Tag Archives: superstorm sandy

Abandoned home in Howard Beach cleaned up


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

After Superstorm Sandy hit, many houses in Howard Beach were destroyed, leaving homeowners who couldn’t pay for the repairs in a bind.

Now, some of those homes sit in the same condition they were in after the storm, abandoned and deteriorating.

During his nightly patrol on Nov. 11, Joe Thompson of the Howard Beach Civilian Observation Patrol (COP) noticed that one of these abandoned, Sandy-damaged homes had its door kicked in. He has been keeping a watchful eye on this house, on 155th Avenue and 78th Street in Lindenwood, because he knew the owners do not live there anymore.

He exited his patrol car, checked the house from the outside for any activity and then closed the door and secured it.

Thompson, realizing that the fact that no one lives at the house makes it a potential site for squatters, got in touch with some of the neighbors to see if they knew the whereabouts of the homeowner so he could get in contact with them. He was able to get a phone number and called the homeowner to ask for permission to secure the house to deter squatters from coming in.

The owners left for Florida because of the conditions of the house and their lack of money to fix it, according to Thompson. The windows had garbage bags on them, graffiti was drawn on the house, weeds were growing rapidly and there was a greenish tint on the side paneling of the house from the nearby tree.

“It hurts my heart to see someone’s home damaged and them not be able to do anything about it,” Thompson said.

After getting the OK, he went to the house with his patrol and started working on Nov. 15. They trimmed the weeds, took measurements of the windows on the first floor and went to Home Depot to buy the supplies with their own money.

The next day they came back and boarded up the windows and doors, making sure the property was secure and lessening the chance for any illegal activity to occur there.

“I know how it hurts when you don’t have any money to fix your home,” said Thompson, who had to move from his home when it was destroyed in Superstorm Sandy. “We are here to help the community and the residents here, and this is one way we were able to.”

Even though they already secured the home, Thompson and his team are going one step further. They will be coming back with a power washer to clean the greenish tint from the panels and try to wipe away the graffiti, making the home less of an eyesore for residents who live nearby. He’s also in the process of surveying Howard Beach for any other abandoned homes.

“This is what we do,” he noted. “We want to help get this neighborhood’s quality of life back.”

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Flushing firm awarded $282M to repair Sandy-damaged Hugh L. Carey Tunnel


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of MTA Bridges and Tunnels

A third-generation Flushing construction firm was awarded a contract worth $282.5 million to repair the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel from damage it suffered during Superstorm Sandy.

Tully Construction beat out 24 companies for the contract to work on the former Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. The contract is the largest ever awarded to a construction company from the MTA Bridges and Tunnels division, the organization announced Monday.

The project is expected to take four years.

“We learned just how vital the HLC Tunnel is to the region in 2012 after Superstorm Sandy flooded the tunnel with approximately 60 million gallons of brackish water, compromising the life safety systems in the tunnel,” MTA Bridges and Tunnels President James Ferrara said. “This project will increase the level of resiliency against future weather events.”

Tully Construction will replace the traffic control and communications systems, add new lighting, replace the drainage system, do concrete repairs, add new wall titles, rehabilitate the Brooklyn toll plaza, repave the tunnel, and conduct a clean-up of salt, oil and other contaminants from Sandy flooding.

$50M Spring Creek flood mitigation project funded, design stage set to begin


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

Superstorm Sandy may have shown the vulnerability of southern Queens to coastal flooding but FEMA and New York state have now set aside $50 million to alleviate future flooding.

The Spring Creek Hazard Mitigation Project, headed by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and National Parks Service (NPS) is focused on Spring Creek, which serves as a barrier between Howard Beach and Jamaica Bay, south of the Belt Parkway.

While the grant money has already been awarded, there are no specific construction plans yet. Once the project is designed, it will take about 18 months to finish.

“Jamaica Bay was highly impacted by Sandy,” said Joanna Fields, a representative from the DEC. “Our goals are storm protection and creating an ecologically resilient system.”

Design work is expected to start in August of 2015.  This portion is estimated to cost around $3.3 million.

Phase two of the project is projected to start in December of 2015 and end in August 2017. This portion will be the actual construction of the design and will cost about $47 million.

