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Lessons from dumping in Roberto Clemente Park linger

Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood is shown on

Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood is shown on Friday, May 9, 2014. Credit: Randee Daddona

The last of the guilty pleas has been filed in connection with the dumping scandal at Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood. Now attention will turn, as it should, to reopening a park that has been shuttered for more than two years in a community that desperately needs one.

But before we move on from this despicable affair, let’s remember what happened here. Politically connected people were allowed to dump contaminated material in four locations in Islip Town — 40,000 tons of the stuff in Roberto Clemente alone — by at least two town officials who were aware of what was going on and understood the risks posed by dumping. It is another manifestation of the age-old problem of cozy relationships between campaign contributors and politicians.

Now it’s up to Islip to get Roberto Clemente reopened. The town is making good progress on that, and needs to stay focused to get it done as safely and quickly as possible. The contaminated material is gone. The state Department of Environmental Conservation has approved the town’s plan to fill the hole that is as much as 300 feet wide and three feet deep. Islip is working with Assemb. Phil Ramos, who obtained $2 million in state funding for a new spray park, a worthy replacement for the rundown pool that closed in the summer of 2012. And the town is pursuing a federal lawsuit seeking $5 million from 28 defendants to cover its costs.

Except for sentencing, the criminal case is over. But it will continue to reverberate for years. Tighter state regulations on dumping are being crafted, and awareness is heightened. These are good things. Because what happened in Islip, and at Roberto Clemente Park in particular, can never be allowed to happen again.

— The editorial board


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