Tag Archives: Springfield Gardens

City seeking developer for seven-acre plot near JFK


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo via NYCEDC JFK North RFEI

A seven-acre vacant piece of land near John F. Kennedy Airport could be the future home of a new office or industrial complex as the city Economic Development Corporation (EDC) is seeking investors interested in the site.

The city agency released a request for expressions of interest (RFEI), first spotted by the Commercial Observer, for developers looking to purchase or lease the land and then redevelop the site, which is located in Springfield Gardens.

The land is bounded to the north by Rockaway Boulevard, to the south by the Nassau Expressway and to the west the Federal Aviation Administration office building.

Although the city has been recently releasing information for many Queens sites for more housing opportunities, such as Sunnyside Yards or vacant plots in Jamaica, to meet Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing goals, the EDC isn’t hiding the fact that this particular site should be for commercial or industrial uses.

“The project offers a unique opportunity to develop a commercial and/or industrial building on a very large vacant parcel adjacent to the airport,” the NYCEDC said. “Given the site’s [seven-acre] size, respondents have the opportunity to create a modern campus plan with industrial and/or commercial programming that supports job-intensive uses and attracts both established and growing businesses.”

As a residential community, Springfield Gardens, where planes fly over residents’ heads non-stop, has suffered from airplane noise. The area even had the borough’s worst housing selling rate in 2014.

But being so close to the major international gateway, Springfield Gardens contains one of the air cargo industry’s largest concentrations of custom brokers, freight forwarders, and numerous other airport-related industrial facilities, according to the RFEI, meaning the possible new complex could continue to expand the booming industry already in place.

Developers have until May 4 to send proposals for the site.

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These five Queens neighborhoods were the borough’s hardest places to sell houses in 2014


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of StreetEasy

2014 was a great year for Queens real estate.

More than $3.6 billion was spent on investment properties, according to a recent report, and in the final quarter of the year, the borough saw strong home sales.

However, for a variety of reasons, such as price points and disinterest in the area or homes, some Queens neighborhoods lagged far behind the borough’s selling rate.

The biggest loser for 2014 is Springfield Gardens, which had a 55 percent absorption rate, a metric showing rate of sales by calculating what share of home listings either went into contract or were removed, according to data compiled by real estate website StreetEasy. Meanwhile the borough’s selling rate increased from 74 percent in 2013 to 82 percent in 2014.

Springfield Gardens, is a mostly residential neighborhood in south Queens without a major downtown or transportation hub. It is bounded by John F. Kennedy Airport to the south, and residents have had to deal with low flying planes passing directly above their homes.

StreetEasy data scientist Alan Lightfeldt explained that there could be a variety of explanations for why homes don’t sell as quickly in some areas.

“There are a number of reasons why inventory does not move, but they can generally be grouped into two categories: price and quality,” Lightfeldt said. “The home may be in disrepair, requiring a lot of investment from a buyer. Or, the price just isn’t generating offers for the seller.”

Chart courtesy of StreetEasy

Chart courtesy of StreetEasy

Ridgewood, which is seeing rising demand and soaring prices in the rental market, took second place when it comes to lowest house sales.

Maspeth, St. Albans and Far Rockaway round up the bottom five.

The good news is that even the neighborhoods at the bottom are improving in sales. For example, St. Albans ranked fourth in the borough in both 2014 and 2013, but median prices are rising and the selling rate is improving, according to the research.

“Even the slowest moving Queens neighborhoods saw a higher absorption rate in 2014,” Lightfeldt said. “This is a sign that fewer Queens listings are falling by the wayside and buyers are snatching them up.”

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Merrick Academy gets renewed five-year lease


| slicata@queenscourier.com

merrick_Academy

Giving parents an educational option within a neighborhood that deals with economic challenges is vital to the success of the children living there, said Staci White, chief of operations at Merrick Academy, which recently received a new five-year lease with the city.

But at Merrick Academy, the school’s leaders and staff pride themselves on providing more than just an option to families — they want to be known as the best charter school in Queens.
On the heels of the academy’s new five-year lease, Dr. Karen Valburn, principal of the school, created a new motto for staff and students: “Proficiency and Beyond.” She said that doing just enough to get by doesn’t show success; instead, students should strive toward greatness.

“We don’t want to just prepare our children for the next grade level,” Valburn said. “We want them to go beyond that.”

The Springfield Gardens school, located at 136-25 218th St., has been in operation since 2000. It was the first charter school to come to Queens, providing instruction for students from kindergarten through sixth grade. The school just renewed a lease that will keep it going until 2020.

