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Know Your Rights
Source: Newsday
Subject: Housing & Environmental Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Probe into dumping at Brentwood park set to widen, says source

The probe into the dumping of asbestos-contaminated debris at an Islip Town park in Brentwood is set to widen, sources said.

Investigators plan to take samples at a second site that will provide an initial readout on whether it contains contaminants such as asbestos, petroleum-based products or heavy metal materials, the sources said.

The sampling’s primary purpose is to assist a criminal probe into the origin of assorted debris at Brentwood’s Roberto Clemente Park, the sources told Newsday.

District Attorney Thomas Spota, whose office is investigating, said last week that “at least one unscrupulous contractor” was involved in dumping asbestos-laden debris at the park.

Connected contractor

Spota said a visit last week by investigators to the corporate headquarters of “Datre/Daytree” companies was connected to the criminal probe into illegal dumping of an estimated 32,000 tons of construction and demolition material deposited at the park since last June.

The Datre family owns several construction and hauling firms. Thomas Datre Jr. heads DFF Farm Corp. — which had a permit to dump “permissible” fill into the park last summer — and another firm, 5 Brothers Farming Corp., his attorney has said.

His parents, Thomas Datre Sr. and Clara Datre, are prominent fundraisers in the town. In addition, Clara Datre ran for supervisor in 2007 and Datre Sr. became a member of the town’s plumbing examining board in 1981. He was named its chairman in 2012 and his stipend last year was $8,000.

Monday, Councilman Anthony Senft, the town board’s liaison to the parks department, said the board will vote to remove Thomas Datre Sr. from the plumbers’ examining board on May 27.

The town also told Daytree at Cortland Square — one of the couple’s companies — that it was terminating a tree removal contract with the firm, according to a letter dated May 7. Since Jan. 1, 2013, the town had paid $358,000 for work done as part of the contract.

In addition, the Long Island Builders Institute took action to suspend Thomas and Clara Datre from their positions with the industry lobby group.

“In the best interests of LIBI, the LIBI board decided to suspend the memberships of Tom Datre and Clara Datre until further information is available,” executive director Mitch Pally said. He added the group’s past president’s council met on Thursday after reading of the raid by investigators in Newsday on Wednesday and recommended suspension.

Group aids candidates

The group has 460 members and gives political contributions to parties and candidates. Thomas Datre Sr. was president in 2004 and Clara Datre its first female president in 2012. Until Monday, Tom Datre had been co-chair of the LIBI political action committee for 21 years.

Until last year, the family’s corporate headquarters were at 2459 Ocean Ave. in Ronkonkoma — an address owned by Islip GOP chairman Frank Tantone’s law practice. The sign outside the address 10 days ago still identified it as Datre corporate headquarters, but Tantone told Newsday on Saturday that steps have been taken to erase the name from the sign due to the ongoing probe.

Monday morning, Michael Fricchione, campaign manager for Adrienne Esposito, who is running against Senft for the state Senate, called for Senft to resign his post as councilman.

“Councilman Anthony Senft’s glaring failures to keep thousands of tons of toxic materials from being dumped in Islip parks is an embarrassment, and he should resign his position immediately,” Fricchione said in a statement. “How could Anthony Senft expect voters to send him to the state Senate when he isn’t even capable of keeping Islip parks free of hazardous and toxic waste?” Senft said he would not resign from the council, but declined to discuss the Senate race.

Last April, a church — Iglesia de Jesucristo Palabra Miel — approached the town seeking to fix up the park’s two soccer field surfaces by repairing and reseeding, Spota said.

The town has said it was a “donated job” because there were insufficient town funds to do the work. Spota said the church ran out of materials and put out a request for clean fill. It was then, he said that the “well-intentioned and unsuspecting” church members met individuals who convinced them they would bring in soil to help.

From that point, Spota said, trucks began arriving at the park and did not stop despite entreaties from church members to halt the dumping of large chunks of metal, broken glass, bricks and concrete mixed with dirt. The soccer fields themselves were raised 3 feet above original grade and a nearby discharge basin that had been a 25-foot deep hole was partly filled.

Dumping seen in November

In November, a park ranger noticed the dumping being done in the park and sent a report about it to at least two town officials. The church also complained to town employees, who insisted everything was OK, Spota said.

In January, after residents complained to Assemb. Philip Ramos (D-Brentwood) and Legis. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood), Ramos contacted acting supervisor Eric Hofmeister. Days later, Hofmeister was reassured by the town’s then parks commissioner Joseph Montuori that the area had been cleaned up.

Monday, community members stood beside Ramos and Martinez at the park’s locked gates, demanding answers about health implications for residents and children who have played in the park recently.

Ramos called for the January removal to also be reviewed because he said he feared proper precautions were not taken to ensure safe transport of the potentially contaminated debris.

“Where was it taken? What precautions did they take to protect our neighborhood from further exposure?,” Ramos asked. “When you have a contaminated location you can’t just put it in trucks and drive it away. There are legal procedures as to how you have to dispose of contaminated soil. They drove it back through our neighborhoods, exposing our communities.”

Martinez said she is “livid” that children have been playing in a park where asbestos-laden debris has been found.

Initial findings released Monday of air tests conducted Friday, found no asbestos, said a study by Enviroscience Consultants at 16 points in and around the park.

“While testing of the air does not indicate what other soil sampling may reveal, these air sample results indicate that the air in the park and the surrounding neighborhood does not present a risk at this time,” the town said in a statement. The town plans to continue the air testing over the next several weeks.

With Keith Herbert and Randi F. Marshall

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