Islip Town’s former parks commissioner and his aide on Friday were sentenced to conditional discharges for their roles in the illegal dumping at Roberto Clemente Park that left more than 40,000 tons of contaminated construction debris at the site.
The sentence means that if both stay out of legal trouble for a year they will not face jail time. Activists who had closely followed the dumping case, which ruined the largest public space in the minority community, expressed anger at the sentencing, at which the judge also said Islip Town was “complicit” in the dumping in the Brentwood park.
The cases against Joseph J. Montuori Jr., who headed the parks department as its commissioner at the time of the dumping from May 2013 to April 2014, and Brett A. Robinson, his secretary, did not proceed to trial as the two pleaded guilty Aug. 17.
Nelsena Day, a Brentwood resident and community activist who sat in the courtroom for nearly every hearing and trial date since charges were filed, said the sentences “breaks my heart more knowing they got away with this.”
“It just says that we don’t matter,” Day said. “It seems like nobody is really being held accountable for anything and that’s just not fair to the community and to the people who need to use that park. It sends a message that you can do wrong in an underserved community and you can plead guilty to it and then nothing happens to you. It shows that corruption pays.”
Frank Sprouse-Guzmán, a member of Make the Road New York, a nonprofit that was vocal in the aftermath of the dumping, demanded “greater responsiveness from local government here in Islip to communities of color.”
“We are outraged that these two men will only get a slap on the wrist, when our community demands real justice,” he said.
In August, Montuori Jr. pleaded guilty to one felony count of endangering the health, safety or environment and one misdemeanor count of conspiracy, while Robinson pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, a violation, in which his actions created a hazardous condition at the Brentwood park.
In his Central Islip courtroom Friday morning, state Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho said counsel hired by the Town of Islip have told him that both men have been cooperative in the planning to rehabilitate Clemente Park, which has been shuttered since April 2014. Because of that cooperation, the judge reduced Montuori Jr.’s felony plea to a class A misdemeanor.
Camacho ordered that the two continue to cooperate and do all they can to reopen the park “as soon as possible, so the kids of Brentwood have a place to play that is safe.” If the men fail to continue to cooperate, Camacho said he will sentence them to jail.
And the judge added that “the people of Brentwood were betrayed” and that Islip Town “was complicit in that betrayal.”
In a statement, Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter said: “As the Supervisor, I can affirm that the Town of Islip remains steadfast in its goal to re-open a much-improved Roberto Clemente Park as quickly as possible.”
In their appearances before Camacho, both men spoke. “I put most of my life, 45 years, into parks,” Montuori Jr. said. “I can’t express my disappointment. To see Roberto Clemente Park closed upsets me.”
Robinson said: “It started out as a soccer field to better the park. It’s sad to see it turned out to be such a horrible situation.”
Montuori Jr. and Robinson are the first individuals named in a December 2014 indictment to be sentenced in the dumping scheme that occurred at four sites in and around Islip Town from 2012 to 2014.
Thomas Datre Jr. and Christopher Grabe of Islandia Recycling pleaded guilty to several felonies on March 30 for their roles in dumping at the various sites. Ronald Cianciulli, of Atlas Asphalt, was found guilty on June 3 after a bench trial of two felonies and two misdemeanors for aiding Datre Jr. in dumping tons of contaminated construction and demolition debris in a Deer Park wetland.
Charges against Thomas Datre Sr., who along with family members contributed and raised thousands of dollars to the town Republican and Conservative parties, were dropped when his son pleaded guilty.
Montuori Jr. and Robinson were accused of helping Datre Jr. dump construction and demolition material tainted with asbestos, pesticides and other harmful contaminants that he trucked in from sites across New York City.
Montuori Jr. was forced to resign his post days after Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota announced his investigation, and Robinson was fired shortly after.