Tag Archives: College Point

Pressure builds to expand school program in northern Queens and Whitestone


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

A push to expand programs for gifted and talented students into middle schools in a northern Queens district has the support of local elected officials and at least 500 parents who have signed petitions backing the effort.

“We’re tired of getting the run around from [Superintendent Danielle Di Mango] and the city,” said Lisa Fusco, a parent from Whitestone who is leading the charge in an appeal that will now go to Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina.

The program’s fate is decided by each school district’s superintendent. The parents who are signing the petition have children in School District 25, where the program is limited to seven elementary schools. Fusco and the other parents decided to write the letter after meetings with School District 25 Superintendent Di Mango and education officials didn’t produce any results. They expect to send the letter by the end of the week.

District 25 is bordered by Flushing Meadows Park to the west and Bayside to the east, and it encompasses Pomonok to the south up to Whitestone and College Point.

Using the force of 500 signatures, the contingent of parents will be sending a letter to Farina requesting that she support their efforts to expand the gifted and talented program into the district’s middle schools.

Elected officials representing the area have also sent letters to Farina in support of Fusco’s efforts. The list of lawmakers backing the effort includes Rep. Grace Meng, Assemblyman Ed Braunstein and Assemblyman Ron Kim.

The Department of Education didn’t return  requests for comment.

“Providing students with a challenging curriculum to compete in today’s globalized world is extremely important,” Meng wrote in a letter to Farina advocating for the program to be expanded into School District 25. “We must work together to grant all qualified students equal access to G&T programs.”

Meng pointed out that the program is in the middle schools of neighboring school districts 24 and 26. She also advocated for school district 28 to get the expansion.

The gifted and talented program is currently in district 25’s elementary schools but once students get to sixth grade, the program ends. The program is meant to provide extra services for students with a high aptitude who get bored easily in regular classes, according to the Department of Education.

“They’re dropping the ball,” Fusco said. “And I don’t know why, but hopefully our letter to the chancellor will help create Gifted and Talented in District 25.”

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Residents reject plans to build mosque in Flushing


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

A proposal to build a mosque in Flushing was withdrawn this week after it came under fire from residents and members of Community Board 7 who criticized the proposal, citing violations of local zoning ordinances on parking and setbacks from neighboring properties.

But members of the Muslim congregation said that some of the opposition to their mosque on Monday night may have been fueled by outrage over the terror attacks in Paris last week by a group of violent extremists, who they insist do not reflect their religious values.

Muhammed Sheth, a member of Masjid Noor, the group that wants to build a mosque at 46-05 Parsons Blvd., said he believes that it’s a bad time to try seek public support for any project related to Islam because of the terror attack on Parisian newspaper Charlie Hebdo last week.

“The community wasn’t just rejecting this building on technical grounds. They were asking us lynching questions and Islam is being submitted to this scrutiny,” Sheth said. “It’s because a few loony people did some horrible things that people are now scared of Muslims altogether.”

Dozens of residents came to the meeting to voice their opposition to the mosque on the grounds that the application requested several waivers be made to the area’s building code laws. But some were simply unhappy about a mosque coming to the neighborhood.

“This is a very congested area,” said Grace Kelly, a Flushing resident. “Flushing Remonstrance is something we value, but this spot just doesn’t work,” she said in reference to the historic 17th-century commitment made to freedom of religion by leaders in Flushing.

Harry Coumna said the mosque should be built on the industrial part of College Point in one of the warehouses, a suggestion one board member thought was “offensive.”

“Why do you want to come to our area and do this?” Coumna said. “Do we come to your neighborhood and build stuff there? Leave our neighborhood alone.”

The proposal didn’t include any off-street parking areas, as required under zoning laws for houses of worship. Across the street from the proposed location sits St. Mary’s Nativity Church, which has a parking lot. The area is filled with an array of religious buildings.

Representatives for the mosque – Emily Simon and Jamil Coppin – asked the board to waive the zoning rules. The application called for a two-story building with a total of 2,000 square feet with a maximum of occupancy of 420 people. It also lacked side yards as required by local zoning, requiring additional waivers.

The mosque application was the first prospect hundreds of Muslims in the group had at having a consistent location for worship.

“The congregants have been forced to move from month to month. They’re looking for a permanent home,” said Simon, who is the lawyer for the group. “The community is home to many other religious houses of worship.”

The congregation, which boasts about 400 members, is made up of immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and several African countries. Since 2013, the group Masjid Noor has moved between temporary mosques, and they were hoping to establish a stable place in a part of Flushing that is home to a diverse number of places of worship.

