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Islip Town: Roberto Clemente Park opening ‘in very near future’

Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood has been closed

Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood has been closed since April 2014. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Islip Town officials intend to reopen Brentwood’s Roberto Clemente Park next week, a town spokeswoman said Thursday evening.

The reopening, which spokeswoman Caroline Smith said is planned “barring any major issues,” is the most specific time frame Islip has provided for the reopening of the park, which has been closed since April 2014 after a Suffolk County district attorney’s office probe revealed more than 40,000 tons of contaminated construction debris had been dumped there.

The news comes following weeks of complaints by residents and political candidates who are frustrated that no firm opening date had been set. Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter, a Republican, had said in a news release Thursday morning that “town officials are hopeful that the park will reopen in the very near future,” but had not offered a potential opening date.

Smith said Thursday evening that while no news conference about the reopening is scheduled, town officials “hope to organize a community event later this summer.”

Local community groups have been demanding the reopening of the park at numerous protests over the past year — the most recent on June 28. Parks Commission Tom Owens had told residents at a community forum in March that the basketball courts, playground, soccer and baseball fields would be open by this summer.

At Tuesday’s town board meeting, Owens said that after spending much time working with state Department of Environmental Conservation officials, the “final phase” of field remediation work had been scheduled for this week for the remaining topsoil and seeding at the Brentwood park.

“Obviously, it was a tremendous challenge to meet the requirements of the DEC,” Owens said, “and as your parks commissioner, let me apologize for this lengthy process.”

He detailed numerous updates to the recreation space, including the addition of a “multipurpose field” where visitors can play lacrosse, soccer or other activities.

And this week, town officials escorted eight construction firms through the Olympic-sized pool area inside the park — the hamlet’s only public pool — as part of a process soliciting bidders to complete a renovation of the space by next summer. The pool was closed in 2013 over what town officials had cited then as budgetary issues.Sammy Gonzalez Jr., a Democrat and Brentwood resident who is running for a spot on the GOP-majority town board, said in a phone interview Thursday evening that he drove past the park on Wednesday and saw “debris,” barren fields and other “unsafe” conditions still looming.

“They’re just trying to get this park open after so much pressure I’ve been putting on this board. But honestly, I don’t know how safe it’s going to be,” he said.“I don’t see how they’re going to open this up in a week.”

Community activist Nelsena Day said in a phone interview Thursday evening that she thinks there is “tremendous pressure to open the park as fast as possible,” but wants the town to make sure all the renovations are completed before “prematurely” opening the park.

“I drive by the park almost every day and there are still potholes that need to be filled and the seeding on the soccer fields hasn’t even been able to grow yet.They gotta do this right; otherwise, we’re going to have some kids getting hurt over there,” Day said. “My concerns are overshadowing my happiness of having that park back open.”

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