Two ex-Town of Islip parks officials and two politically connected contractors are among six accused of dumping about 50,000 tons of toxic debris at a Brentwood park—with more at a ball field, a veterans housing complex and in wetlands.
The half-dozen suspects and four companies allegedly involved pleaded not guilty Monday at Suffolk Count court to criminal charges of environmental and public health law violations in a long-awaited grand jury indictment following a nearly year-long investigation into the scandal, which has fueled a political upheaval in the town.
“They did it pure and simply for money,” Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota told reporters during a news conference at his Hauppauge office. “To follow [New York State Department of Environmental Conservation] regulations for disposal certainly would have been far, far more costly.”
Prosecutors said Ex-Islip Parks Commissioner Joseph Montouri Jr. allowed trucking companies linked to Thomas Datre Sr. and his son, Thomas Datre Jr., to dump up to 1,800 truckloads of New York City demolition and construction debris laced with Cobalt, Dieldrin and Asbestos at Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood. The Datres are separately accused of dumping additional hazardous material a Police Athletic League ballpark in Central Islip, a veterans housing complex in Islandia and in wetlands in Deer Park. Proper disposal of such acutely hazardous material is estimated to cost about $3 million at an out-of-state facility. Long Island facilities cannot accept such waste, since the chemicals can leach into underground aquifers that supply the region’s drinking water.
Attorneys for the accused countered that the dirt that was dumped in the Brentwood park to build a soccer field was clean, the scientific tests that prosecutors relied on in their allegations are flawed and the case is a manufactured scandal designed to cut off the Datre family’s donations to the local Republican Party, which has the majority on the Islip town board.
“History will record that the public crucifixion of the Datre family for the last eight months was one of the lowest, most shameful moments in Long Island history,” the attorney for the Datre family and their businesses, Kevin Kearon of Garden City-based Barket Marion Epstein & Kearon. “Somebody sold the district attorney’s office a bill of goods, one based on false assumption after false assumption.”
Those released without bail following arraignments before Judge Fernando Comacho include Montouri, his former aide, Brett A. Robinson, Datre and his son, one of their employees, Christopher Grabe of Islandia Recycling, and their friend, Ronald Cianculli of Atlas Asphalt. All six were charged with operating a solid waste management facility without a permit and endangering public health, safety or the environment, among other counts. Facing the same charges were 5 Brothers Farming Corp., Daytree at Cortland Square, Inc., Datre Family Farms, Inc. and DFF Farms Corp.
The case, which stemmed from complaints about dumping in the park in January, has resulted in a string of protests outside Islip Town Hall. It also forced Conservative Islip Town Counciman Anthony Senft, who was the board’s parks liaison at the time of the dumping, to drop out of his bid for a New York State Senate seat. Outgoing Islip Town Supervisor Tom Croci, a Navy reservist who was deployed in Afghanistan when the scandal broke, ran instead and won the state Senate seat upon his return.
Islip Town parks officials have said they are working with the state DEC on a remediation plan to clean up the Brentwood park, which has been closed for months closed amid the continuing probe. Islip Town Attorney Rob Cicale issued a statement saying that the town “fully cooperated” with the investigation. When asked if Islip town board members cooperated, Spota said: “Everybody has a constitutional right not to speak to us.”
But, what Montouri, the disgraced town parks leader, allegedly told investigators, Spota found most disturbing. The district attorney quoted Montouri as saying: “If we got it all done and grass growing, we wouldn’t be here right now.”