Tag Archives: Parks Department

Gaping sinkhole in Forest Park worries locals


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

Forest Park is home to an 18-hole golf course, but a 19th hole in the park is cause for some concern.

For about two years now, there has been a gaping sinkhole along the entrance path to the park from Woodhaven Boulevard. It was most likely caused by runoff into or deterioration of a catch basin beneath the roadway, according to a representative from the Parks Department.
Locals say it is a major hazard because of where it is situated.

“The sinkhole is right across the street from the carousel, which is a major attraction for children,” said Ed Wendell, a frequent visitor of Forest Park. “It is only a matter of time before someone gets seriously injured and everyone starts saying, ‘Why wasn’t this fixed already?’”

The hole is currently barricaded off and has caution tape around it. It takes up almost the whole sidewalk, forcing people to walk in a single-file line to get past it.

The Parks Department is working on plans to fix it.

“Parks is currently assessing the extent of work that will be required to repair this sinkhole and fix its underlying cause,” the representative said. “Once this assessment has been completed, we will procure a contractor to complete this work.”

There was no timeline given on how long it will take to start the work, but Wendell said he is encouraged that something may finally be done about this ongoing safety issue.

“I’m glad they are aware of the problem and looking into it,” Wendell said. “But we will only be relieved when it is finally taken care of.”

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Parks Department postpones decade-long Whitestone project


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Parks Department

The completion of Little Bay Park’s comfort station is being postponed yet again, officials said.

The Parks Department said the most recent delay was due to a harsh winter and an unusually high amount of soil that had to be removed from the construction site.

The new deadline for completion is set for next spring and, once finished, it will end a project that has sputtered along for a decade.

State Sen. Tony Avella and former U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman secured millions of dollars in 2004 to install bathrooms and expand the parking lot.

As of now, visitors to the park and Fort Totten must use portable toilets.

The department finally broke ground last year and announced that the whole project would be finished this fall.

But that deadline is going to be missed, according to a spokesman for the Parks Department.

While the bathrooms won’t be completed until next year, the Parks Department plans to complete a 100-space parking lot and install bioswales to absorb stormwater runoff this fall.

The current budget for everything is $6.659 million, a higher amount than Avella and Ackerman collected in 2004.

As construction continues, the majority of the park, which is named after the bay it faces, is fenced off.

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Longtime Jamaica community garden volunteer sees role trimmed back


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Benjamin Fang

BY BENJAMIN FANG

Alberta Crowley was a star in her community, but now she says the city’s Parks Department is trying to restrict her glowing service.

The 71-year-old Queens Village resident has been volunteering at the Bricktown Community Garden on 106th Avenue and 173rd Street in Jamaica for six years. But she claims park officials have restricted her activity to a space next to the garden, called Tree of Life.

“The area here is unleveled, unsafe,” Crowley said. “They locked me out of the garden.” She said workers from the City Parks Foundation (CPF), a nonprofit that works with the Parks Department, took over about a year ago.

In the past, Crowley worked with disabled children and seniors, helping them grow fig trees, cherry trees, blueberries and grapevines. Now she said she’s not allowed to continue because she’s not certified.

“They said I can’t work here with special needs people,” Crowley said. She pointed out that she was previously given permission as a member of GreenThumb, a city community gardening education program funded by the Parks Department.

The Parks Department responded in an email that Crowley was allowed to temporarily use a portion of the City Park Foundation’s original garden, called the Learning Garden, for her workshops with adults with disabilities.

“In order to accommodate the growing demand for CPF’s educational programs, this section of CPF’s garden has been reintegrated with the rest of their garden,” a Parks Department spokesman said. “Ms. Crowley continues to be welcome to help with these workshops.”
Vanessa Smith, who advocates on Crowley’s behalf, said officials from the Parks Department want to close her off.

“They said she wasn’t allowed to go in there because she’s a volunteer and they are paid,” Smith said. “She’s doing this out of love, so why would you lock her out?”

In addition, Smith said officials from the Parks Department are not providing the support Crowley needs to maintain the smaller area she was relegated to.

“They’re not giving her the funding to upgrade it here,” Smith said. “What I think they’re trying to do is eventually take over the whole area.”

Park officials say they are providing the equipment necessary for improvements. “GreenThumb is currently purchasing lumber and soil to allow raised planting beds to be constructed,” a Parks Department spokesman said. Thirty pieces of lumber currently rest inside the Tree of Life garden.

Despite the dispute over certification and land usage, Crowley said she wants to continue what she’s been doing in the last six years.

