Tag Archives: Maspeth

De Blasio says close to ‘Zero’ after vehicle caught violating traffic laws


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

After a vehicle carrying Mayor Bill de Blasio was caught breaking multiple traffic laws just days following his announcement of a plan to address dangerous driving, he responded to the report, saying he was still committed to traffic safety.

“I have great respect for NYPD security training and protocols. I am committed obviously to traffic safety and safe streets in NYC,” de Blasio said at an unrelated press conference Friday.

“That’s why we put forward Vision Zero,” he continued, referring to the plan.

The mayor was heading back to City Hall from a press conference in Maspeth on fixing potholes Thursday when the violations occurred, according to CBS New York, which captured the incident on video.

Its news crews saw de Blasio’s two-vehicle caravan break numerous laws, including exceeding the speed limit, going through a stop sign at a Queens intersection and changing lanes without signaling.

De Blasio refused to answer questions on the violations Friday. He said he was “very comfortable” with what was said by NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton earlier in day and to refer to those comments.

Bratton defended the mayor’s security and said they did “what they’re trained to do,” CBS New York reported.

In a statement the NYPD, which provides security and transportation for the mayor, said its personnel assigned to his security detail receives special training in driving for security and safety reasons.

“At certain times, under certain conditions, this training may include the use of techniques such as maintaining speed with the general flow of traffic, and may sometimes include tactics to safely keep two or more police vehicles together in formation when crossing intersections,” the statement said. “The handling of police vehicles transporting any protectee is determined solely by police personnel based on their specialized training in executive protection and professional judgment.”

The violations come on the heels of the mayor’s Vision Zero plan, which aims to reduce traffic fatalities to zero within the next 10 years.

On Tuesday, de Blasio announced a set of initiatives as part of that plan. They include increasing enforcement against speeding, reducing the citywide “default” speed limit from 30 to 25 mph, and expanding the use of speed and red light enforcement cameras.

According to CBS 2, his cars were observed going 40 to 45 mph in a 30 mph zone, and up to 60 mph in a 45 mph zone.

Earlier Friday, the mayor was caught violating another street safety law, according to the New York Post, which witnessed him jaywalking across 11th Street on 6th Avenue in Park Slope, near his home.  De Blasio’s transgression follows a recent NYPD crackdown on jaywalking that he supported.

 

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Mayor, city hope to fix pothole problems brought on by heavy snow


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

A record-breaking winter has left city streets in disrepair, with new potholes popping up every day.

In less than seven weeks, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has filled 27,000 potholes in Queens and 113,131 citywide – the “most potholes ever filled at this point of the year in the history of New York City,” according to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

To facilitate and accelerate the road repairs, the city has allocated an additional $7.3 million to the DOT.

De Blasio put on the neon DOT jacket and filled one hefty Maspeth pothole Thursday alongside DOT officials who detailed their new “comprehensive pothole and maintenance plan to make filling faster and more efficient.”

Starting this weekend, the DOT will begin repaving roads where “we need to go above and beyond,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

They have additionally adopted new “cutting edge materials” and plan to partner with local engineering schools, national experts and the Department of Sanitation.

“This winter has been a challenge so far,” Trottenberg said. “We are not resting easy. We know there is going to be a lot more to do.”

The mayor said heavy snow over the past two months has brought “unprecedented” wear and tear to streets. The record snowfall brought upon an “intensified use of snow plows,” a freeze-and-thaw cycle on the streets, as well as increased salt-distribution, all of which have contributed to a significant number of new potholes.

“Winter 2014 has literally made it into the record books. It is a book we would like to close as quickly as possible,” de Blasio said. “This reality has caused us to have a performance level from the DOT we have never seen before.”

Fifty crews are working to fill the potholes, which take just a few minutes to complete depending on the crater’s size. The DOT primarily uses 3-1-1 complaints to target and repair streets.

 

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Stalled Maspeth, Ridgewood, Middle Village transportation projects suffer more setbacks


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

Ridgewood residents were hopeful that reconstruction of the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge would finally start this spring, but it’s been delayed again.

The path, which is elevated over LIRR tracks where Metropolitan Avenue intersects Fresh Pond Road, carries major truck traffic and is long overdue for repairs. In 2007, city officials informed Community Board (CB) 5 it was in danger of collapse.

Financial troubles delayed its original reconstruction start date back in 2009, and at a recent CB 5 Transportation Committee meeting, it was said that it’s been pushed back yet again, because the project has to undergo review and redesign.

