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NEIGHBORHOOD GATHERS TO PLAN PLAYGROUND AT LOVE CANAL

It's every child's dream -- to design a park from the ground up -- and on Wednesday night, children of all ages gathered to plan a playground at the site of a former health hazard known as Love Canal.

"Have you decided who this is going to be for?" asked Samuel Giarrizzo of 98th Street. "Young kids? Older people?"

Giarrizzo, who stated his age as "39 since 1954," voted for checkerboard tables so he and his friends could square off under the trees. He was one of about 25 people who attended the playground-planning session sponsored by the Love Canal Area Revitalization Agency.

"Swings!" suggested Nicole Cianchetti of 101st Street, who attended the meeting with her sister. Chrissy Cianchetti, 10, added teeter-totters and a merry-go-round to the growing wish list.

Mervin Cook, 78, of 88th Street, suggested a basketball court and a band shell for the two-acre parcel bounded by 96th Street. Another person opted for a graffiti wall.

However, the top park amenity, as judged by residents, was a water fountain.

The meeting was sparked by a recent survey that discovered an overwhelming desire for a playground/park among the 300 families who now live in the area. The land is owned by the Love Canal Area Revitalization Agency. and is home to stands of mature trees.

A lot has changed at Love Canal since 1979, when 900 families were evacuated from the 10-square-block housing development built on a chemical dump. The name has changed to Black Creek, although few locals use the term.

In addition, a segment of the land -- from 96th to 101st streets, north of Colvin Boulevard, and along a narrow band on 93rd Street -- was judged to be habitable. In 1990, the exodus was reversed as families began to purchase the renovated residences at prices averaging $48,000 to $55,000.

But a community staple -- a park -- remains glaringly absent, even among the shells of boarded-up structures. Love Canal had formerly been home to two elementary schools -- on 99th and 93rd streets -- and the playgrounds that stood with them, explained Susan L. Bloss, executive director of the Love Canal agency.

While the 93rd Street School still stands, vacant and asbestos-laden, the school on 99th Street was demolished.

So with federal, county and state funds, the agency hopes to create a playground, with groundbreaking set for late summer 1998.

"This is a great goodwill project," commented Allen V. Benton, chairman of the agency's Public Relations Committee.

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