$1.25 million skate park opens in Brentwood's Roberto Clemente Park, marred by illegal dumping
Brentwood residents and Town of Islip officials on Friday celebrated the long-awaited opening of a $1.25 million skate park at Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood, the only one in the town and among a handful in Suffolk County.
The idea for the park was born nearly a decade ago, said Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter, when a group of young people complained that a makeshift skateboard park built on a vacant parcel in the hamlet had been dismantled after the property was sold.
“Once we started the construction on Clemente, it always was planned that we would put a skate park in,” Carpenter said. Preparation for construction of the plaza-style skateboard park with rails, ramps, steps and quarter pipes began in June.
Roberto Clemente Park, the site of illegal dumping in 2013 and 2014, was shuttered for more than three years as crews removed tons of hazardous construction waste. According to a 2015 engineering report, nearly 40,000 tons of contaminated fill was excavated from the park.
The state attorney general's office in 2017 filed a federal lawsuit against companies involved in the illegal dumping and in 2021, secured $627,000 from eight for improvements at Brentwood parks.
The supervisor formally announced the skate park in 2018, coinciding with a demonstration from more than a dozen skateboarders at a town board meeting. Design contracts worth more than $246,000 were signed in 2019 for spray and skate parks at Roberto Clemente.
The skate park continued to be a community focus in subsequent years, with a Brentwood honors student garnering 1,100 signatures in 2022 for a petition in support of the park.
It was also a rallying point for a group that formed about the same time, the District One Youth Advisory Board, composed of mostly high school and college students and focused on community and civic engagement.
“This has really just been so much more than a skate park. It’s been such a fight for this community,” said Ahmad Perez, the group’s founder and a senior at Boston University.
Carpenter said the youth group was among a "chorus of people who wanted a skateboard park."
At the unveiling on Friday, Carpenter said Assemb. Phil Ramos (D-Brentwood) secured $700,000 in state grant funding and the town covered the balance.
"Our skateboard plaza will not only provide a safe, dedicated space for skaters to enjoy, but we're confident it will open the door and create opportunities for lasting memories," Carpenter said.
Roberto Clemente Park in recent years has received some $13 million in improvements, including a $2 million splash park and a revamped pool. The skate park is one of the latest additions at the facility.
The park "has a very dark history,” Ramos told Newsday, describing "environmental racism" as what led to the scandal, depriving “families and young people of a major recreational facility.”
“It's been a labor of love, and the improvements to the park are a monument to the perseverance of our community,” he said.
Brentwood resident and Mindful Arts Dance Academy owner Desiree Thomas, 33, was one of the original advocates for a skate park nearly 10 years ago. There aren’t too many places to skate on Long Island, she said.
“I am definitely very pleased as a parent, as a community member and a business owner, because [the skate park is] a great asset to the town,” she said.
On Wednesday evening, before the park’s formal unveiling, the skate park was packed.
Brothers Guershon Villiere, 22, and Noel Villiere, 8, of Brentwood, said they’ve been visiting for around a month now.
“Everybody’s loving it,” Guershon said.