According to the lawsuit, this has led to a persistent neglect of Islip’s Latino areas. Potholes go unfixed, it says, and all of Islip’s five brownfield sites — land that has been environmentally contaminated and often abandoned as a result — are in or near Brentwood. When Latino residents of the town call their local fire and police departments, the suit contends, “they are often met with hostile and unresponsive officials who ignore or mistreat them.”
In 2005, the lawsuit notes, Islip initially refused to allow a Central American parade to be held on its streets and only agreed to do so after being sued. In 2013, the town closed down the only local pool that was easily accessible to its Latino residents. The following year, the suit maintains, companies with “political connections” to town officials dumped nearly 40,000 tons of debris containing asbestos and pesticides into Roberto Clemente Park, which primarily served the Latino community.
“One of the critical things about this case is where we are in our country’s history,” said Frederick K. Brewington, a lawyer for the Islip plaintiffs, who also brought the suit against Hempstead in 1996. “This lawsuit is important to a growing population that has been tossed and tattered by government officials. It serves as an opportunity for the community to speak loudly into the microphone and utilize laws put there for that very purpose.”
A spokeswoman for the town of Islip said officials had not yet seen the lawsuit and had declined to comment on it.
The accusations against Islip comes as voting rights have re-emerged as a powerful issue across the country. This month, the United States Supreme Court upheld Ohio’s aggressive efforts to kick people off its voting rolls if they skip a few elections and fail to respond to a notice from election officials. Some states, including Florida and Louisiana, are now involved in court fights seeking to restore the vote to felons.
For Ms. Flores, 21, who recently graduated from Stony Brook University, joining the Islip lawsuit has provided her with a chance to finally exercise a power she feels has been denied to her.
“I wanted to do something — I wanted to be a part of it,” she said. “I realized that we can do something about the things in our own government that we don’t like. We have a voice.”