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Veterans Way families sue Datre family, companies over dumping near homes

Crews in front of a home on Veterans

Crews in front of a home on Veterans Way in Islandia on Dec. 3, 2014. Photo Credit: James Carbone

Four veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are among those suing the Datre family and their companies over the illegal dumping of hazardous materials around homes built to thank them for their service.

The seven-page summons and complaint, filed Monday in state Supreme Court in Central Islip, names Thomas Datre Sr., Thomas Datre Jr., 5 Brothers Farming Corp., Daytree at Cortland Square Inc., Datre Family Farms Inc. and DFF Farms Corp. as defendants.

According to the court document, filed on behalf of five of the six families living on Veterans Way in Islandia, the Datres directed the dumping of "several thousand cubic yards" of construction and demolition debris contaminated with "pesticides, heavy metals, petroleum products, volatile and semi volatile compounds" during the subdivision construction.

"These are men who put their lives on the line to protect us in our homes," Northport-based attorney Peter Creedon said of the veterans he represents. "They certainly aren't going to tolerate anyone stabbing them in the back in theirs."

The dumped material jeopardized the "safety and well being" of the homeowners and their families, and reduced their property values, according to Creedon's lawsuit.

The filing seeks unspecified compensation for property damage and punitive awards. The plaintiffs are Jason Broyles, Lauren Broyles, Paul Milazzo, Marianne Milazzo, Shawn Hunkins, Andrea Hunkins, Ashley Ward, Eric Petry and Theresa Mirarchi.

Veterans Way was built in 2013 by the Long Island Home Builders Care Corp., the charitable arm of the Long Island Builders Institute, an Islandia-based lobbying firm. The four veterans and their wives as well as a widow of a veteran make up five of the six families in the subdivision that are part of the lawsuit.

"There is nothing wrong with Veterans Way," Kevin Kearon, a Garden City attorney representing the Datre family and its four companies, said in an emailed statement. "The Datre family is proud of the work it has done on the Veterans Way project for veterans and elsewhere across Long Island.

"We built those homes. To suggest that we intentionally poisoned anyone is a joke and offensive," Kearon continued. "The lawsuit will be defended vigorously."

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota in April started an investigation into illegal dumping in and around Islip. Since then, he has linked the subdivision in Islandia to three other sites that showed dumped fill with similar contaminants.

On Dec. 8, Datre Sr., 68, of Hauppauge, and Datre Jr., 41, of St. James, were among six men indicted for their alleged roles in illegal dumping. Prosecutors say Datre Sr., who was president of the charitable organization that funded the project at the time the houses were built, arranged for his son to bring the toxic fill to the site, although he knew it was unacceptable. All six have pleaded not guilty and requested a jury trial.

Datre Sr., who has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for political parties in Islip with his wife, Clara Datre, over the past several years, was charged with five counts on the dumping at Veterans Way. Their son, deemed by prosecutors as the "mastermind" of a scheme to dump tens of thousands of tons of contaminated fill at the four sites, was charged with 29 counts, including felony criminal mischief.

The Home Builders Care Corp. has spent about $350,000 to remove 1,860 cubic yards of contaminated debris from a berm at the site alongside Motor Parkway, according to corporation officials. Another $20,000 has gone toward an additional round of testing around each home after concerns were raised that initial testing in May at the behest of Spota's office was not adequate. The analysis of those test results are pending.

Kearon, in his statement, called the work at Veterans Way "a silly waste of time and money."

Cleanup costs at the other illegal dumping sites identified by Spota -- including a privately owned vacant lot on Islip Avenue in Central Islip and a sensitive wetlands area in Deer Park -- have not been determined. The estimated 50,000 tons of contaminated debris dumped in Roberto Clemente Park, a public park owned by the Town of Islip, is expected to cost at least $6 million to clean up.

The town has not filed any civil action, but "has been in the process of preparing aggressive litigation to ensure that the taxpayers are compensated for the damage and expenses incurred resulting from the criminal activity that occurred at Roberto Clemente Park," Town Attorney Rob Cicale said in a statement. "As such, we expect to begin actions against any and all culpable parties at the appropriate time."

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