“I want access to the area and raised beds for seniors,” she said. She hopes to continue working with people with disabilities and seniors who need wheelchair accessibility into the garden.

Crowley and Parks Department representatives are slated to meet in August, where they will discuss use of the space and possibly building a direct entrance to Tree of Life.

The City Parks Foundation did not respond to a request for comment.

 

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Structures at Fort Totten set for renovation


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Renderings courtesy NYC Department of Parks and Recreation

Upgrades are coming for buildings at the historic Fort Totten Park.

The Commanding Officer’s House and the chapel at Fort Totten are set to be revitalized, according to the Parks Department, which oversees both structures and announced Aug. 8 that it is accepting bids for a contractor to do the work.

The deteriorating roof on the Commanding Officer’s House, which is used as administrative offices for the Parks Department, will be replaced with new slate shingles, and the building’s columns and cornices will be restored to their former glory.

Also, the capitals atop the columns will be replaced with ones from the building’s original design, and the metal balcony on the second floor will be repaired.

The chapel, which hosts weddings and other catered events and is used by a Korean church, will also get new shingles for its roof and steeple. And new gutters and leaders will be installed on the roof. The project will also repair, replace and paint exterior woodwork.

Fort Totten was originally built during the Civil War, and was named in honor of Gen. Joseph Totten, who died during the war.

Many people go to Fort Totten, now a park, to swim in the pool, play on the baseball field and view the historical structures.

 

 

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Former 1964 World’s Fair office building set for upgrade


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Renderings courtesy NYC Department of Parks and Recreation


Recent talks of upgrading World’s Fair relics seem to focus on the New York State Pavilion.

But the Olmsted Center in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which was constructed in 1964 and used as temporary offices for Robert Moses and the World’s Fair Corporation staff during the colossal event, is also getting a makeover.

The Parks Department announced Aug. 4 that it is collecting bids for a contractor to renovate the center, which is named in honor of Frederick Law Olmsted, co-designer of Central, Prospect and Riverside parks. Today, the building houses the bulk of the agency’s capital project staff.

The renovation project, which is designed by BKSK Architects, is split in two phases.

The first is the expansion of the center with a new 10,000-square-foot annex building, which is nearing completion.

The second phase, which will commence in early 2015, will technologically enhance the building and resolve flooding problems. It will include a new water channel system to lead water into bioswales that will contain and absorb it.

The renovated building will include Kebony wood for the walkways, complimented by steel railings and stainless steel cabling.

The construction will also include new siding to improve the center’s resistance to weather, and reconfiguration of the interior to accommodate employees and people with disabilities.

The bids are due Sept. 8.

 

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Vandals damage NYS Pavilion


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of John Piro

BENJAMIN FANG

Vandals caused mischief at the storied New York State Pavilion last weekend, setting a stolen van ablaze and damaging its terrazzo map, according to a member of an advocacy group for the structure.

John Piro, co-founder of the New York State Pavilion Paint Project, a local group dedicated to restoring the 1964-1965 World’s Fair figure in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, said the delinquents were causing havoc.

“They came in with a stolen van, broke the lock [of the park] and set the van on fire,” said Piro, who saw the aftermath on Monday morning after the Parks Department saw it on Sunday.

He said they also burned the tarp on the gravel, knocked down steel beams and even damaged what’s left of the Pavilion’s terrazzo map on its ground by using a cinder block to smash the map’s corner panel.

“It’s heartbreaking, after all the work we’ve done,” Piro said. “Hopefully it will never happen again.

THE COURIER/File photo

The incident, first reported by the New York Daily News, comes at the heels of the World’s Fair 50th anniversary celebration just two months ago. The Pavilion opened to the public for the first time in decades this April to also commemorate the historic event.

Last November, the Parks Department released plans to fix the relic, with cost estimates starting at $43 million. Borough President Melinda Katz created a task force of local officials, and civic and community leaders to construct a plan for the Pavilion’s future.

For now, Piro said he is just grateful nothing worse happened.

“They could have caused a lot more damage,” he said. “Now we have to try to do something preventative.” He said they’re looking into something along the lines of an alarm.

The Parks Department said it inspected the site and only found minimal damage.

“This will not have any effect on our efforts to stabilize and preserve the New York State Pavilion,” parks officials said.

The NYPD did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

 

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Alley Pond Environmental Center to get new $7.1M visitors’ building


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Renderings courtesy Department of Parks and Recreation


The Alley Pond Environmental Center (APEC) in Douglaston is growing with a new $7.1 million building.

Construction on the 10,000-square-foot structure is expected to start next summer, and be completed in 2017, according to the Parks Department.