The bridge is just one of a few major transportation projects, together worth about $115 million, in CB 5 that just keep getting delayed. The Metropolitan Avenue Bridge alone could be a $25 million project, CB 5 District Manager Gary Giordano said.

“You are talking about a lot of money for one district,” Giordano said. “We keep bringing them up at our transportation meeting because we believe that they need to be done and want don’t want to forget about them.”

Developers are now considering building an abutment, eliminating one track under the bridge, to help the building process.

There is also the Grand Street Bridge project, which connects Maspeth to Brooklyn over Newtown Creek.

The 111-year-old bridge is so narrow that it can’t support two-way traffic, although it is a two-way span, with all the big rigs and city buses that traverse it. The new bridge would cost about $50 million.

The plan for a new bridge was ready to go when Sandy struck in 2012 and flooded the area. Now plans are being redesigned to meet new flood regulations.

Besides the bridges, major street rebuilding plans have also been set back.

The Wyckoff Avenue Reconstruction Project, estimated to cost about $20 million, was supposed to start during the summer of 2010, but has been pushed back to 2026, according to the city Department of Design and Construction (DDC).

The project would give Wyckoff Avenue new sewer lines, new water mains to replace the 70-year old ones, as well as a new concrete base on the roadway, new sidewalks and new curbing from Flushing Avenue to Cooper Avenue.

The community has been waiting on a similar project in south Middle Village for about two decades. The area from 73rd Place to 80th Street, between Metropolitan Avenue to Cooper Avenue, are due for new sidewalks, sewer lines, new water mains, signage and street lights, estimated to cost about $20 million. The project has a due date of 2022, according to the DDC.

The projects are pushed back because the city keeps putting funding to higher priority initiatives, CB 5 Chair Vincent Arcuri said. But Arcuri said the planned repairs would help boost the community and should be pushed.

“When you rebuild the streets, the property value increases,” Arcuri said. “It becomes an economic boost to the community.”



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Board approves proposed bike lanes in Ridgewood and Glendale


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Map courtesy of City Planning

Follow me @liamlaguerre 

 

Plans to add new bike lanes to Community Board 5 (CB 5) got the green light.

After an endorsement by freshman Councilmember Antonio Reynoso, CB 5 approved the proposed bike lanes in Ridgewood and Glendale on Wednesday with a 29-5 vote.

The Department of City Planning will begin implementing the phase one bike lanes of the proposal this summer, which connect to the Brooklyn network of paths.

One set flows parallel on Woodward and Onderdonk avenues from Flushing Avenue to Cooper Avenue. Another set runs on Harman and Himrod streets from Evergreen Avenue to Metropolitan Avenue.

“I’m very excited for this first step. I wish it could have been more,” said John Maier, co-chair of the CB 5 Transportation Committee. “I look forward to working with City Planning and the board to find phase two and possibly phase three.”

The city agency will also continue to evaluate the phase two bike lanes of the proposal, which could eventually add more paths and connect routes in Maspeth and Middle Village.

Phase two contains an expansive network of lanes throughout the rest of CB 5. However, residents have complained about a proposed lane on Elliot Street through Mount Olivet Cemetery between 67th Street and Mount Olivet Crescent. The two-way street is so narrow it is already dangerous for car traffic.

 

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Ridgewood, Glendale could get new bike paths this summer


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Map courtesy Department of City Planning

The ongoing plans to add new bike lanes to Community Board 5 (CB 5) seem to be rolling along smoothly.

CB 5’s Transportation Committee voted unanimously on Tuesday to recommend proposed lanes in Ridgewood and Glendale, which could be implemented as early as this summer.

The proposal, which includes lanes in the Department of City Planning’s phase one plan, will now hinge on a full board vote in the CB 5 February meeting.

If the board approves the new bike paths, City Planning will begin implementing the lanes this summer. The agency will also continue to evaluate phase two, which would eventually add more bike paths and connect routes in Maspeth and Middle Village.

Phase one of the plans connect to the bike lanes in the Brooklyn network of paths.

One set flows parallel on Woodward and Onderdonk avenues from Flushing Avenue to Cooper Avenue. Another set runs on Harman and Himrod streets from Evergreen Avenue to Metropolitan Avenue.

Phase two contains an expansive network of lanes throughout the rest of CB 5. However, residents have complained about a proposed lane on Elliot Street through Mount Olivet Cemetery between 67th Street and Mount Olivet Crescent. The two-way street is so narrow it is already dangerous for car traffic.

 

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Dmytro Fedkowskyj mulling a run against Assemblymember Marge Markey


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Dominick Totino Photography

There may be a showdown in the Democratic primary race for Assembly District 30 later this year.

