New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Thursday announced a federal lawsuit against the mastermind behind the toxic dumping scandal at a park in Brentwood and a group of contractors, brokers, and haulers who allegedly contributed to the contamination.
Standing outside Roberto Clemente Park, Schneiderman said he was taking to court those responsible for the dumping scandal in order to recoup money for the two-plus years the park has been closed and for future restoration of community parks in the hamlet.
“We believe the companies and individuals named in our suit are responsible for the dumping of hazardous substances into the heart of Brentwood and causing a much-beloved park to be closed off to the community for years,” Schneiderman said. “Those responsible for closing Roberto Clemente Park must repay their debt to the Brentwood community.”
The lawsuit was filed in Central Islip federal court and names the since-convicted mastermind of the illegal dumping scandal, Thomas Datre Jr., and his co-defendant in the case, Christopher Gabe, along with nearly three-dozen companies. Datre and Gabe were sentenced last week to one year and 30 days in jail, respectively, following guilty pleas last year.
Schneiderman is also suing various contractors who he alleges arranged for the disposal of soil and contamination construction and demolition debris, companies involved in brokering the removal and dumping of the debris, and haulers who dumped the waste at Roberto Clemente Park, which is named after the famed baseball player and humanitarian.
The park has been closed since May 2014. Authorities said Datre Jr. and others were responsible for contaminating the park with toxic debris. Hazardous material was also illegally disposed at a veteran’s complex in Islandia, Deer Park wetlands and a property in Central Islip. In total, six people were arrested, including former Islip Town Parks Commissioner Joseph J. Montuori Jr., who pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy and endangering the health, safety or environment, but won’t serve any time in jail.
The state’s suit claims those responsible are liable under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability ACT (CERCLA), a federal statute, along with state laws stemming from the park’s closing.
Assemb. Phil Ramos (D-Brentwood) issued a statement calling the illegal waste removal an “environmental offense to a horrifying degree.”
“Companies thought they could get away with dumping toxic garbage in a diverse community because it would be the path of least resistance,” Ramos said. “But we were able to collectively shine a light on their harmful activity that not only forced an important community landmark to close, but put our children’s health at risk in the process.”
Subsequent tests of the park revealed the existence of various toxic chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals and asbestos.
In addition to Schneiderman’s lawsuit, the Town of Islip has sought civil enforcement for funds related to the cost of rehabilitating the park.