At this point, the DEC and NPS have not finalized the plans for Spring Creek. They are currently collecting data and looking at additional planning considerations to figure out the optimal usage for the site.

Fields stressed that the money allotted to them from FEMA was for flood mitigation but said the usage of Spring Creek as a publicly accessible space is possible.

“The National Parks Service is all about public access and our goal is to work with the community on it,” said Joshua Laird, commissioner of the National Parks of New York Harbor. “If maintained and done right, this could be a great thing.”

There are also no plans laid out for how exactly the land would be accessible and Fields said they would not go ahead with designing it for the public until they came back to the community to talk about it.

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Sandy vigil held in Hamilton Beach to mark two-year anniversary


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

Hamilton Beach was one of the areas hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy and two years later, some residents are still not back in their homes.

On the storms’s anniversary Wednesday, the neighborhood came together for a candle light vigil to support those who are still displaced and give thanks to all those who helped during the harsh times.

“In our community, Sandy brought out the best of our people,” said Roger Gendron, president of the Hamilton Beach Civic Association. “Groups that came into help two years ago are still here helping today. It has been a constant flow of generosity.”

The vigil was held at the West Hamilton Beach Fire Department, a group that was and is “a vital life line to the community,” Gendron remarked. Over 50 residents, and local and city officials were present to take a moment of silence for all those who are still affected by the aftermath of the storm.

“If anything good came from the storm it was that it showed the strong sense of community,” Councilman Eric Ulrich said. “We will be here every year lighting candles until everyone in this community that was displaced is back in their home.”

The ceremony was led by Father Anthony Rucando of Our Lady of Grace Parish. He led the residents of the neighborhood in a tearful prayer ceremony that was joined by the director of Build It Back, Amy Peterson.

“I am inspired everyday by the strength of communities like yours,” Peterson said. “We are doing everything we can and are committed to moving you forward in the process.”

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Sandy recovery process highlighted at town hall in the Rockaways


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

It’s been two years since Superstorm Sandy ravaged southern Queens and though the recovery process is slow, it is moving in the right direction, city officials said at a town hall meeting in Rockaway.

“We are approaching the two-year anniversary of Sandy and still people are struggling,” said Councilman Eric Ulrich. “We wanted to give the community a chance to hear about the recovery process and ask their questions directly to the city agencies.”

The meeting, which was hosted by Ulrich and Councilman Donavan Richards at Beach Channel High School in Rockaway on Oct. 27, provided updates on the state of the Rockaway boardwalk, ferry service, street and light repairs, Build It Back numbers, FEMA insurance and other programs presented by representatives of the DOT, EDC, DEP, Parks Department, Build It Back and the Mayor’s office.

“Sandy highlighted many of the vulnerabilities that we had in the city,” said Dan Zarrilli, director of Recovery and Resiliency in the Mayor’s Office.

He added that his agency is working on strengthening coastal defenses through sand replenishment and bulkhead expansion while also lobbying the federal government to keep FEMA insurance at an affordable price for residents.

Amy Peterson, director of Build It Back, said that even though the agency is not where it needs to be, much progress has been made. Since January, there have been 750 construction starts and 1,000 checks issued throughout the city.

When it came to the DEP, Emily Lloyd, director of the agency, said they inspected 51 miles of storm sewers on the Rockaway peninsula running from Arverne to Neponsit and added that there was minimal damage to the water mains in the area.

She also said that the agency is working on minimizing the crude smell of the Rockaway Wastewater Treatment Plant, located on Beach 107th Street and Beach Channel Drive, via odor control and an upgraded filtration system but said there will never be absolutely no smell.

Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver gave a much-anticipated update on the Rockaway boardwalk. He said that the construction of the boardwalk, which was started in April, will be finished by Memorial Day of 2017. He added that when finished this boardwalk will “rival all others in the world.”

The DOT, represented by Queens Borough Commissioner Dalila Hall, has allotted $2 million for resurfacing work throughout southern Queens. Hall also said the agency is diligently repairing street lights and traffic signals, which were damaged from Sandy, and is working on getting Select Bus Service to the Rockaways as the need for transportation became so apparent in the wake of the storm.

Finally, Kyle Kimball, president of NYCEDC, gave news that met with much uproar from residents. The Rockaway ferry service, which was put in as a temporary transportation method after Superstorm Sandy, will be ending this month. He mentioned that the $5 million a year it would take to run the service was not in the city’s budget.

