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On this day in...1992

Everything old is new again. Here's a story from 1992 about fundraising for the city pools back when current Parks and Recreation Commissioner Michael DiBerardinis was Recreation Commissioner.

Thursday, Jun 04, 1992

by Sheila Simmons, Daily News Staff Writer

The children at Baker Playground in West Philadelphia last year felt firsthand the city Recreation Department's failure to maintain all of its parks and swimming pools. This year, they'll know how it feels to have a playground and pool that are being held up as a beacon of the department's success.

The department announced yesterday that the once-ignored, drug-plagued West Philadelphia playground - whose pool was the last to open last year - would host the department's kick-off to its summer pool season this year.

After money problems last summer delayed pool openings well into July, the department sponsored a fund drive that raised more than $200,000 from the private sector, which will grant city kids the earliest pool-openings in years.

The department had wanted to raise $225,000, the amount estimated to operate pools during this month. It's $17,000 short of that goal. The pool openings are scheduled to be completed by June 30.

"This has been a tremendous success," said Joseph D. Carchidi Jr., the department's promotions director. "The outpouring from the corporate community and the public, and the support we've gotten from other city agencies and the mayor has been tremendous. "

Where to celebrate such results was not a difficult decision, Carchidi said.

"When (Recreation Commissioner Michael DiBerardinis) took office, he was sensitive to (Baker's problems), and he chose Baker as the pool that should be open first. "

On Tuesday, Mayor Rendell, Councilman Michael Nutter, corporate executives and others will gather at the pool, at Conestoga Street and Lansdowne Avenue, where once only drug dealers, their customers and a determined community leader named Gerald Haygood dared to tread.

Drug dealers took over Baker a few years ago, and the city refused to open its pool. So Haygood spent the winter nights of 1988-89 sleeping in the rec office, venturing out to confront the dealers nightly. By spring, they gave up control of the playground.

But the Recreation Department refused to believe it was drug-free and kept the pool closed for two summers. Last summer the department, already criticized for late openings throughout the city, finally realized the playground was indeed drug-free, and opened the pool on July 26.

Haygood could not be reached for comment yesterday, but Nutter, in whose district Baker is located, called the result "a true testament to the strength and spirit of the people in that neighborhood."