The structure, which will nearly double the current visitors’ center, is necessary to meet the demands of popular after-school and camp programs, which create an enormous waiting list every year of 7,000 to 10,000 children.

The new building will house more classrooms, staff offices, a large lobby that doubles as an exhibition space, a public meeting room and restrooms.

“We are very excited,” said Irene Scheid, APEC executive director. “The organization sees a lot of potential in this new building in terms of education value and community teaching capabilities.”

The new structure will be LEED silver certified, which is the third highest green rating by the U.S. Green Building Council, behind gold and platinum. The exterior will be a modern design, clad in brick, glass and steel.

The center’s parking lot is also being designed with bioswales that capture and retain storm water.

To fund the project, the Queens borough president’s office allocated $4 million, the City Council allocated $2.186 million and the mayor’s office added $1 million.

 

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Dozens of Rockaway beaches closed for swimming due to lack of lifeguards, Sandy damages


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Salvatore Licata

SALVATORE LICATA

Just because a beach is open doesn’t mean people are allowed to swim there.

As of Thursday, only 29 of the more than 100 beaches in the Rockaways are open to swimming because of damage caused by Superstorm Sandy coupled with a dearth of lifeguards, the Parks Department said.

Many of the others have “normal access,” which, according to the Parks Department, means people are allowed to walk in the sand.

“Swimming is only permitted where there are lifeguards, which is never the entire seven mile beach,” said Zachary Feder, a Parks Department spokesman. “But walking is permitted along the entire length.”

Superstorm Sandy caused major damage to the beaches along Rockaway, which now has the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers working to repair many of them. They are using large pipes to pump sand from the ocean floor on to certain beaches which makes those specific locations closed to swimming.

“More beaches will open as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completes their sand replenishment and grading work,” Feder said. “We cannot allow swimming where the Corps is working. As the Corps finishes a section, that area will reopen for swimming.”

Feder also said another reason why many beaches are still closed to swimming is because the number of lifeguards has not reached its full potential for the year yet. He said lifeguard staffing does not reach its peak until July 4, which is when the volume of beachgoers is at its highest and the lifeguards, many of whom are students, are able to work for the summer.

But locals were upset that swimming was off-limits for most of the shoreline.

“Beaches being closed to swimming not only impacts our recreational life but it cripples the businesses that thrive on people going to beaches,” said Phillip McManus, a Rockaway resident and avid beachgoer, “We need a government that will listen to the people and need our beaches open for swimming now.”

Here is a list of the Rockaway beaches that are open to swimming as of June 19, as stated on the Parks Department website:

Beaches 9, 13, 15, 17, 18
Beaches  29-30
Beaches 115-119
Beaches 120-129
Beaches 131-137

 

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Parks Dept. says no to changing tree program despite complaints from Howard Beach residents


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Gabriella Licata

SALVATORE LICATA

The Parks Department rejected Howard Beach residents’ plea of changing the system of planting trees in the neighborhood, known as the one million tree initiative. Currently, residents may request a tree to be planted in front of their homes but may not refuse a planting, a point of contention for more than two dozen residents.

Due to recent complaints, Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder has urged the department to implement a system where residents will be given the option to have a tree planted in front of their homes prior to it being planted.

But doing so would be too complicated, according to Zachary Feder, a spokesman for the Parks Department.

“NYC Parks is always willing to consider location and species suggestions,” Feder said.

“However trees work best as a system, and eliminating planting sites or allowing homeowners to opt out would undermine the effectiveness of this system and significantly reduce the environmental benefit.”

The trees are being placed on city property, but once planted maintaining them and raking the leaves that fall from the trees on to the sidewalk are the residents’ responsibility.

When Superstorm Sandy roared through the area it tore down trees, which damaged houses, power lines and sidewalks, leaving some residents wary of new trees being placed in front of their houses.

“Many residents are still recovering from Sandy and should be involved in the process that will revitalize their neighborhood,” Goldfeder said.

Feder said the new trees will be better suited for storm conditions.

“In recent years, we have implemented new planting techniques on streets to make the new trees we plant less susceptible to storm damage and less likely to lift up sidewalks,” Feder said.

The MillionTreesNYC initiative is a citywide project, and is not just going on in neighborhoods that were affected by Sandy. The Parks Department plans to plant about 220,000 trees on public streets, which will increase the city’s urban forest, “our most valuable environmental asset,” according to the department’s website.

It also says these new trees will help to capture storm water, reduce air pollution and moderate temperatures.

Despite the protests, the Parks Department said it will continue to plant trees around the neighborhood.