Valburn has worked in public education for most of her life, but this is her first year in a charter school. She said that being part of the charter school program has been a great experience because the opportunities for growth and creativity are unmatched elsewhere.

“There are no bounds by rigid district rules,” said Valburn. “We can do a lot of different things outside of school and run many different interactive programs we wouldn’t be able to do otherwise.”

Some of these programs include instruction in fine and performing arts, often lacking at other public schools. Third-graders are learning how to sculpt and create still life studies as part of “Studio in School.” Fourth-graders are working with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

After completing the 17-week dance program, the students will put on a performance for the rest of the school. Fifth- and sixth-graders, meanwhile, are taking classes with the Metropolitan Opera. Not only will they get to perform an opera for their schoolmates, they’ll get to see an opera firsthand.

Valburn said the children enjoy the classes, adding that she has seen positive growth with their testing and overall performance. She was excited that because of the new lease for the school, she will be able to expand the system of learning at Merrick Academy and continue to reach their goal of preparing students to go beyond the minimum standards for proficiency.

“We want to regain our status as being one of the most competitive educational institutes in our neighboring charter schools and district,” she noted. “This is 21st-century learning, where we push our students to be leaders of their learning.”

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Springfield Gardens father massacres his own family, killing three and wounding one before taking his own life


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of NYPD

Updated Monday, Jan. 26, 9:44 a.m.

A Springfield Gardens man inexplicably massacred his own family early Saturday morning when he methodically shot his two daughters, their mother and their grandmother, leaving three dead and a 12-year-old girl fighting for her life, police said.

The gunman, Jonathan Walker, 34, fled the blood-splattered home he shared with his family in his GMC Arcadia, prompting an NYPD manhunt that ended five hours later when police discovered him dead behind the wheel of his vehicle, where he took his own life.

Officers found the four victims inside their home on 148th Avenue near 231st Street at about 5:40 a.m. All of them had been shot in the head, cops said. They were called to the scene by Walker’s 12-year-old daughter, who phoned 911 despite having a gunshot wound to her head, according to published reports.

Viola Warren, 62, her daughter, Shantai Hale, 31, and Hale’s daughter, 7-year-old Kayla Walker, were pronounced dead at the scene. The 12-year-old girl, Christina Walker, also Hale’s daughter, was taken to Long Island Jewish Medical Center in critical condition. She is now in a medically induced coma, reports said.

Police say that Walker, the girls’ father and Hale’s common-law husband, shot the four and then escaped their home in his car.

Sources told the New York Post that Walker believed his longtime partner had been unfaithful and shot his daughters because he didn’t want them to end up in foster care after the attack.

Walker was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head about five hours later inside his vehicle in a wooded area just south of the Belt Parkway near the Lefferts Boulevard exit, cops said. A .45-caliber gun was recovered.

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Two killed, teen injured in Belt Parkway ramp crash


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

ambulance

Updated 2:49 p.m.

Two young men were killed and a 14-year-old was hurt Thursday night after their car lost control near the Belt Parkway before slamming into a pole and then a tree, authorities said.

The vehicle, a Mitsubishi Lancer, was apparently speeding westbound on North Conduit Avenue in Springfield Gardens at about 10:45 p.m. when it swerved to overtake another vehicle, according to police. It then tried to swerve back into the left lane and enter the entrance ramp to the Belt Parkway near 181st Street.

The Mitsubishi lost control, drove onto the grass shoulder, striking a light pole and then a tree, cops said.

The driver, 20-year-old D’John Arias, of Corona, was pronounced dead at the scene. His front seat passenger, 19-year-old Karim Carter, of Jamaica, was taken to Jamaica Hospital, where he was pronounced deceased, authorities said.

A 14-year-old boy suffered injuries to his legs and was transported to Long Island Jewish Hospital, where he is listed in stable condition.

The NYPD’s Highway Collision Investigation Squad is looking into the crash.

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More West Nile spraying to target Queens this week


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of NYC Health Department

Another round of West Nile spraying is set for parts of Queens this week.

The spraying will take place on Thursday, Sept. 18, between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 6 a.m. the next morning. In case of bad weather, the application will be delayed until Monday, Sept. 22 during the same hours.

The following neighborhoods are being treated to help reduce the mosquito population and the risk of the disease, according to the city’s Health Department:

Parts of Arverne, Bays Water, Edgemere, Far Rockaway, Hammels and Somerville (Bordered by Jamaica Bay to the north; Cross Bay Parkway to the west; Atlantic Ocean to the south; and Nassau County Boundary to the east).

