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Residents demand reopening of Roberto Clemente Park

Brentwood resident Miley Chavez, 3, pulls at the

Brentwood resident Miley Chavez, 3, pulls at the locked gate of Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood on Wednesday, June 28, 2017. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Community leaders, residents and politicians on Wednesday demanded to know why Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood — closed for years after contaminated debris was found dumped there — has not yet reopened for the summer.

But town officials said the park needs to be deemed “completely safe” before it reopens.

At a news conference outside the shuttered park, Samuel Gonzalez, a Brentwood resident and candidate for Islip Town Board, and Suffolk County Legis. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood) said they wanted answers from Islip town officials about the park’s status.

“Stop breaking your promises to Brentwood’s children,” Gonzalez said, listing four demands the group is making of Islip: to restore the Olympic-sized pool, “establish a transparent community engagement process,” “provide additional summer recreation opportunities,” and “make a full accounting of the monies that were earmarked for the pool.”

Caroline Smith, Islip town spokeswoman, said the pool will reopen next year, and added the community has been apprised of ongoing park renovations as recently as last week.

“The moment the park is completely safe, it will be reopened for our community,” Smith said in a statement Wednesday. “Every possible effort is being made to make certain that happens as quickly as possible.”

She also noted that the community was provided with an update about the park’s progress at the June 20 town board meeting.

“We felt it was important, given that summer has arrived, to provide the community with an update at the June 20th town board meeting,” she said, adding that Brentwood and Central Islip residents were in attendance and had praised town officials for the work.

The park was closed in April 2014 after the discovery of 40,000 tons of contaminated debris dumped there. The debris at the park since has been removed, and backfill work began in late March.

Some recreational alternatives have sprung up while the park has been closed. Martinez said her Summer Youth Connector program is entering its fourth season of providing teenagers with recreational and educational opportunities. Still, “it’s sad we don’t have a park in our community,” she said. “Our kids need a place to go.”

Rafael Abreu, who lives less than a block away from the park, said his nine grandchildren are eager to gain access to the playground and soccer fields.

“They want to come and play,” he said. “People around here don’t have recreation.”

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