 

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Reconstructed Sunnyside park to honor local veterans


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

Jim Breuer  and Noreen Haddad were never able to say goodbye to their brother, lay flowers on a casket or visit him in a cemetery. Sunnyside resident Donald C. Breuer was 26 years old when he was killed in action in 1972 during the Vietnam War and his body was never recovered.

Now, after 42 years, Breuer will live on in the neighborhood he called home and in a park he and his siblings visited at a young age.

Breuer’s name, which is on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., will now become part of a list of veterans from Sunnyside and Woodside that is being engraved on a commemorative plaque at L. CPL Thomas P. Noonan Playground.

“This was our Central Park, this was the park to come and play,” said Jim, who now lives in the Bronx. “It is going to be wonderful to see his name here. I think [our mom] would be very touched.”

The plaque is part of the reconstruction and renovation of the Sunnyside playground, which was named after Lance Corporal Thomas P. Noonan who was also killed in action attempting to rescue members of his company and later awarded the Medal of Honor.

“Noonan Playground is an important community hub for our seniors, families and local children,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said Friday during the official ground breaking of the playground’s reconstruction. “The renovations will make the park safer for children and forever commemorate the sacrifices our local veterans made for this great nation.

Van Bramer allocated $2 million to redesign and expand the local playground as well as have a granite slab added to the base of the park’s flagpole as a monument to Noonan. The city’s Parks Department also received additional funding to renovated the basketball and handball courts.

The renovation of the park, which is expected to be completed in one year, will include the addition of play equipment, a play area for children from 2 to 5 years old and another for children 5 to 12 years old, and a new rainbow spray shower. Additional planted areas are also being created within the playground along Greenpoint Avenue and 43rd Street. Lighting will also be improved, the main entrance will be partially reconstructed and new bike racks, benches, paving and fencing will be installed.

Two years ago Van Bramer launched a Noonan Park Community Design Initiative, which brought in community suggestions from students of nearby P.S. 199 and residents on what they wanted to be done at the park.

“I believe great parks equal great neighborhoods and with the feedback we have received from the community we will rebuild a better playground that everyone can enjoy,” Van Bramer said.

 

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Man gets 25 years for fatal stabbing of fellow parks worker in Flushing Meadows


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

A former city Parks Department worker was sentenced to 25 years in prison for stabbing another employee to death during a fight at a Flushing recreation center.

Robert Swann, 53, of Ozone Park, was found guilty earlier this month of first-degree manslaughter, District Attorney Richard Brown said. He received the maximum prison term with his sentence.

According to trial testimony, Swann stabbed the victim, Ezra Black, 31, in the front torso on the afternoon of September 4, 2012 during a fight at the Al Oerter Recreation Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.  Swann allegedly told police that after he stabbed Black, he left the scene, and got rid of the knife and the clothing he was wearing in a field near the park.

Both men were seasonal Parks Department workers, according to Brown.

 

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NYS Pavilion recognized as ‘National Treasure’ on World’s Fair anniversary


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

The New York State Pavilion, a surviving relic of the 1964-65 World’s Fair, was named a “National Treasure” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation on the 50th anniversary of the opening of the famed event.

Following the recognition on Tuesday, the Parks Department opened the Pavilion to the public for the first time for decades. The Pavilion recently received a fresh coat of paint from the advocacy group New York State Pavilion Paint Project, but its space-like structures have rusted over and it is in need of repair.

The hope is that the designation, which puts it among nearly 40 other historic places and buildings around the country, would help attract funds — estimated to be at least $43 million — to save it.

“For a long time the future of this building was a question mark,” said Paul Goldberger, a board member of the nonprofit group. “But in time it will not be a question mark at all, I think it will be a different piece of punctuation. It will be a great exclamation point in the middle of a resurgent Queens.”

In its heyday, the Pavilion featured the Tent of Tomorrow, three towers and the Theaterama, which is now the nearby Queens Theatre. When it was constructed, the Tent of Tomorrow had a $1 million map of New York State on its floor, made of 567 mosaic panels weighing 400 pounds each and colorful stained glass panels on its ceiling. Two of the towers had cafeterias for the fair, while the tallest, which stands at 226 feet, was used as an observation deck.

“It’s not what it was,” said Elaine Goldstein of Howard Beach, who visited both 1939-40 and 1964-65 World’s Fairs. “It’s hurtful to see that it went into disrepair.”

Thousands of people from all walks of life, many of whom had a connection to the Pavilion, walked through the gates with hard hats to tour the aged structure.

