DA probes allegations of illegal dumping at Brentwood park
The Suffolk County district attorney's office, investigating allegations of illegal dumping at a Town of Islip-owned park, has subpoenaed records from the municipality, sources said Tuesday.
The grand jury subpoena, served Monday, asks the town to provide information pertaining to construction projects at Roberto Clemente Park -- formerly known as Timberline Park -- in Brentwood since June 1, 2013, including field and land improvements and grade adjustments.
The subpoena's scope ranges from public safety records and surveillance reports, to payroll, purchase orders, claim vouchers, environmental reviews, photos and videos as well as any communications about the projects sent electronically or by letter, fax or memo.
Town officials have until May 5 to comply with the subpoena.
The probe is looking into allegations of illegal dumping of construction and demolition debris at the 27.9-acre park, sources said. Investigators are trying to determine whether there is any authorization for that dumping, a source said.
Islip spokeswoman Inez Birbiglia confirmed that the town was served a subpoena from the Suffolk County district attorney's office on Monday and said that the town would fully cooperate with the DA's request.
In April 2013, leaders from Iglesia de Jesucristo Palabra Miel, a local church, approached the town with an offer to fund a project to create two new soccer fields on 3.75 acres of land at the park so that youth and adult teams from the church could play there on Sundays.
Chris Grabe, of Islandia Recycling, donated about $70,000 worth of labor and materials to the church. Work on one of the fields -- the Nicholas Fritz Memorial Field -- started during the summer but has yet to be completed.
Grabe said he was ordered by the town to stop working on the field about three weeks ago. He called the situation "unacceptable."
The church had put out the call for material to be used on the soccer field site, Grabe said. "I wasn't there every day so I don't know what exactly went on."
During an Islip Town Board meeting in August, former deputy parks commissioner George Hafele said illegal dumping was going on at the site. He was assured by Councilman Anthony Senft, the council's liaison to the parks department, that the town was working with the church to abide by all regulations.
"When I first brought it up, I hoped that actions would have been taken, but nothing was done," Hafele said Tuesday. "I'm flabbergasted that someone would allow illegal dumping in a town park. It's beyond my imagination that it could ever happen in a town park where kids are playing all the time."
Besides the district attorney's probe, the state Department of Environmental Conservation said it also is investigating what has been going on at the park.
The state agency is looking into the "placement of fill alleged to be solid waste," the agency wrote in a statement to Newsday earlier this month.
Grabe said he did a walk-through of the site with DEC inspectors who said they were going to take soil samples.
Islip Commissioner of Parks and Recreation Joseph Montouri did not comment. Nancy Alvarez of the church and Senft did not return phone messages.
Issues with the project started in the summer when work began and went on for weeks without proper clearing and grading permits from the town, officials said.
Critics, including Hafele, at the time were disapproving of the way the project was handled, alleging the town had allowed illegal work to be done because the property was town-owned and so the rules were not enforced. Senft disputed those claims, but no stop-work order issued.
In January, mounds of soil filled with rebar were cleared by the town after complaints were lodged by area residents. After investigating, the DEC found that the debris-filled dirt was "stored" at the park and was told by the state parks department and the town that it was being removed, the DEC said.
No tickets were issued for this incident, as "the contractor mistakenly believed it could store the debris onsite during the winter months while working on a construction project," the DEC said.