Roberto Clemente Park reopens
ISLIP TOWN—It’s been closed to the public for years, but as of last week, Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood has now reopened with little or no fanfare. Though local residents who began to use the park once again welcomed the news, not everyone was happy.
“For four years, families waited for the Town of Islip to fix the mess they created at Roberto Clemente Park and hold a proper ribbon-cutting ceremony,” said Samuel Gonzalez Jr., a union leader running for Islip Town Board. “Now it’s clear that the only thing this town board cut was corners. This place is a mess.”
The park was shuttered back in 2015 when it was discovered that more than 40,000 tons of toxic debris was illegally dumped there. After years of remediation, the Department of Environmental Conservation gave the town the green light to reopen the facility. According to Gonzalez, the town supposedly spent $4 million to rehabilitate the park, but he noted that it does not appear to have spent very much of it on restoration and he is now calling for a full accounting of that money.
In a press release, Islip Town noted that new picnic tables and benches have been added. The basketball courts have been renovated and ball fields are ready for use, along with improved fencing.
“This vital rehabilitation project has been a priority of my administration,” said Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter. “We have carefully followed DEC guidelines to ensure that the process is completed correctly.”
The town released a statement in response to the complaints. They note that in preparation for the park opening, the parking lot was swept, all parking spaces were repainted, potholes were patched and filled, dangerous curbing and sidewalks were removed and repaired. Large-scale reconstruction of these areas will be addressed in the future.
The town says a pool-refurbishing project is slated to start this fall, and with the help of NYS Assemblyman Phil Ramos, a spray park could be added next year. The town also says they are working with the organization known as Kaboom! to identify and secure funding for a new playground. They have been unsuccessful to date, in part because the Kaboom! grant program calls for the town to remove the existing playground equipment. To ensure that a playground was still available to the children of Brentwood upon opening the park, the town elected to retain the existing playground until such time that the Kaboom! playground is successfully secured. And if the grant does not come through within the next year, the town said it would do whatever it takes to install a new playground in the park.
“It is unfortunate that some would politicize the undeniably unfortunate occurrences that have happened in this park by holding a press conference with a campaign sign on the podium, trying to convince people that the park is unsafe…When we work together, we can accomplish so much more,” said Carpenter.
Updates and information on future happenings at Roberto Clemente Park can be found on the town’s website: www.townofislip.org.
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