“They were thinking all Muslims are trouble,” said Sheth, who is a member of the group. “The scrutiny to which they subjected us was very intense.”

The architect Jamil Coppin will revise the application so that all of the zoning rules will be observed.

Open houses this weekend: Forest Hills, Hunters Point, College Point


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy StreetEasy and Douglas Elliman

106-20 70th Ave., #4B Forest Hills — $434,000 

This studio condo apartment in the The Milana in Forest Hills has one bathroom and a balcony. It features a hook-up for a washer and dryer, central AC and has hardwood floors throughout. The open house is on Sunday, Jan. 11 from noon to 2 p.m. Contact brokers Aroza Sanjana and Benjamin Koptiev of Warren Lewis Sotheby’s International Realty.

519 Borden Ave. #9J, Hunters Point — $1,275,000

This unit has two bedrooms and two bathrooms in 1,083 square feet of space in The Murano in Hunters Point. It features a 145-square-foot terrace with views of Manhattan and the Queensboro Bridge. The apartment comes with a parking space and other building amenities, including a gym, community rooms, storage, central AC and a bike room. Pets are allowed in The Murano. The open house is on Sunday, Jan. 11 from noon to 1:30 p.m. Contact brokers Brittany Fox and Doron Zwickel of CORE.

 

122-11 6th Ave., College Point — $568,000 

This townhouse comes with five bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms on two floors. It features a large living room, a renovated kitchen, a finished basement, a yard and an outdoor patio. The open house is on Sunday, Jan. 11 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Contact broker Laura Copersino of Douglas Elliman.

 

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Body found at College Point park


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

CrimeSceneTapeHC1010_L_300_C_R-624x416

A body was discovered along the shoreline of a College Point park on New Year’s Day, police said.

A passerby found the body at about 11 a.m. lying on rocks close to the water inside MacNeil Park near Poppenhusen Avenue, cops said.

The unidentified body, believed to be a man in his 30s, was not badly decomposed and showed no apparent signs of trauma, according to police.

The medical examiner is determining the cause of death.

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Douglaston teen is pitching for a good cause


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Michael Petze

BY ASHA MAHADEVAN

Michael Petze is like most other 14-year-olds in that he loves baseball. For the past three years, the Douglaston resident has been playing on the CP Stars travel baseball team out of College Point, winning 24 tournaments throughout the mid-Atlantic area. However, now he is using his baseball skills to raise money for his cousin, Anthony, 24, an athlete with Down’s Syndrome.

Petze was recently invited to compete in the 9th Annual Power Showcase at the Florida Marlins Park in Miami, Fla., from Dec. 28, to Jan. 2. While the Showcase gives him an opportunity to show off his baseball skills, “it also includes a charity component,” explained Petze. The Showcase urges the players to give back to the community, and Petze decided to help his cousin participate in the local Special Olympics competition held every summer in Massachusetts, where Anthony lives.

“Anthony always puts a smile on my face,” said Petze. “He taught me to never judge a person by their looks, not to treat someone as an outcast because they are different.”

While Petze is a pitcher and a competitive hitter, Anthony runs track, plays basketball and bowls. Anthony is part of the Mid-Cape Sports Program, which, said Petze, spends $10,000 annually to provide training facilities for its athletes. He is hoping to raise the entire amount. He started his fundraising efforts “a couple of weeks ago” and has received contributions and pledges for contributions totaling to more than $2,000.

Petze hopes to raise the funds by the beginning of February as that would give him time to visit his cousin in Cape Cod. “I haven’t seen him in a long time,” he said.

Meanwhile, with 170 athletes from more than 20 countries participating in the Showcase, the event itself is a great opportunity for this Derek Jeter fan. “My parents are really happy about [receiving] the invitation and that I’d be meeting new people,” he said. “I like to be able to show people my talent in baseball.”

If you wish to support Michael Petze and his cousin Anthony, you can either make a one-time contribution, or pledge a certain amount for each home run hit or contribute per foot for the longest home run or per foot of a hit that goes over the fence. Make your checks payable to Special Olympics and write Mid-Cape Sports on the memo line.

For more information or to make a pledge, email Michael at MPetze05@gmail.com.

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NYPD lieutenant’s new book shows history of tension between cops and mayors


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

New York City today is playing out a familiar scenario that pits the mayor against the NYPD rank and file in tense relations, with the roar of public demand for reform as the backdrop, said a veteran cop who has authored a history of the department.

But with the recent killings of two police officers, Whalen believes that the entrenched groups will have to come to a solution. Whalen of College Point is currently a lieutenant with the NYPD, giving him an unusual perspective from within the department.