Councilman Richards said that even though the city still has a long way to go in the recovery process is still a long way to go, two years after the storm hit, progress has been made.

“Our communities still need repairs,” Richards noted. “But the stronger we remain together, the more likely the entire community will be rebuilt.”

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Sandy-stricken trees to be cut down in Howard Beach


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Salvatore Licata

Dead trees are a common sight in Howard Beach — a constant reminder of the devastation the neighborhood faced nearly two years ago when Hurricane Sandy ripped its way through the area.

But the neighborhood will now witness an arboreal upheaval as the Parks Department moves to uproot and replace a virtual forest of trees.

“Several hundred street trees damaged by Hurricane Sandy in Community Board 10 are slated to be removed and replaced,” said Meghan Lalor, a representative from the Parks Department. “Any tree that was marked for removal was considered to be dead or in such decline that it would not be able to recover to full health.”

The trees and their stumps will be removed entirely and will later be replaced by new trees. Each tree that is slated for removal has an “X” marked on its trunk. The removal process for many of them will take place from Sept. 15 to Sept. 19.

sandy_1

Soon after Hurricane Sandy, the Parks Department went out to survey the storm’s effect on the city’s trees.

The Parks Department looked at about 48,000 trees citywide, and categorized each of them by their leaf coverage. Since then, the department has been monitoring the trees’ leaf coverage and behavior throughout the growing seasons, which has helped identify which trees should be axed.

The exact number of trees to be cut down in Community Board 10 has yet to be determined. Parks is still surveying the neighborhoods to make sure all of the problematic trees are reached.

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Build it Back numbers improve in Howard Beach


| slicata@queenscourier.com

Even though residents of Howard Beach have been frustrated with the Build it Back process, numbers are moving in the right direction for the neighborhood.

On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that there have been 535 construction starts and that 543 reimbursement checks have been distributed to Hurricane Sandy victims in the city, thus exceeding his Labor Day goals of 500 constructions starts and 500 checks handed out.

On a smaller level, numbers in area code 11414, which includes Lindenwood, Howard Beach, Old Howard Beach and Hamilton Beach, are also on the rise.

Out of the approximate 1,200 active Build it Back applicants in 11414, 95 have received checks and 60 have started construction, according to a representative from the mayor’s office. There are also 139 applicants who have finished construction plan consultations and 564 who have formally been made an assessment offer, the representative added.

These numbers were at zero in the beginning of the year.

Over the past few months, the mayor’s office has overhauled the Build it Back process, allowing applications to move more fluidly through the program.

This overhaul includes putting senior city staff members in charge of Build it Back centers and case management, and allowing homeowners to consult with designers and architects earlier in the process, making construction scheduling easier, the representative said.

“It was simply unacceptable that not a single homeowner had gotten relief as of the beginning of this year,” de Blasio said. “We know there’s much more work ahead — and we’re committed to continuing to speed up recovery so that every homeowner gets the relief they need.”

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Jamaica Bay movie is nearing completion


| slicata@queenscourier.com

Photo via  Jamaica Bay Lives Flickr

Jamaica Bay is on the verge of getting its own little taste of stardom as a new documentary about the body of water and its surrounding habitats is officially in post-production.

The documentary film titled “Jamaica Bay” was started about three years ago. It will cover the bay’s history, environmental issues and local residents’ way of life, according to Dan Hendrick, producer of the film.

“The overarching theme of the film is that right now, Jamaica Bay is a good national park but it has the potential to be great one,” Hendrick said. “We hope that this film will inspire people.”

Hendrick and his team started his work on the film in August 2011. He said he wants to highlight how the bay has made such a remarkable comeback from where it was 30 years ago. They have over 100 hours of film of the bay including shots from before, during and after it was devastated by Superstorm Sandy.

“People care about the bay more than ever,” Hendrick said. “The pollution has subsided from where it was 30 years ago but there is still a lot of work to do.”
The team hopes to get the documentary out to both local TV channels and movie theaters by spring of 2015.

Due to limits on public television, the television cut will be less than an hour long, but the producers hope for the full film to run up to 90 minutes.

To learn more about the film check out jamaicabaylives.com.