Parts of Cambria Heights, Laurelton, Saint Albans and Springfield Gardens (Bordered by 119th Avenue to the north; Farmers Boulevard to the west; Merrick Boulevard to the south; and Belt Parkway and Nassau County Line to the east).

map 2

For the application, the Health Department will spray pesticide from trucks and use a very low concentration of Anvil®, 10 + 10, a synthetic pesticide. When properly used, this product poses no significant risks to human health.

The Health Department recommends that people take the following precautions to minimize direct exposure:

  • Whenever possible, stay indoors during spraying. People with asthma or other respiratory conditions  are encouraged to stay inside during spraying since direct exposure could worsen these conditions.
  • Air conditioners may remain on, however, if you wish to reduce the possibility of indoor exposure to pesticides, set the air conditioner vent to the closed position, or choose the re-circulate function.
  •  Remove children’s toys, outdoor equipment, and clothes from outdoor areas during spraying. If  outdoor equipment and toys are exposed to pesticides, wash them with soap and water before using  again.
  • Wash skin and clothing exposed to pesticides with soap and water. Always wash your produce thoroughly with water before cooking or eating.

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West Nile detected in Queens resident, four other New Yorkers


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of CDC

The season’s first human cases of the West Nile virus have been confirmed in five New York City residents, including one Queens patient, the Health Department said.

Two of the other patients live in Brooklyn, one lives in Staten Island and the fifth lives Manhattan. All five are over the age of 50.

Three of those affected by the virus had to hospitalized.

“The most effective way to reduce mosquitoes in an area is to eliminate standing water, which is where they breed and lay their eggs, and to wear mosquito repellent when you are outdoors,” Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said. “New Yorkers age 60 and older should be especially careful as they are more likely to develop serious illness if infected.”

The city’s Health Department is continuing to combat the virus by treating areas with rising West Nile virus activity and high mosquito populations.

After spraying several neighborhoods in Queens already this week, the following areas will be treated on Wednesday, Sept.10 between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. the following morning. In case of bad weather, the application will be delayed until Thursday, Sept.11 during the same hours:

Parts of South Jamaica and Springfield Gardens (bordered by 116th Avenue to the north; Sutphin Boulevard, 123rd Avenue and Inwood Street to the west; Belt Parkway to the south; and Rockaway Boulevard, 134 Avenue and Guy R Brewer Boulevard to the east).

Photo courtesy of NYC Health Department

Photo courtesy of NYC Health Department

For the application, the Health Department will spray pesticide from trucks and use a very low concentration of Anvil®, 10 + 10, a synthetic pesticide. When properly used, this product poses no significant risks to human health.

The Health Department recommends that people take the following precautions to minimize direct exposure:

  • Whenever possible, stay indoors during spraying. People with asthma or other respiratory conditions  are encouraged to stay inside during spraying since direct exposure could worsen these conditions.
  • Air conditioners may remain on, however, if you wish to reduce the possibility of indoor exposure to pesticides, set the air conditioner vent to the closed position, or choose the re-circulate function.
  •  Remove children’s toys, outdoor equipment, and clothes from outdoor areas during spraying. If  outdoor equipment and toys are exposed to pesticides, wash them with soap and water before using  again.
  • Wash skin and clothing exposed to pesticides with soap and water. Always wash your produce thoroughly with water before cooking or eating.

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Jackson Heights mural discourages drunk driving


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

The conversation against drunk driving has taken a colorful turn in Jackson Heights.

A 20-foot by 100-foot family-friendly mural focusing on the prevention of drinking and driving, titled “Hit the Brakes on DWI and Choose the Right Path,” was unveiled on Wednesday at 34-20 Junction Blvd.

The colorful piece, which is on a wall of a Food Bazaar Supermarket and promotes the role of the whole community in preventing DWIs, was completed by 16 teens participating in the Summer Leadership Institute of Groundswell, a local organization dedicated to community public art “advancing social change.”

The group of teens worked as paid apprentices together with co-lead artists Angel Garcia and Olivia Fu over two months during the summer to complete the mural.

DSC_0529

Groundswell worked in partnership with the city Department of Transportation (DOT) and Food Bazaar Supermarket.

“This group has done a really great job making this mural and making this topic really clear and putting it into a positive light, really focusing on the solutions and choices people can make to avoid accidents,” Fu said.

On the mural, the slogan “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” appears in both English and Spanish. The artwork features colorful images and symbols such as the No. 7 train taking passengers away from accidents and a phoenix showing the rising of a community.

To add more context to the mural, the DOT also invited a former DWI offender, who is on probation, to speak with the mural’s project team and share his story and transformation.

“Groundswell youth had a memorable summer job experience, participating in the completion of something meaningful for the community and becoming an essential part of this family-friendly mural on road safety awareness,” said Amy Sananman, Groundswell founder and executive director. “Our youth muralists are eager to share their leaning with the broader community, including real life strategies for DWI deference.”