“Cops have been getting shot in New York City since the beginning,” Whalen said, an idea illustrated in his book “The NYPD’s First Fifty Years,” due to be released next month. “But certain ones like this are more memorable than others because it impacts policy and how we do business.”

The book begins with the unification of New York City in 1897 and the creation of the modern police force, covering the first 50 years of department history.

De Blasio’s relationship with the police has always been uneasy, since his campaign promise to reform policies like stop and frisk and his response to a Staten Island grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer for the death of Eric Garner. The recent killings of Police Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos in Brooklyn further exposed this divide.

The NYPD’s Union President Patrick Lynch blamed de Blasio for the shooting because of his tolerance of protests across the city protesting the police.

“It’s common for mayors to have troubles and be disliked by police,” Whalen said.

But Whalen said history shows that recent events could provide an opportunity for reform. More than 80 years ago, one of the city’s most popular mayors, Fiorello LaGuardia, faced strained relations with police because of his promises of reform and a perceived lax attitude on popular unrest.

LaGuardia became mayor in 1934 and soon after being elected his notions of reform were tested when cabbies began to riot. He urged restraint when using police force against disgruntled cabbies. Before LaGuardia, police would use their batons, but the mayor now instructed the conservative Police Commissioner John O’Ryan to leave the cabbies alone, despite the commissioner’s advice that force should be used.

In the end, more than 100 cabs were destroyed and rioters injured dozens of people. The press criticized the mayor and the commissioner in the aftermath and, Whalen writes, so began an “escalating ideological battle between the mayor and the police commissioner.”

“LaGuardia is much like de Blasio,” Whalen said. “The police didn’t like LaGuardia either but in the end the mayor was able to consolidate a progressive agenda with effective policing.”

Much like LaGuardia, de Blasio is trying to be a progressive politician while keeping crime down, which is why, Whalen said, Bratton was hired.

“There’s always been this emphasis to keep the lid on it,” Whalen said. “Meaning that crime always has to stay down, no matter what. So de Blasio can talk about progressive agendas all he wants, but he still has to have firm authority through people like Bratton.”

Whalen’s book, which was co-written with his father Jon, is filled with tales of early 1900s anarchists and communists attempting to bomb various sites across the city, including Police Headquarters, which puts today’s peaceful protests in context. Whalen’s book also points out how dangerous it used to be to work for the NYPD.

Whalen believes that the Brooklyn shooting will cause many protesters to stop marching in the streets, as de Blasio has called for. It will also put the police on high alert. He cautioned against the police becoming overly sensitive when on patrol and becoming afraid.

“Police have to watch their backs, but if they’re afraid, they might make the wrong decision and then the city will really plunge into unrest,” he said.

Whalen’s book is set to be released in January 2015.

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Northern Queens parents gain no traction during meeting with BP Katz over school program


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Whitestone and Flushing parents were sent back to the drawing board after meeting with Borough President Melinda Katz to discuss their desire to create a gifted and talented program for middle schools in the northern and central Queens area.

Lisa Fusco and a growing number of parents are building a case for the creation of gifted and talented programs for middle schools in their district. During a meeting with Katz and education officials on Wednesday, the parents were told that the district’s superintendent was the only one with the power to extend the program from its limited elementary school reach to middle school.

“They’re giving us the run around,” Fusco said. “We’ve spoken to [Superintendent Danielle Di Mango] before and that hasn’t gotten us anywhere. We’ve tried everything else.”

Mango declined a request for comment.

Fusco’s fourth-grade daughter is enrolled in the gifted and talented program in P.S. 79 and — unlike in many other school districts — the program does not continue into middle school within District 25, which covers most of central and northern Queens. Neighboring districts 26 and 30 provide the program to students in middle school. More than 150 parents have signed a petition to bring the program into their middle schools in places like Flushing and Whitestone.

The gifted and talented programs are meant to provide extra services for students who show academic promise and get bored easily in a traditional classroom setting. Parents must sign up their children for tests to get into the program by November, and children are tested in January and February.

“We have made some real strides engaging community leaders,” Fusco said. “And we will continue to push for the program in our communities.”

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‘Shorty 140’ graffiti tagger arrested: report


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Laser Burners/Flickr Creative Commons

They got Shorty.

A graffiti artist famous among local authorities for leaving his “Shorty 140” tag on Queens overpasses has been arrested, according to a published report.

Alberto R. Rodriguez, 33, who has lived in College Point and Long Island at various times, has been charged with criminal mischief and the felony crime of making graffiti, according to Newsday.

Police eventually nabbed Rodriguez on Dec. 3 after picking him up in a DWI case and charged him with the graffiti crimes, the paper reported. They were able to catch him through surveillance and a database that logs graffiti tags throughout the city.