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Anthony Weiner opening up restaurant in Rockaways


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

Anthony Weiner is helping to restore the Rockaways, but not as a politician.

Instead, he’s launching Rockaway Restoration Kitchen, a nonprofit agency that aims to “operate a healthy, sustainable restaurant in a hard luck community to provide training, on-the-job apprenticeships and placement in the culinary and food service sector for unemployed New Yorkers,” according to its page on Idealist.org.

Hurricane Sandy damaged much of the peninsula, and the restaurant, which was first reported to open by the Rockaway Times, is looking to help out the still-suffering residents there.

“Our goal is to provide a comfortable neighborhood restaurant with healthy, locally sourced food that satisfies the hunger of Rockaway residents, attracts visitors and serves up dignity and self-sufficiency by serving as a hands on training ground to provide skills, real experience and job placement in the culinary industry,”  the restaurant says on its website.

Weiner, who virtually ended his political career in a sexting scandal back in 2011 and then mounted a failed mayoral campaign that was marred by another sexting discretion, represented the Rockaways for more than a decade.

He told the Daily News this project is something that the area needs.

“Large swaths of the peninsula are lacking in quality, sustainable, nutritious food,” he said. “It’s also sadly true that many residents need help developing skills to lift them out of unemployment.”

The Kitchen is currently looking to fill an executive director position. This person will be in charge of the management and operation of all aspects of the social enterprise as well as the nonprofit corporation, multiple food-service based lines of business and the youth training program, according to the listing.

There is no set date for the kitchen’s debut.

 

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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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Build It Back finally building momentum


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

SALVATORE LICATA

More than a year after Superstorm Sandy ripped through Queens, the efforts to repair damaged homes and businesses are finally starting to pick up speed, officials said Friday.

There has been a marked increase in every category of the relief process, including the issuance of 227 reimbursement checks totaling $3.4 million, according to a new report from the mayor’s office. There were no checks issued during the last administration, the report says.

The first 42 construction starts of the relief effort occurred this year as well, officials said.

“Five hundred construction starts by labor day and 500 reimbursement checks in the hands of the people, who have been waiting for a long, long time. That will show people that every level of government is working for them. So things are working- and every one of us is going to push each other to keep going further,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a Build It Back event last month.

Homeowners are still skeptical of the Build It Back process.

“The old commissioner let it get out of hand,” Howard Beach resident Anthony DeRisl said.  DeRisl suffered $77,000 in damages from Sandy and said he has been to numerous Build It Back events but has yet to see any compensation.

“We want to know where all the money is,” DeRisl said. “We’ve had the same experience everywhere we go.”

With the third round of Sandy relief funds coming to the city, totaling about $639 million, “Everyone in Build It Back program will get their assistance,” said mayoral spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick.

“Until every home is rebuilt and all the money is allocated,” Spitalnick said, “our job isn’t done.”

 

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Government officials to host Build It Back reps


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

SALVATORE LICATA

The long, dragged-out process of filling out applications and following up with Build It Back may finally get a little easier.

In an effort to better accommodate residents who were affected by Superstorm Sandy, Assemblyman Philip Goldfeder and state Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. will host Build It Back representatives in their local offices, so residents can meet directly with Build It Back officials and learn exactly what they have to do to finalize their applications for the government-subsidized grant.

“There is a lot of confusion surrounding the Build It Back program,” Goldfeder said.

The representatives will file paperwork, investigate individual cases and provide a case manager for each resident. Making an appointment is strongly encouraged but walk-ins are welcomed.

“I am thankful Build it Back has people in the Rockaways, but residents off of the Peninsula were affected as well, and they should be able to get help in their own neighborhood,” Addabbo said.

At Addabbo’s office, located at 159-53 102nd St., representatives will hold meetings every Thursday beginning June 5, from 1 to 4 p.m. Appointments can made by calling 718-738-1111.

At Goldfeder’s offices, located at 2-14 Beach 96th St. and 108-14 Cross Bay Blvd., representatives will alternate between offices beginning with the Rockaway office on Thursday, June 5, from 1 to 4 p.m. Appointments can be made by calling 718-945-9550.

 

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Repairs begin on Hamilton Beach boardwalk after Sandy damage


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Roger Gendron

The city is finally repairing the boardwalk connecting Hamilton Beach and Howard Beach after Superstorm Sandy made it dangerous to use.