Middle Village resident Dmytro Fedkowskyj, a former member of the city’s Panel for Education Policy (PEP), which serves to improve the welfare of schools and students in the city, is giving a lot of thought about running against incumbent Marge Markey.

“I had many people come up to me and ask me, ‘what are you going to do now? You’ve tackled and handled that job so well, why don’t you run for office,’” Fedkowskyj said, referring to his time on the PEP.

District 30 is comprised of Maspeth, Woodside and parts of Long Island City, Middle Village, Astoria and Sunnyside.

Fedkowskyj, an accountant and father of three, was a member of the PEP for five years, since former Borough President Helen Marshall appointed him in 2008.

He advocated for Queens students and parents in the position, until he resigned on December 31, as Marshall left office.

Former colleagues say what makes Fedkowskyj special is his ability to draw people together.

A graduate of Grover Cleveland High School, Fedkowskyj is an alum of SUNY Empire State College. He started his community outreach with Community Education Council District 24 in 2004. He served as chair of the School Construction and Zoning Committee before he was appointed to the PEP. Fedkowskyj also served as a trustee for the city’s Board of Education Retirement System from 2008 to 2013.

Despite his experience, challenging Markey, who has held office since 1998, may be difficult. Markey has won at least 60 percent of votes in her last three elections against Republican opponents. But given that the area is mostly Democratic, Fedkowskyj criticized her wins.

“In an Assembly district that holds almost 2-1 Democrat over Republican voters, one has to question why she hasn’t won a general election by a larger margin,” Fedkowskyj said. “Maybe voters are just looking for change.”

Michael Armstrong, a spokesperson for Markey, said that she will run for re-election, but didn’t comment on Fedkowskyj.

Photo courtesy of Assemblymember Marge Markey

 

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Victims’ families, pols gather to support Vision Zero


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Many teary eyes were focused on “Vision Zero” during recent rallies in Queens.

Supporters of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s call to reduce traffic fatalities to nil gathered Sunday at a candle light vigil on the corner of Wyckoff and Myrtle Avenues in Ridgewood, where 23-year-old Ella Bandes was struck and killed by a city bus a year ago.

Politicians, advocacy groups, friends and families of victims called for safer streets and more responsible drivers during the event, which paid tribute to Bandes and many others.

“What we’ve been through in the past year is such a nightmare,” said Judy Kottick, Bandes’ mother. “Losing your child is the worst thing that could happen to anyone. We just don’t want anyone else to go through this.”

There have been nearly 20 auto-accident related fatalities in the city since the start of 2014.

People at the rally wanted drivers to be more aware of pedestrians and avoid breaking traffic laws. They also asked for support for Assemblymember Dan O’Donnell’s bill, which would lower the NYC speed limit to 20 mph from 30 mph, except where the City Council determines a different speed is appropriate.

Before the candle light vigil, supporters of “Vision Zero” rallied on Grand Avenue and 69th Place in Maspeth in honor of Angela Hurtado, who was killed at the intersection when a driver with a suspended license struck her on Jan. 18.

Transportation advocacy group Make Queens Safer called for support for State Senator Michael Gianaris’s bill, which would charge drivers who continue to drive without a valid license and are in an accident that causes serious injury or death with vehicular assault. It would be a class E felony, punishable by up to four years in prison.

“The people we are talking about have had their licenses suspended because they’re already known to be bad drivers, and the faster and easily we could make it for law enforcement to take them off the street, the better,” Gianaris said.

 

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Nearly $7,000 in cash stolen from Maspeth church


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

A perpetrator stole nearly $7,000 in cash from Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church in Maspeth, cops said.

The money was taken from a car in front the church near 56th Road. The suspect took $6,900 in cash and $1,300 in checks, according to police.

The vehicle was being fixed at the time of the crime, and upon further investigation police learned that the money inside belonged to the church, authorities said.

If you have any information relating to the above incident please contact the 104th Precinct Detective Squad (718) 386-3004.

The church declined to comment.

 

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Maspeth family pushes for safety after fatal accident


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Zoraya B. Torres

Angela Hurtado’s family knows that nothing will bring her back, but they are hoping something will be done to protect other pedestrians. 

Hurtado, 68, was hit and killed while crossing Grand Ave. at 69th Pl. at about 11 a.m. on Jan. 18.

She had been going to play bingo at a local center, according to her daughter, Zoraya B. Torres, who had spoken to her just hours before.

“My mom was a very humble woman, a good-hearted person and a loving mother,” Torres said. “It’s hard to believe that something so horrible could have happened to her.”