“This is the greatest moment of my life,” said Natali Bravo, a resident from Rego Park, who was shooting pictures of the Pavilion with a 1964 Kodak World’s Fair Camera. “This is the first time I’m actually setting foot in here. To actually be photographing this event the way it was meant to be photographed with this camera is a very special thing.”

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NYS Pavilion to open to public on 50th anniversary


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

pavilion

The public will be able to get an up-close look at the  New York State Pavilion next month on the 50th anniversary of the structure’s opening.

New York State Pavilion Paint Project Crew, a group that has been painting and caring for the site since 2009, just announced that on April 22, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the north gate of the Pavilion will be opened to allow limited access for visitors to view and take photos of the inside of the structure.

The Paint Project Crew, which helped make the opening possible along with the Parks Department, will be around to answer questions and speak about the Pavilion’s past, present and future.

RSVPs are not required. Visitors will need to wear hard hats, which will be provided.

Along with the Pavilion Paint Project Crew, community leaders and elected officials have also been advocating for the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair figure’s restoration.

Located in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the Pavilion is in need of both external and internal repairs.

In November, the Parks Department released plans to restore it, with cost estimates starting at $43 million. An option to tear it down would cost about $14 million.

Last month, Borough President Melinda Katz declared her support for saving the structure and said she would form a task force, consisting of elected officials, community leaders and advocates, who will meet regularly at Queens Borough Hall to create a plan for the Pavilion’s future.

The first of those meetings was held on Friday, March 14, which resulted in attendees agreeing to continue working on a viable plan for the Pavilion.

Katz included the site as part of her approved package of expense and capital budget priorities for the city’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget.

It calls for $45 million in combined capital funds from state and city over four years for restoring the Pavilion, according to a spokesperson for Katz’s office.

Those funds will immediately go toward needs, such as upgrading the electrical system and installing a roof over the three towers to prevent further structural damage.

“We’re very excited to see that the borough president feels strongly enough about the project to take action and we’re just excited to see what comes of it,” said Matthew Silva, co-founder of People For the Pavilion, an advocacy group for the site’s restoration.

 

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Macy’s initiative to boost funds for two Queens parks


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

This month, Macy’s shoppers can spend some green to keep Queens green.

Two parks in the borough — Cunningham and Queens Botanical Garden — have been selected for the major department store’s “Heart Your Park” fundraising initiative that raises money for upkeep and improvement projects.

More than 550 parks in the nation were chosen for the program.

From March 7 to March 31, customers can make donations at three Macy’s locations in Flushing, Douglaston and Queens Center Mall.

Macy’s will match the total up to $250,000 and give the proceeds to the city’s Parks Department.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Friends of Cunningham Park President Marc Haken. “We’re constantly improving the park.”

Haken said his parks support group, which is funded through City Council and state assembly grants, has spent at least $100,000 over the last few years to maintain the Fresh Meadows park.

The much-needed help from Macy’s would go toward cleaning up hiking trails and fixing many eroded parts of the park, Haken added.

“It’s like owning a house,” he said. “There’s always stuff to do, equipment to be purchased.”

 

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Katz commits to restoring NY State Pavilion


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Borough President Melinda Katz, on a tour of the New York State Pavilion Thursday, said she wanted to save the site.

KATELYN DI SALVO

Borough President Melinda Katz is saying yes to saving the iconic New York State Pavilion.

The NYC Parks Department released plans last fall for both restoring and potentially tearing down the deteriorating 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair figure.

Cost estimates to fix the Pavilion, which includes the Observation Towers and the Tent of Tomorrow, start at $43 million.

An option to knock it down would cost about $14 million.

During a tour of the site on Thursday in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Katz said that $14 million should be spent on repairing, not destroying, it.

“Let’s take that money and put it towards this project,” she said.

Other local politicians, civic and cultural leaders, community board members and Parks Department officials joined Katz on the tour to get a closer look at the site.

Repairs include the cable roof system in the Tent of Tomorrow, the concrete columns and stabilization of the wood pilings in the Tent, as well as basic utility work, said Meira Berkower, director of planning for the Parks Department.

Katz said she will be forming a task force, consisting of elected officials,  community leaders and advocates, who will meet regularly at Queens Borough Hall to create a plan for the Pavilion’s future.

“Give me a month to figure out the ‘who what where and when,’” she said, adding it’s important to restore the outside for “safety reasons.”

People For the Pavilion, an advocacy group for the site, is excited about the participation of the borough president and other local electeds in the project.

“Moving forward, we want to continue to raise the profile of the building and educate the community, said People for the Pavilion member Matthew Silva. “We will be doing public programming celebrating its 50th anniversary so people can see what happened here 50 years ago.”

 

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