The part-owner of a Central Islip lot where authorities say Thomas Datre Jr. and others dumped tons of contaminated debris testified Wednesday he hadn’t visited the site in years and “was shocked, blown away” when a fire marshal showed him heaps of discarded material.
During questioning at Datre Jr.’s trial, Tommy Lau told Assistant District Attorney Mark Murray he had no idea about the dumping. When he contacted Datre Jr. — on trial in state Supreme Court in Central Islip with his father, Thomas Datre Sr. — to inquire about the debris, Lau testified Datre Jr. told him not to worry.
“Don’t stress about it,” Lau said Datre Jr. told him. “I’ll take care of it.”
Lau, part-owner of L-C Real Estate, spent nearly an hour testifying about the 1-acre lot at the corner of Sage Street and Islip Avenue.
Investigators found asbestos and other debris at the site in May 2014 that prosecutors said was similar to mounds of contaminated fill dumped 2 miles away at Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood.
The father and son are among six indicted in December 2014 in connection with dumping at the two sites as well as a housing development in Islandia for Afghanistan and Iraq veterans and a protected wetlands in Deer Park.
The Datres face charges of criminal mischief; endangering public health, safety or the environment; and operating a solid-waste management facility without a permit. Four others, including Christopher Grabe, of Islandia Recycling, were indicted in December 2014 in connection with the scheme. Datre Sr.’s charges relate to what happened in Islandia. Thomas Datre Jr.’s charges are connected to all the sites.
In 2013, a Datre Jr. truck flipped at Central Islip site, prompting a response from a Suffolk police officer who has previously testified to seeing piles of construction and demolition materials there.
Lau testified that Grabe, who he called Datre Jr.’s “No. 1 go-to guy,” had later shown him a photo of the undercarriage of a Datre truck, and that he was able to identify his property but nothing else.
The Islip Town fire marshal alerted Lau to the dumping in April 2014, he told the prosecutor, adding that what he saw stunned him.
Lau told Datre Jr.’s defense attorney, Kevin Kearon during cross-examination Wednesday that he grew concerned when told he might face criminal charges. Lau said he soon met with a criminal defense lawyer. Lau denied signing a proffer agreement, but testified he met with the district attorney’s office with his criminal attorney present.
The contaminated materials remain at the site. Lau told Murray estimates to clean it up and haul the materials to Pennsylvania to a proper landfill are upward of $2 million. The land is now “worthless,” Lau said.
Datre Jr. has offered to help with the cleanup, Lau testified, but the district attorney’s office and the state Department of Environmental Conservation were against it.
“They said it probably wouldn’t be prudent to have Tom do the removal work,” Lau said.
Lau testified he first met Datre Sr. in 2000 at a Bay Shore strip mall project. Datre Sr. brought in his son to “finish the project,” Lau said. It started a relationship, Lau testified, that saw him hire Datre Jr. for several other projects, including paving jobs, parking lots and cesspool work.
After Lau purchased the Central Islip property, he needed a vacant structure on the site demolished to build another strip mall, so he called Datre Jr. in 2010, Lau said on the witness stand Wednesday.
Lau told Murray he didn’t pay Datre Jr. for the demolition, but instead, allowed him to park his trucks and equipment on the site until construction on the project started.
“Did your original agreement include allowing material to be on site?” Murray asked Lau. “No,” Lau answered.
In fall 2011, an Islip Town code enforcement officer called Lau to the site. Lau testified he saw trucks, a dirt screener and several dump truck-sized piles of construction material and fill. When Datre Jr. said he would take care of it, Lau testified he did not go back to check if it was cleaned up. Instead, Lau told Murray, regarding Datre Jr., he “took him for his word.”
After that, Lau said, he hadn’t been back to the site because he needed to focus on other income-producing properties.
Kearon, asked Lau in cross examination about the properties, suggesting that, in the case of a coin laundry he owned down the road from the Central Islip lot, it would have made sense that he’d have passed by.
“Your claim is that you never drove by the Sage Street site even one time to see what’s going on there?,” Kearon asked after Lau told him he would go to the nearby coin laundry at least five times a week to collect quarters to deposit at a bank.
“It’s not part of my route,” Lau replied. “I don’t go that way.”