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Brentwood residents and Islip Town officials crowded Roberto Clemente Park on Monday to celebrate the long-awaited reopening of the pool after five years - complete with live salsa music, free food and extended pool hours.
An estimated 1,500 gathered to swim, splash, sunbathe and socialize around the Olympic-size pool that opened last week.
While the season is set to end on Labor Day, town Supervisor Angie Carpenter announced the pool will be open on weekends in September if the weather cooperates and if there are enough lifeguards.
"Today is an incredibly exciting day for us," Carpenter said. "It was a long, hard road, but we endured."
Budget cuts shut the pool in summer 2013, and a plan to reopen it in 2014 was postponed by the discovery that nearly 40,000 tons of contaminated debris were illegally dumped at the park. Monday's event came about a year after the park reopened.
Officials announced last year that the pool would be open by this summer. The opening date was uncertain until the day before, when the Suffolk County Department of Health Services gave its approval.
Officials attributed the delay to poor weather and the pool requiring more repairs than anticipated. Spokeswoman Caroline Smith said the town is reviewing invoices, and the total cost is not yet available.
Dorys Barrezueta, a Brentwood resident and retired accountant, took shelter in the shade while her 11-year-old grandson swam. She questioned why it took so long to open the pool, saying the delay "wasn't fair" to the community.
"This is what we've been waiting for," the 62-year-old said. "Now it's very nice."
A former kiddie pool and dive pool are expected to be converted into a spray park for next summer, and a skate park is planned, officials said.
Monday's event was part of the town's family fun night series, featuring outdoor movies - this week it was "Coco" - and games at different town parks every week in the summer. Brentwood firefighters gave out hot dogs, and Suffolk County police officers played basketball with kids, who could get their faces painted.
Alicea Allison said the pool is a much-needed place for community kids to stay busy and have fun. She said turnout at the event was "awesome" because the Brentwood community came together.
"If you give them something positive, they show up and come out," said Allison, 32, an attendance secretary at Brentwood Southeast Elementary School.
The pool will be free to residents for the rest of the season as a "way of saying thank you for waiting," Carpenter said.
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