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New community playground to open in Central Islip

Preparations for Central Islip's first handicap-accessible playground geared toward young children began Wednesday, and nearly 200 community volunteers are expected to finish transforming an empty space at Clayton Street and Lowell Avenue during a daylong event tomorrow that will end with a ribbon-cutting.

The project comes as the Town of Islip is in the throes of an illegal dumping scandal, and many community activists have said Roberto Clemente Park in neighboring Brentwood -- where an estimated 50,000 tons of debris laced with toxins was dumped -- is an example of how minority and low-income communities are neglected in terms of parks and public services.

The Central Islip site was not dumped on but was found to have a recently cleared 10-by-10 foot pile of debris that had asbestos present, town officials said. The playground site and surrounding areas have been tested and are clear of hazardous materials, Islip Town Councilman Steven J. Flotteron said.

Central Islip was chosen for the project because of the need for this type of playground in an area that has been plagued by poverty and quality of life issues, Flotteron said.

The work and materials are being donated by Disney VoluntEARS and KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit that says it wants to see "a place to play within walking distance for every child in America."

The playground materials were delivered Wednesday as volunteers built picnic tables and painted hopscotch boards. More than 7,200 youngsters who live near the park will have access to the new playground.

"This is really our way of bringing the whole community together," Flotteron said. "When you get the community engaged, they take ownership of the parks and utilize it more."

He said he envisions creating jogging paths, a concession stand and various activity stations such as a boccie ball court to turn the new playground into a "multigenerational" park.

At 3 p.m. Friday, the final construction on the project is to start, with the ribbon cutting ceremony expected around 4:30 or 5 p.m.

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