One the youth artists, Springfield Gardens resident De-Jean Rose, 18, said he had fun during the summer completing the mural and hopes that the community gets the message behind the piece.

“It’s a sensitive topic and throughout the whole summer we got the chance to elaborate more on the topic and note the seriousness,” Rose said. “It was a good experience, everybody was like family and the lead artists were very helpful. It was a good experience overall.”

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Wanted cocaine smuggler nabbed in Springfield Gardens shootout with U.S. marshals: reports


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of DEA

BY ASHA MAHADEVAN

In a scene straight from an action movie, U.S. marshals serving a warrant at a home in Springfield Gardens exchanged shots with their suspect late Tuesday night, according to published reports.

Marshals surrounded the house at 144th Drive and 175th Street at about 11 p.m. and broke down the door with a battering ram, reports said. The suspect was wearing a bulletproof vest and was the first to open fire. The marshals returned fire and the suspect was wounded in his left hand. Witnesses told the New York Daily News that after being injured, the suspect threw his gun outside his apartment and surrendered to the marshals.

The suspect, Oswald Lewis, was wanted by the DEA for cocaine smuggling and by the NYPD for a stabbing in Brooklyn, according to published reports, and had been on the run for more than two decades.

The shootout terrified the residents in the neighboring houses, with one witness telling the New York Post that it was like a movie. “It was so surreal,” she said.

The suspect was taken to Jamaica Hospital for treatment, reports said. None of the marshals or NYPD cops acting as backup were hurt.

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Man kills brother, wounds mother in Springfield Gardens stabbing: cops


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Graphic Image

Updated 4:15 p.m.

A 27-year-old man killed his brother and injured his mother in a stabbing at their Springfield Gardens home Wednesday night before turning the knife on himself, according to police.

The incident happened about 6:40 p.m. during a dispute at the family’s residence on 176th Street near Farmers Boulevard, officials said.

Cops said the suspect, Tony Glover, first stabbed his 46-year-old mother several times in the torso, then stabbed his brother, 25-year-old Victor Johnson, in the torso. He then stabbed himself in the leg.

The two victims were taken to Jamaica Hospital, where Johnson was pronounced dead and his mother was listed in stable condition, officials said.

Glover was placed in police custody and also taken to Jamaica Hospital, where he is listed in stable conditions. He was later charged with second-degree murder, second-degree attempted murder and criminal possession of a weapon, according to cops.

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Ex-bookkeeper busted for embezzling $485K from Queens special needs school


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

handcuffs-with-color-web-size11

A woman has been charged for embezzling from the Springfield Gardens special needs school where she worked as a bookkeeper for more than a decade, District Attorney Richard Brown said Thursday.

Donna Joyce, a 58-year-old Long Island resident, is accused of stealing more than $485,000 from the Martin De Porres School, which moved to Elmont, Long Island in 2012.

Joyce worked as a bookkeeper at Martin De Porres from 2001 to 2012, and, as part of her job, issued and signed checks, and made entries in the school’s business records, according to Brown.

After discovering financial irregularities in the school’s finance office, Martin De Porres Executive Director Edward Dana said he fired Joyce and notified authorities.

“We also acted quickly to replace the entire financial staff and implement strict new financial controls. Moving forward, we have full confidence in the integrity of our new system,” he said.

From January 2007 to August 2012, Joyce used funds meant for school expenses to pay personal expenses, such as her credit card accounts, the district attorney said. She allegedly embezzled the money by making false entries in the school’s business records to make it seem like the checks were being issued for school expenses.

“As a nonprofit organization, the Martin De Porres School relies heavily on government aid and private donations to provide tuition-free education to scores of children from grade two through grade eleven,” Brown said. “In an atmosphere of such giving, it is disheartening to see someone, such as the defendant, allegedly use her position of fiscal responsibility to siphon off hundreds of thousands of dollars in school funds for her own personal use.”

Joyce is currently awaiting arraignment in Queens Criminal Court on charges of grand larceny and falsifying business records, according to prosecutors. If convicted, she faces up to 15 years in prison.

 

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Cabbies arrested after fight at JFK


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Port Authority police

Two livery cab drivers were arrested after a man accused one of them of trying to stab him as the three fought at  John F. Kennedy International Airport Monday afternoon, Port Authority police said.

The victim told police that during an altercation between the cabbies and himself outside of Terminal 8 about 4:30 p.m., one of the men, Wayne Walker, 41, started to chase and threaten him with a knife.

