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Roberto Clemente Park to reopen Monday, town officials say

A closed sign on the entrance to Roberto

A closed sign on the entrance to Roberto Clemente Park is pictured on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

Brentwood’s Roberto Clemente Park is set to reopen Monday morning, Islip Town officials said.

The park has been closed since April 2014 when county officials discovered that more than 40,000 tons of contaminated construction debris had been illegally dumped there.

Town spokeswoman Caroline Smith on Saturday afternoon said residents will be able to use the park’s new multipurpose field, and refurbished basketball courts, playground, picnic area and baseball field.

“We are looking forward to this new chapter for Roberto Clemente Park and our Islip community,” Smith said in an email.

The park is scheduled to open at about 8 a.m., she said.

The toxin-laden construction materials were removed by the town in summer 2015 at a cost of more than $4 million.

Residents and political candidates have expressed frustrations over the past several months that the community has gone without its largest public park for so long, and that it wasn’t open for the start of this summer, as town officials had promised.

Last week, some raised concerns about safety at an Islip Town Board meeting over the park opening prematurely, before all work could be properly finished.

Herbie Medina, founder of Uplift Brentwood, a grass roots community group, organized a petition drive and several protests over the past year outside the locked gates of the park, demanding that town officials deliver a renovated space for area children to play in.

Medina said Saturday he was “looking forward” to seeing the upgrades town officials have spoken about.

“I want to be there Monday when it opens to take a look around, because there’s only so much you can see from outside the gate looking in,” he said.

If the park does not meet the community’s expectations, Medina said he will look into coming up with more petitions or protests. “The town promised us a park that was not only cleaned up but better than ever,” he said.

Suffolk County Legis. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood), who lives down the street from the park, said she is “looking forward to seeing the park reopen” and will “remain vigilant” until the park is completely restored, along with its swimming pool.

“It is clear that the continuous pressure by the residents of Brentwood and Central Islip is yielding results,” Martinez said in a statement. “This is a testament to the work of community leaders who day in and day out have taken on the town board who have refused to set a reasonable timeline and give residents specific answers. This is a victory to the people of Brentwood & Central Islip, particularly the children who will get a portion of their park back.”

In 2013, the town closed the park’s rundown Olympic-sized swimming pool, citing financial constraints. It remains shuttered and in need of an overhaul.

Islip officials toured the facility last week with eight contracting companies as part of the town’s request for proposal process on the pool project. Bids are due Thursday, with the pool currently slated for competition in summer 2018.

Town officials are also looking into constructing a new spray park at the site, using $2 million in state funds that Assemb. Phil Ramos (D-Bay Shore) secured last year.

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