It was the last time she would talk to her mother, as a driver in a Mitsubishi Montero swung around the corner to make an illegal left turn, hitting Hurtado, according to the NYPD.

She was rushed to Elmhurst General Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Cops arrested the driver, Abel Tinoco, who remained at the scene. Tinoco, 28, was driving with a suspended license, and was charged with aggravated unlicensed operator, police said. His sentence is pending.

But that’s not enough for Torres, who believes more awareness is needed for the intersection.

Just visiting the scene, she noticed other people making the same illegal turn. Torres wants to contact transportation and elected officials to remedy the problem.

“Something needs to be done, because someone else could get hit,” Torres said. “My family is devastated, we are in shock to know that we are not going to see her, or feel her love. I wouldn’t want anybody to go through what we are going through.”

Torres said Hurtado went to church every day. Originally from Ecuador, she moved to America when she was 21 years old and had lived in Queens since.

Hurtado was a former housekeeper for the 3 World Trade Center Marriott Hotel at the time of the 9/11 attacks, but left the building before it was destroyed. She also beat cervical cancer when she was 33.

A wake for Hurtado was held Jan. 21 at Gerard J Neufeld Funeral Home in Elmhurst. On Jan. 22, her body was flown to Ecuador, where she will be buried.

“My mom always would tell us, ‘If anything ever happens to me, I want to go home,’” Torres said. “She asked us to do it, because that’s where her parents are.”

 

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Driver charged after fatally striking woman in Maspeth


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Grand Ave

Updated Sunday, Jan. 19, 5:55 p.m.

A driver was arrested after hitting and killing a 68-year-old woman in Maspeth Saturday morning, police said.

Angela Hurtado, an Elmhurst resident, was crossing Grand Avenue at 69th Place about 11:20 a.m. when a Mitsubishi Montero struck her as it was making a left turn onto westbound Grand Avenue from northbound 69th Place, according to the NYPD.

Hurtado was taken to Elmhurst General Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

The driver, 28-year-old Abel Tinoco, remained at the scene, and was arrested and charged with aggravated unlicensed operator, the NYPD said. Tinoco was driving with a suspended license, according to a police source.

Witnesses told the New York Post they saw him making an illegal left turn before striking Hurtado.

 

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Organics collection service extending to Glendale, Middle Village and Maspeth


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

The Department of Sanitation’s organics collection program is branching out to Queens.

Starting in April, residents in Middle Village, Maspeth and Glendale will be able to participate in the program, which targets food scraps, food-spoiled paper and yard waste, such as leaves, to recycle. The program is already underway in parts of the other four boroughs.

The organics collection program is part of the city’s plan to expand recycling. The city spent more than $85 million exporting organics to landfills last year, and hopes that an expanded recycling program will lower that cost.

“If we can collect organics, we can avoid landfills disposal fees and convert the organic material into compost, an organic fertilizer, or clean renewable energy,” said Ron Gonen, deputy commissioner for recycling and sustainability. “It’s a win for taxpayers, it’s a win for the environment and it’s a win for local jobs.”

The containers are brown and come in a small kitchen size and a bigger curbside size as well. The program is volunteer-based, but the bins will be delivered to all buildings with nine or fewer residential units.

The Department of Sanitation asks that residents put only food-soiled waste, food scraps and yard waste in the bins. This means no metal, glass, plastics, cartons, animal waste, foam items, clothing or electronics are allowed in the organics bins.

People participating in the program do not need to line their organic trash bins, but if they want they can line them with newspaper, paper bags, cardboard, clear plastic liners or compostable liners approved by the Department of Sanitation.

The organic trash collected from Queens will be transferred to a composting facility upstate, according to a Sanitation Department representative.

For more information on the organics recycling collection program, visit www.nyc.gov/organics.

 

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Cops arrest Maspeth bank robbery suspect


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

A man was arrested and charged with committing a bank robbery in Maspeth on Tuesday, police said.

Jimmie Knight, 56, a Staten Island resident, walked into the Chase Bank at 66-02 Grand Ave. about 3:25 p.m. and indicated that he had a weapon in his coat pocket, cops said. He then removed money from the bank and fled.

Police searched the area until they found Knight, who was at the intersection of Grand Avenue and 64th Street.

Knight was charged with robbery, menacing, criminal possession of stolen property and harassment, cops said.

 

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Cops looking for two suspects in Queens burglary spree


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Two suspects wanted in a September burglary of a Woodhaven bodega have been tied to eight more burglaries throughout the borough, police said.

The thefts date back to August 8, with the most recent incident taking place on November 26, police said.

