The Islip Town Board's decision to close two public pools due to budget constraints disproportionately impacts lower-income and minority residents, a report released by a Brentwood-based nonprofit alleges.
The proposed closure of pools at Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood and Casamento Park in West Islip sets a "precedent of racist and classist policy-making that will further disenfranchise the already struggling communities they represent," according to the report Tuesday from New York Communities for Change.
Town Councilman Steven J. Flotteron said he was "offended" by the language of the report, titled "Nowhere to Swim: The Disparate Impact of Town of Islip Pool Closures on Working-Class Communities of Color."
Flotteron denied the accusation that the town considered the demographics of its residents in determining which pools to close.
The pools slated for closure were in need of repair and underused, Flotteron said. Statistics from the town parks and recreation department show Roberto Clemente received 56 visitors on a daily average last summer, while there were 36 at Casamento, he said. In contrast, the Shipwreck Cove Spray Park at the Bay Shore Marina averaged 277 visitors, he said.
The pools' closure, which was approved by the town board as one of several measures to help bridge the town's $26 million budget deficit, could be reversed, town officials have said.
Roberto Clemente Park received a $300,000 grant last week from the town's Community Development Agency to fund repairs. A grant request for Casamento is pending. The town also plans to issue a request for proposals to lure a private company or group to help run operations at the facilities.
Still, community advocates are concerned. At a small news conference announcing the report at Town Hall Tuesday, Brian Young, the Suffolk organizer at New York Communities for Change, said Brentwood and Central Islip are "very isolated" from the town's other pools and the public transportation options in the area aren't viable.
"For too long, Central Islip and Brentwood have sort of been forgotten by the town, frankly," he said.
Lorraine Jackson, an activist with the group and a Central Islip resident, said the pools are vital parts of the community and provide young people "a place to go and be safe."