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Property is last of four in Islip dumping scheme to be cleaned up

The owner of a Central Islip parcel, the only remaining site not fully remediated, blames the latest delay on scheduling conflicts with the facility where the debris will be delivered.

Illegally dumped materials continue to sit at 1625

Illegally dumped materials continue to sit at 1625 Islip Ave., Central Islip, on Feb. 20, 2018. The lot has been covered with debris since around 2013. Photo Credit: Rachelle Blidner

Debris lingers at a Central Islip illegal dumping site, leaving residents wondering why they have been left behind by the property owner and officials for nearly five years.

Residents are asking why this parcel — which is surrounded by homes, a deli and a shopping center — is the only one of four illegal dumping sites in Suffolk still left with piles of material. The other three sites were fully remediated by April.

“Who do you call? Who do you blame?” said Juanita Jefferson, who lives across the street from the Central Islip site. “I feel like we’ve been abandoned as far as this site is concerned.”

No cleanup work has been performed at 1625 Islip Ave. since Jan. 25 — before the property owner’s attorney, Andrew Campanelli, told Newsday on Feb. 13 that it would be “100 percent clean” in a week.

The one-acre lot at the intersection of Route 111 and Sage Street has been covered in debris since around 2013. About 16,000 tons of construction and demolition materials containing asbestos, pesticides, lead and mercury were dumped there illegally in a scheme that led to convictions against five people, including two Islip Town parks officials.

Part-property owner Tommy Lau, who was not charged criminally, has removed about 95 percent of the fill, said an official with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which is overseeing the cleanup.

About 1,000 tons of concrete material remain piled up, surrounded by cesspool rings and a rusted trailer. Three homes within a block of the parcel are for sale. Syringes litter the edge of a parking lot across the street.

Tony Guglielmo, a pharmacist who works at Sheron Drugs next door, said people are “getting fed up” and “have no clue” what is going on.

“We pay the highest taxes in the land and we get nothing in return,” he said. “The local politicians should call Albany and say, ‘What’s going on in the town?’ ”

Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter repeatedly declined to comment about the site through representatives, saying that the DEC, and not the town, is overseeing the cleanup.

Suffolk County Legis. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood) said she plans to call on state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman to investigate the cleanup if it continues to be delayed.

“Everyone did what they were supposed to do except him,” she said, comparing Lau to the owners of the other sites in the dumping scheme.

The Central Islip site originally held more than four times the amount of material as that of two other illegal dumping sites, a veterans subdivision in Islandia and a sensitive wetlands parcel in Deer Park, a DEC official said.

Town-owned Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood had about 40,000 tons of dumped debris that was removed in summer 2015. It was cleaned up quicker because “the town supervisor made it her priority and we complied with the DEC,” Islip Town Attorney John R. DiCioccio said.

The government appears to have left Central Islip residents unprotected, said William King Moss III, the president of the Islip Town chapter of the NAACP.

“Historically, government has shortchanged communities of color,” Moss said. “My disappointment in hearing that this site has not yet been cleaned falls in line with that harsh reality.”

Central Islip’s population is about 47 percent Latino and about 25 to 29 percent black, according to U.S. Census estimates from 2012 to 2016.

“Any polluter found to violate New York’s environmental laws in any community will be pursued to the fullest extent of the law,” a DEC official said Sunday.

Campanelli called questions about whether the community’s demographics played a factor in the cleanup’s delay “absurd.”

“The DEC doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor or [what your] makeup is,” he said. “They carry out their job, period.”

Cleanup efforts were again delayed in Central Islip this week, Campanelli said, because the receiving facility for the leftover materials, which he declined to name, has been closed for vacation. He said the facility will reopen Monday, which he said means the site will “hopefully” be clean by the end of next week.

“Except for weather and the facility closing, we’re on schedule, and it’ll be cleaned up and the site will be restored,” Campanelli said.

A DEC official said the agency does not have the name of the specific facility to which Campanelli is referring.

The agency said in a statement that it “will not accept anything less than a complete cleanup and will continue to use all enforcement options available and expects the cleanup to be completed by early April. Failure to do so can result in violations and fines.”

If problems like illegal dumping persist, residents could end up fleeing the community as property values decrease and people’s health and safety appear at risk, said Larry Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University.

“People need to stay angry and engaged and make sure their elected officials from town hall to Albany, the capital, do what they’re supposed to do,” Levy said. “If they give up, then their community will deteriorate in the blink of an eye.”

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