Businesses the suspects targeted included Stop1 and Jamao Coffee Shop 7 in Jamaica, the Richmond Hill Deli and El Cran Canario Restaurant in Richmond Hill, Darbar’s Chicken & Ribs in South Richmond Hill, East Town restaurant in Maspeth and a Dunkin’ Donuts in Whitestone, according to the NYPD.

After breaking into the businesses the suspects stole cash, ranging from $30 to approximately $4,580, or possibly more. During some of the burglaries, the pair allegedly took merchandise, including scratch off lottery tickets, beer and cigarettes, 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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Osteria Italiana: For a real Italian experience


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Looking for real Italian food, but can’t go to Italy? Then how about Maspeth?

Osteria Italiana, which loosely translates to “Italian restaurant,” opened up over the summer on 61st Street near Grand Avenue with a familiar face.

Head chef and part-owner Michael Zampitelli, who is an Italian native turned Maspeth resident, brings nearly 40 years of Italian cooking experience to the neighborhood. Zampitelli owned a popular restaurant in nearby Glendale, which was forced to close in 2008 due to high rental costs.

Zampitelli, who has worked in the restaurant business starting as a teenager in Rome, wants to bring affordable, authentic Italian food to the neighborhood with Osteria.

Chicken cordon bleu

“Everywhere you go in the city, the neighborhoods are mixed. You can find everything,” Zampitelli said. “Personally I think in Maspeth there are no real Italian restaurants. You find diners and pizzerias, but no real Italian restaurants.”

Aside from Zampitelli’s extensive Italian cooking experience, Osteria’s food is authenticated by the ingredients, such as cheeses and olive oil, which are imported directly from Italy.

The menu at Osteria is wide and can satisfy many taste buds.

Starters include soups, salads and appetizers. One appetizer, the eggplant parmigiana, is covered with fresh mozzarella and Parmigiano cheese with a savory marinara sauce.

Spaghetti alla carbonara 

Entrees include a range of pastas, chicken, veal and fish dishes.

Zampitelli’s spaghetti alla carbonara is a masterpiece at $11.95, for those not watching their waistline. The pasta dish is a mix of pecorino cheese, a creamy sauce and bits of bacon.

The chicken cordon bleu, at $14.95, is a hefty meal with big pieces of tender chicken, served with mushrooms and mashed potatoes.

Desserts on the menu include an Italian cheesecake with ricotta cheese and tiramisu, along with other Italian classics. And of course wines, such as merlot, are on the menu as well.

With Zampitelli’s return, some of his long-time customers have followed him to Osteria. He believes it’s because of the quality of his food and the friendly way he treats his patrons.

“Everyone who comes here we treat like family, that’s why they’ve follow me for many, many years,” Zampitelli said.

Osteria Italiana
57-57 61st Street, Maspeth
718-894-4391
Hours: Monday-Sunday Noon-11 p.m.
Cash only
Wheelchair accessible
Delivery

 

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O’Neill’s restaurant in Maspeth celebrates 80th anniversary


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Janet Burt recalled she first went to O’Neill’s, the popular Maspeth bar and restaurant, when she was 19 years old.

So naturally Burt, 54, missed the eatery when she moved to Virginia, and much like the community was distraught to find out about the tragic fire two years ago, which caused O’Neill’s to close until this September.

When Burt heard about the neighborhood bistro’s 80th anniversary, she made sure to make the journey north to celebrate with old friends.

“When I heard about the 80th anniversary I said I had to show,” Burt said. “It’s awesome. It’s so different than it used to be. It was much smaller.”

Since the bar had its grand reopening, owners increased the size, expanded the fine dining menu, and added some more formal and private room space.

Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley hosted a party in one of the private rooms to thank her staff and supporters, before presenting a plaque and proclamation to the restaurant from the City Council for the anniversary Wednesday.

“Everybody knows there was a big fire and it took down the walls, but it could never take down the memory,” Crowley said. “We’re so glad to be here today and celebrate 80 years. O’Neill’s has never looked better.”

Civic leaders and community residents came in droves to O’Neill’s celebration. They congratulated owners, but also enjoyed the special deals.

Because O’Neill’s was founded in 1933, a day after Prohibition was repealed, numerous beers returned to their 10 cent price from that era from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Additionally, four special cocktails were half price.

There were also free roast beef sandwiches, which is an O’Neill’s tradition on Friday nights, and DJ Johnny Guerrero was spinning music that spanned eight decades.

“As you can see by the turnout tonight, the neighborhood is happy we’re back and we’re just looking for another 80 years,” O’Neill’s manager Danny Pyle said.

 

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