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Brentwood group to hold forum on Clemente Park cleanup

Uplift Brentwood plans a community forum March 29

Uplift Brentwood plans a community forum March 29 on the status of Roberto Clemente Park. The Brentwood park, pictured on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017, remains closed following the discovery and cleanup of dumped debris. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

A Brentwood community group plans to host a public forum later this month to discuss the reopening and design for Roberto Clemente Park, which is undergoing renovations following the removal of illegally dumped construction debris.

Uplift Brentwood has held several protests outside the locked gates of the park demanding that the town work faster and include the community in its efforts.

Miguel Turell, 36, a group co-founder, said the purpose of the meeting was to ensure that the “community has a voice” in the future of the park, which he called “a focal point” for residents.

“We’re trying to bridge that gap, bringing the community and town officials together,” Turell said. “They’re saying they want to open the park come summertime and we feel the community should be involved in the planning phase.”

Islip Town Parks Commissioner Tom Owens said at a town board meeting in December that the town was “diligently moving through the process” while addressing concerns over the timeline of the park’s rehabilitation.

“I want the public to know at no point has this project stalled,” he said.

Clemente Park is the largest public recreational space within the hamlet, where the majority of residents are Hispanic or black. Residents have said the park’s continued closure is part of a pattern of the town giving short shrift to Brentwood because it is predominantly Latino and black.

The park, which is owned by the town, has been shuttered since April 2014 when Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota revealed that hazardous construction debris trucked in from New York City had been dumped there as well as at three other Suffolk locations.

Thomas Datre Jr. and Islandia Recycling’s Christopher Grabe pleaded guilty last March to felonies for dumping at the park and are set to be sentenced on April 27. Two former town officials also pleaded guilty in connection with the dumping scheme and were sentenced to conditional discharges in October.

The town had 40,000 tons of the debris removed from the park’s soccer fields and a southern area in summer 2015.

The Islip Town Board in January awarded a contract worth $523,244 to Watral Brothers Inc. of Bay Shore to complete backfill work at the park, a step a town official called a “milestone” toward reopening the facility. The company is using 20,000 to 30,000 tons of clean fill certified by the state Department of Environmental Conservation to bring the soccer fields back up to the original grade.

Backfill work is scheduled to begin March 27 and will take about six to eight weeks to complete, weather permitting, town spokeswoman Caroline Smith said.

Town officials have said that plans are on track to open the soccer and baseball fields by this summer. Construction of a spray park and renovations on an existing, dilapidated swimming pool at the park have not yet begun. Officials have said they hope to have the water attractions open by the summer of 2018.

Turell said the group has invited Town of Islip officials to attend the event, which is scheduled to run from 7 to 9 p.m. on March 29 at the Brentwood Public Library. Smith confirmed that town officials will attend and be available to answer questions about the ongoing project.

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