One of the “Shorty 140” tags that police collected, according to am New York, included the words “RIP John Gotti” along the Cross Island Parkway.

Rodriguez has long been a thorn in the side of police and community leaders, angry over his ever-present graffiti on highway overpasses. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton once fumed that seeing Shorty 140’s tag on graffiti while traveling to and from the Hamptons on weekends drove him out of his mind, according to a report in Newsday.

In addition to continuing his graffiti spree, Rodriguez has also developed a cult following as a rapper in recent years.

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Whitestone and northern Queens residents push for expansion of school program


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Parents in Whitestone and Flushing are trying to give the city a new lesson plan.

Lisa Fusco, from Whitestone, and 150 parents in northern Queens signed a petition to the city Department of Eudcation demanding the creation of gifted and talented programs for the middle schools in their  district. Several of the parents are also meeting with Borough President Melinda Katz and Department of Education officials on Dec. 10 to discuss the issue.

District 25 is bordered by Flushing Meadows Park to the west and Bayside to the east, and it encompasses Pomonok to the south up to Whitestone and College Point.

The large area has six middle schools, but none of them have gifted and talented programs. For Fusco and others, that’s a problem.

“Our children are in the gifted and talented program in the elementary schools and we would like them to continue this wonderful program into middle school,” said Fusco, whose fourth-grade daughter is enrolled in the program in P.S. 79. “It would be such a shame if they had to stop this program.”

The gifted and talented programs are meant to provide extra services for students with a high aptitude who get bored easily in regular classes, according to the Department of Education. Parents must sign up their children for tests to get into the program by November, and children are tested in January and February.

While the program is usually meant for elementary schools, the group’s request isn’t unprecedented. School District 26, which runs along the border with Long Island, and District 30, Long Island City and Astoria, both have middle schools that offer the gifted and talented program.

“I don’t understand why the DOE lacks a citywide policy on [gifted and talented programs] and why it provides [gifted and talented] classes in one district and not another,” said Morris Altman, the president of the education council in District 25.

Justin Chang, from Whitestone, has two boys who are enrolled in the program at P.S. 79, and he worries about what his kids will do if there is no equivalent teaching method being used in the local middle schools.

“They are different and they need help in a different way,” Chang said. “I would just hope they consider opening the program for our district.”

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Local authorities try to put an end to College Point homeless encampment


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

A team of city officials, police and advocates for the homeless swept into a makeshift encampment under a ramp to the Whitestone Expressway, relocating those taking shelter there to safer quarters and fencing off the barren lot.

The fenced off area is under the Whitestone Expressway on the border between College Point and Flushing and is popular among the homeless seeking shelter, according to Councilman Paul Vallone’s office. Police have known about the area and periodically evacuate it. Despite the fence, the homeless kept returning. But Vallone is hoping that the area will be rid of shelter seekers now that the Department of Homeless Services and Common Ground, a nonprofit organization, helped relocate the people who called the Whitestone Expressway their home.

“This combined effort by our city’s Agencies was effective in cleaning up and relocating the homeless encampment in College Point,” Vallone said. “Particularly, I applaud the DHS and Common Ground for going above and beyond to work with the chronically homeless to encourage them to relocate and seek out shelter and housing as we work to try and ensure that no one has to live outside on the streets.”

Vallone’s office estimated that there were around 30-50 people using the underpass as a shelter. Neither the city nor Common Ground returned a request for comment.

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Police prepare for Black Friday shopping rush in Flushing and College Point


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of The Shops at SkyView Center

Police are preparing for Black Friday in Flushing and College Point by beefing up police presence and posting traffic officers on busy roads, according to authorities.

While there weren’t many crimes in the area during last year’s Black Friday, police at the 109th Precinct hope that the increase in police presence will prevent the possibility of shoppers getting robbed and stores being burglarized, according Detective Kevin O’Donnell.

“We’re expecting large crowds to be coming out to Flushing and College Point and we want everyone to have a safe Black Friday,” he said.

The police will be concentrating on two areas. The first location, The Shops at SkyView Center, will be particularly important to police because the Target housed in the mall will stay open all night on Friday into Saturday. The other area is in College Point on a section of 20th Avenue lined with strip malls. Just north of Flushing, the shopping center has several strip malls next to one another. And while there is parking, traffic backups from exit 15 off the Whitestone Expressway on regular weekends.

“Traffic is going to be a mess out there but we’re hoping to keep things as smooth as possible,” O’Donnell said.

Shoppers can expect to see an increase in police beginning on Thursday afternoon, a concentrated presence that will continue into Saturday.

