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Brentwood dumping lawsuit should proceed, state officials say

Thomas Datre Jr., left, with his attorney Kevin

Thomas Datre Jr., left, with his attorney Kevin Kearon, inside a courtroom at First District Court in Central Islip on Thursday, April 27, 2017. Credit: James Carbone

New York State environmental officials are asking a federal judge to not dismiss its case against Thomas Datre Jr. and other defendants over the dumping of tons of hazardous waste material into Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood.

State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s office is representing Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos in the federal civil lawsuit, which is seeking millions of dollars in damages from more than two dozen defendants.

Attorneys for Datre Jr. and other defendants in the case have filed motions to dismiss, arguing the state’s complaint is invalid because it is identical to a lawsuit brought by the Town of Islip, and that the state’s claims are not timely.

The attorney general’s office filed a response on Oct. 20, rejecting those arguments, asserting its authority to file a lawsuit, and urging the judge to not dismiss the case.

The agency filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Central Islip in May. It names many defendants who had not previously been named in connection with the dumping, newly targeting contractors who the state alleges were involved in transporting hazardous material to the park.

When announcing the filing earlier this year, Schneiderman said his office used GPS records obtained by its environmental protection bureau to track the truckloads back to 13 construction sites, mainly in New York City, but also in Nassau and Suffolk counties, where the debris originated.

The state is seeking damages for the lost use of the park when it was closed for cleanup. The state alleges in the filing that the defendants’ actions amount to negligence and a public nuisance.

Suffolk prosecutors have called Datre Jr. the “mastermind” behind the dumping scheme at Roberto Clemente Park and three other sites: a 1-acre private lot in Central Islip; a six-home subdivision for veterans in Islandia; and a state-protected wetlands area in Deer Park.

Earlier this year, a state Supreme Court judge in Central Islip sentenced Datre Jr. to 1 year in jail for each of the four class-E felonies he pleaded guilty to for the dumping at the sites.

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