“No one from the city wanted to step up and take responsibility,” said Roger Gendron, the president of the Hamilton Beach Civic Association. “But [Councilman Eric Ulrich’s office] kept going and going to get this done.”

While Ulrich’s office pushed for the repairs, which began on May 15, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) is ultimately responsible for doing the work since it owns the property, according to the councilman. But the department wasn’t quick to admit ownership and instead they told the community that the MTA owned the land. The two debated ownership, causing a delay in repairs.

“This is an issue we’ve been working on for more than a year,” Ulrich said. “We kept going back and forth with DCAS. We were relentless. The city has to accept responsibility for its property and we’re here to make sure that happens.”

When the flooding hit the area, Gendron explained, the boardwalk became uprooted, and now, the once-straight boardwalk curves and drops in many spots. The boardwalk also sustained damages to the individual planks. Construction workers were observed by Gendron on Tuesday, May 20, working on the site.

Hamilton Beach is a small sliver of Howard Beach and is separated from the rest of the neighborhood by canals and waterways. In an area with less than a handful of ways in and out, the boardwalk is used as a main walkway for people going to and from the Howard Beach A train station.

“Anytime we lose any way out of Hamilton Beach, it hurts,” Gendron said.

Gendron and Ulrich both said that this repair is just one among many things that needs to be fixed.

“It’s just one part of the community that needed repairs and we aim to fix them all,” Ulrich said.

DCAS did not respond to comment requests before press time, and no completion date has been set by the department. When the project is complete, according to Gendron, the department will replace the wooden planks with a concrete walkway and new railings.

 

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Arverne library to reopen following Sandy damage


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy the Queens Library

Follow me @liamlaguerre

The Arverne branch of the Queens Library is opening a new chapter.

The library will celebrate its reopening on Friday after a $1.36 million renovation following extensive damage from Superstorm Sandy nearly two years ago.

Four feet of water surged into the library during Sandy, ruining books, computers, electrical wiring and furniture.

The rebuilding money was funded by FEMA, the library’s insurance and grants, including one from the Turkish Cultural Center Queens. The library initially reopened for public service on March 18.

The reopening ceremony will feature many Queens dignitaries and a live DJ.

 

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Newly opened Rockaway YMCA to boost local economy


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos by Raymond Liang for the YMCA

The YMCA has a new home by the sea.

The YMCA of Greater New York celebrated the opening of its new branch, Rockaway YMCA at Arverne by the Sea, on March 14 during a ribbon cutting with local elected officials and community leaders. The ceremony was originally scheduled a month before but postponed due to the weather.

The 44,000-square-foot facility, developed by Benjamin-Beechwood LLC, faced some construction delays after Superstorm Sandy swept through the city. However, the 207 Beach 73rd St. location opened its doors to the general public on Feb. 18 and had a record of 1,100 new members in its first week of operation.

“For the first time in our organization’s 161 year history, the YMCA has a permanent, brick-and-mortar branch in the Rockaways,” said Jack Lund, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater New York. “This new Y is not only bringing vital programs and services to the people of the Rockaways, but it is creating jobs and helping to sustain economic development in the area.”

The site now includes the largest aquatic center of any of the 24 YMCA locations in New York City which features a lap pool, a family-friendly recreational pool with a water slide and much more.

The overall Rockaways location also includes a full-court gymnasium, fitness center, outdoor recreational field, community multi-purpose space for youth and family programs, and other amenities. Some of the programs that will be available at the new location include after-school and college readiness, youth employment and job training, child care and adult learning.

“The new Rockaway YMCA at Arverne by the Sea is a bright and shining example of our neighborhood’s ongoing revitalization and recovery from super storm Sandy,” Councilmember Donovan Richards Jr. said. “This facility will provide jobs for local Rockaways residents and stand to serve as our neighborhood’s heart –providing a safe, community center dedicated to improving the quality of life for all our families.”

After Superstorm Sandy hit the Rockaways, the YMCA of Greater New York helped distribute cases of water, blankets, clothing and household items to families. The organization also donated backpacks with schools supplies and winter clothing to 1,000 students at P.S. 197.

The new Rockaways location is open Monday through Friend from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information visit here.

 

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