After officers at the scene told the other driver, Junior Rowe, 30, to stop, he allegedly escaped in his Ford Taurus. Rowe almost struck the officers as he sped off, police said.

When Rowe was forced to stop in traffic, he was removed from his car and arrested by police, according to officials.

The weapon, described in detail by the victim, was allegedly found on the floor of Walker’s car. He was also arrested, police said.

No one was injured during the incident and no flights were delayed.

Rowe, of Woodhaven, was charged with attempted assault on a police officer, menacing, reckless endangerment, obstructing governmental administration and disorderly conduct, police said. Walker, a Springfield Gardens resident, was charged with menacing, criminal possession of a weapon, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct.

 

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Queens Girl Scout cookie champ ready to hand out sweet treats


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of DeAnne Lorde

This Queens Girl Scout is one smart cookie.

Springfield Gardens seventh-grader Najah Lorde more than doubled her cookie sales from last year to become the top seller in the city with 2,833 boxes.

Najah, 12, has been selling cookies since she joined the Girl Scouts in second grade, but didn’t surpass the 1,000 mark until 2013 when she sold 1,111 boxes.

That year, she was bested by Upper West Side resident Olivia Cranshaw by about 700 boxes.

Cranshaw set a goal of selling over 2,000 this year. She exceeded that number by 141, but Najah had the right ingredients for a win.

“I was running and screaming all over the house,” Najah said, describing the moment she found out she was the cookie champ.

Each Girl Scout that sells over 1,000 boxes receives all the prizes offered, including a Nintendo Wii and Sephora gift card.

“If you are the top seller you just win bragging rights,” Najah said.

“She’s very competitive, Najah’s father Donovan Lorde said. “She was very determined when the sale started.”

Najah, a member of Troop 4287, claimed she had no special strategy, but her father said she did have a plan, she just didn’t realize it.

He said she made a list of the people she wanted to call and even took his and his wife’s phones to look for potential buyers. Using her networking skills, the preteen urged her contacts to reach out to others.

The Girl Scout said she received a lot of support from family. She also sold the baked goods at her school, Divine Wisdom Catholic Academy in Douglaston, her church, the Greater Allen Cathedral of New York, and her parents’ workplace, SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

“When we tallied up the numbers and we saw 2,833, we were like ‘wow that is a lot of boxes,’” Donovan said.

“To a certain degree we were surprised by the number, but we weren’t surprised that she did it,” he added.

Najah is aiming for another win next year by selling at least 3,000 boxes.

Though her father is supportive of her ambitions, he admits the goal makes him somewhat “afraid.”

This Saturday, the boxes are set to arrive and they will need to figure out how to store, transport and hand out all those cookies.

“We are going to need a very big vehicle to pick up the boxes,” Donovan said.

 

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Southeast Queens schools to receive yearly $2.5M grant


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilmember Richards

Eleven southeast Queens schools are the recipients of an annual technology grant in the name of a civil rights legend.

Councilmember Donovan Richards created the Nelson Mandela Technology Grant through which he will be contributing $2.5 million yearly to his district’s schools to “help fill any financial gaps to ensure our youth have access to the best resources available.”

“I have always believed it is essential our youth have access to the best technology available,” Richards said. “We can no longer focus on competing locally and must prepare future generations to compete on an international level.”

A minimum $50,000 will go to each of Richards’ 11 district schools, including P.S. 123 in Jamaica, P.S. 156 in Laurelton and Excelsior Preparatory High School in Springfield Gardens.

Richards presented the donation at the M.S. 355 and M.S. 356 Springfield Gardens campus Monday. He said he’s proud to provide the funds and could give more than $50,000 where needed.

Springfield Gardens’ I.S. 231 will receive $500,000 this fiscal year to upgrade its playground, and Richards said he is additionally allocating funds for schools still recovering from Sandy.

“As long as I am councilman, I will do my best to provide for our youth wherever there are gaps,” he said.

Richards is following in the footsteps of his predecessor, now State Senator James Sanders, who contributed about $2 million for 10 years to fulfill the district’s schools’ technology needs.

 

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Springfield Gardens celebrates the holiday season


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Office of Councilmember Donovan Richards

The holiday spirit is alive in Springfield Gardens.

The Christmas tree in Springfield Park lit up for the season on Wednesday, December 11 with residents and community leaders watching.

“This is a great event for the whole family,” said Councilmember Donovan Richards, who hosted the tree lighting along with the Parks Department, Friends of Brookville Park, Storm Rydaz and the Student’s Real Friends Network.

Holiday music played as children took photos with Santa and shared in the community Christmas celebration.

Holiday trees throughout the southeast community are lighting up. The Brookville Park tree was lit on Saturday, December 7.

 

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