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Elderly man, woman killed in College Point crash


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

An 87 year-old man and his 89-year-old passenger were killed Monday night in a car crash in the parking lot of the College Point BJ’s Wholesale Club, police said.

The driver was trying to leave the parking lot of the store at 137-05 20th Ave. around 9:15 p.m. when he lost control of his 1989 Mercury, striking an unoccupied parked minivan and then a light pole, authorities said.

The man and his female passenger, who both have yet to be identified by police, were pronounced dead at the scene.

Police were investigating.

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Suspect wanted in connection to 21 Queens, Bronx commercial break-ins


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of the NYPD

Police are looking for a man wanted in connection with a string of citywide commercial burglaries.

In a total of 21 incidents, starting in June in Rosedale and most recently occurring on Oct. 20 in the Bronx, at least one suspect broke into commercial establishments via the roof, side or rear doors, or ventilation ducts while the business were closed, according authorities. Money from the cash register and broken-into ATMs, as well as miscellaneous items, such as cigarettes, were taken during the thefts.

In Queens, the burglaries have occurred in Laurelton, Broad Channel, Jamaica, Astoria, Queens Village, Bayside, Hollis, Glen Oaks, College Point, Richmond Hill and Flushing. The other break-ins all happened in the Bronx.

The NYPD has released surveillance photos of the male suspect wanted in an incident on Sept. 12 in Richmond Hill. During this burglary, at about 8 p.m. the suspect entered 88-24 Van Wyck Expressway via the roof, damaged the security system but did not remove any property, police said.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or can text their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

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Real estate roundup: $750M College Point Police Academy delayed again, Meadow Lake to get cleanup


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of the NYPD

New $750 million NYPD Police Academy in Queens faces another setback with defective gym floor

“Cadets attending the NYPD’s new multimillion-dollar Police Academy in Queens may be asked to participate in a new physical fitness regimen — ripping out the broken gym floor.

“A state-of-the-art polyurethane floor recently installed in the soon-to-be opened $750 million NYPD training ground in College Point has already began to warp and buckle and will need to be torn out and replaced — possibly delaying the facility’s opening, police officials confirmed Friday.” Read more [The New York Daily News]

Long neglected, lakes and ponds in city parks will get some attention

“It is the largest lake in New York City, a historic salt marsh that was flooded when Flushing Meadows-Corona Park was fashioned from a former ash dump to host the 1939 World’s Fair.

“But while years of effort and millions of dollars have gone toward cleaning up the city’s major waterways, like the Hudson and Bronx Rivers, city officials and parks advocates have paid less attention to Meadow Lake and the four dozen other lakes and ponds scattered across the parkland.” Read more [The New York Times]

5 factors that could impact Chinese property investment in NYC

“As Chinese property developers and investors look to generate bigger profits by looking beyond their local markets, questions have arisen about what’s actually driving the influx of cash – and what could slow the flow.” Read more [The Real Deal]

Vallone allocates $68K for Doe Fund to clean Bayside, College Point


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Councilman Paul Vallone allocated $68,000 to contract The Doe Fund to clean up the streets, according to the councilman’s spokesman.

As part of the 2015 council budget, Vallone was given the money to spend on cleaning initiatives in Bayside and the surrounding neighborhoods within his council district, according to a spokesman for Vallone. And he plans on concentrating cleaning efforts on College Point Boulevard in College Point and Bell Boulevard in Bayside, where The Doe Fund will be charged with power washing the sidewalks, sweeping the sidewalks and replacing trash bins.

“Clean sidewalks and litter-free streets are a big part of our quality of life,” Vallone said. “The money allocated for The Doe Fund will go a long way to beautifying and maintaining College Point Boulevard and Bell Boulevard, two of the most important and widely used commercial strips in my district.“

According to Vallone’s spokesman, College Point Boulevard between 14th and 23rd avenues is in particular need of cleaning because of the stained, blackened sidewalks and the abundance of litter. Another spot that they will be concentrating on is Bell Boulevard between 35th Avenue to 45th Drive.

The Doe Fund’s street cleaning crews, made up of formerly homeless or recently incarcerated men, will start the cleaning job on Oct. 1 and continue until June 30, 2015. According to Vallone’s spokesman, there will be four workers covering the areas three days a week.

The Doe Fund’s presence is now in 10 Council districts in Queens, which is up from six in 2013. The increase in the crew’s services comes after the City Council approved $3.5 million for cleaning initiatives.

Vallone is scheduled to hold a press conference on Monday, Sept. 22, to announce the cleaning initiative with Doe’s founder, George McDonald.

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