Park needs to get started.

About 40 residents and members of nonprofit advocacy groups Make the Road by Walking and New York Communities for Change held the rally just before the town board's semimonthly meeting.

"Today is Roberto Clemente Park Day at the Islip Town Hall," said Brentwood resident Nelsena Day. "We want our park back, and we do not feel our children should be bused to other parks."

Claiming the Town Hall grounds as their park, people ate lunch on picnic blankets. Passing motorists honked in support at volunteers waving signs, including one that read, "No Park No Fun Sad Kids."

"We're going to act like we're at the beach," Day said.

Roberto Clemente Park has been closed since April 23. The Suffolk County district attorney's office began investigating allegations of illegal dumping in early April. About 50,000 tons of debris laced with asbestos, petroleum-based products, heavy metals and pesticides were dumped in the park by at least one "unscrupulous contractor," according to District Attorney Thomas Spota.

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No arrests have been made and the cleanup has yet to begin.

Since the closure, the town has offered free transportation to other Islip parks and pools and a 50 percent discount on daily pool fees for Brentwood residents. Residents and community activists have asked the town to waive all pool fees this summer, a move town officials have rejected as too costly.

"This needs to be fixed now," said Brentwood resident Robyn McLeod, who said her two teenage children spent years playing at Roberto Clemente Park.

She later spoke at the board meeting, telling the council members, "I left Brooklyn to give my children a better life. I thought this was going to be a better place for my children to be brought up in."

Acting Town Supervisor Eric Hofmeister urged patience.

"When something like this happens, there is a process," he said. "We can't just go and start taking it out now -- we may be violating environmental laws as well."

In another action Tuesday, the board unanimously passed a resolution to launch the town's slate of special summer programs for Brentwood children, including extended summer hours at the Brentwood recreation center and day camp and daily free breakfast at Brentwood West Middle School.

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