Pol Position: Queens Surrogate Election Gets A Bit Lighter

Courtesy the Law Office of Donna Furey 

Political insiders in Queens are stirring about the upcoming election for the Surrogate judge, a spot that comes up for election every 16-years. Judge Peter Kelly is the outgoing judge and the court, with about 50 employees, takes care of the disposition of wills and estates. Donna Furey, the Astoria attorney and civic leader is considered the one candidate with experience in this type of law. This week she abruptly suspended her campaign for the post. No word on why, but insiders opine that votes for her would now go to Queens Democratic Party favorite Cassandra Johnson. “These kinds of things happen all the time,” said one judicial insider we spoke with Monday evening. “The party leaders need to continue to maintain control of that court. There was possibly some kind of agreement which made her and the ‘party’ happy,” the insider said.

Cassandra Johnson, a Supreme Court Judge since January, might just have an easy path to victory. Wendy Lee, a Manhattan judge, put up by Hiram Monserrate’s camp, has been working community boards this past month. She showed up at the Middle Village Community Board meeting to introduce herself. People at the meeting were certainly confused as to why she was allowed to speak as she did not say that she was running for any position. “ I just wanted to introduce myself,” she said.

Rules for running for a position of judge are quite different than what’s allowed when running for political office. But records show she has raised almost two hundred thousands of dollars. Johnson has about a tenth of that.

Martin Luther School to host Open House Event on April 24th

Martin Luther is a top private school in Maspeth, Queens that has been serving the community for over 60 years.

A few notable alumni include David Daraio, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Maspeth Federal Savings, Lou Bekios, Owner and Operator of the Grand Florist in Maspeth, and Tammy Sanchez, Co-owner and VP of The Queens Ledger Newspaper.

Martin Luther School’s Open House Event is Wednesday, April 24th, from 4:30-6:30pm. See MLS’ Open House commercial here.

The event will provide families with the opportunity to tour the school, meet students and administrators, and discover why Martin Luther School has been a top faith-based private school in Queens for decades.

Martin Luther School welcomes and values students of all faiths and backgrounds. They serve high school grades 9-12 and middle school grades 6-8.

Martin Luther School enables students to acquire skills, discover talents, and develop interests on their path to success in a supportive environment. Every student is given a new iPad that enables 1:1 experiential learning to do their homework, collaborate on group projects and delve into ideas. Combining creativity, logic, and technical skills MLS STREAMS® enables students to visualize connections while collaborating across disciplines.

Students may earn as many as 27 credits toward their college education during their time at Martin Luther School. Current college partners: Concordia College – Nebraska and St. John’s University.

Martin Luther School is located at 60-02 Maspeth Avenue in Maspeth, Queens.

Citi Field is the go-to ballpark for food and entertainment in 2024

Top NYC food brands deliver a fun experience to baseball fans at CitiField

by John Sanchez & Yasin Akdag 

Left to right: Blaise Ffrench, Enigee (Glazed Dounuts), John Sanchez (Empanada Mama). Photo taken by Eli Kolins for BQE Media.


New York Mets Baseball Opening Day was Thursday, March 28, and baseball wasn’t the only thing that fans were excited about experiencing at Citi Field.

Did you know that Citi Field in Queens, New York, was recognized by USA Today as having the best food in any MLB stadium –  twice.

Fans look forward to experiencing an all-star lineup of NYC food brands, including: Empanada Mama, Glaze Donuts, Shake Shack, Pat LaFrieda, Chiddy Cheesesteak, Prince Street Pizza, Pop Up Bagels, and many more at Citi Field during each and every Mets home game.

Citi Field’s newest celebrity chef partners include Anne Burrell, Adam Richman and Judy Joo; and all three have cooked up something new and exciting this season.

Anne Burrell’s Italian Eats features her new Loaded Pepperoni Chips –  similar to loaded nachos, but with fried pepperoni cups. You can find these at Anne Burrell’s Italian Treats on the Field Level section 101.

Adam Richman’s Burger Hall of Fame features his French Onion Soup Burger, and can be found at Section 103.

Joo’s Seoul Bird features Korean Fried Chicken, and can be found at the Hudson Whiskey NY Club on the Promenade Level.

“Highlighting the best NYC food brands is an important part of the food program at Citi Field,” said Jason Eksterowicz, Senior Executive Chef at Citi Field.

“We are a melting pot. At Citi Field, you’re not going to find things that are cool in D.C., or any vendors from Philly. Everything is going to be local to New York,” said Eksterowicz.

The main media event at Citi Field, introducing “What’s New in 24,” took place on March 28th, and the Queens Ledger News Team got a sneak peek at the exclusive brands that are gracing the ballpark this 2024-25 season.

Empanada Mama’s Cheesesteak and Banana Nutella Empanadas, Prince Street Pizza’s Pepperoni Square, Gyro Jimmy’s Greek Grill’s Loukoumades, Taqueria Nixtamal’s Birria Taco and Esquites, and Wok n’ Roll’s Rainbow Cookie Eggroll were a few of the many brands that we enjoyed.

“Empanada Mama is excited to be back at Citi Field this Mets season, and we’ve brought our popular Banana Nutella dessert empanada this time,” said John Sanchez, CMO of Empanada Mama. Empanada Mama was one of the new star food brands last season, and fans raved about their Cheesesteak Empanada. “The food at Citi Field is so enjoyable that even if the Mets aren’t winning, fans still enjoy themselves,” said Sanchez. “It’s a testament to Citi Field’s Hospitality team,” he added.

“We have a very passionate fan base, and they deserve the very best experience at Citi Field” said Taryn Donovan, VP of Hospitality at the NY Mets. “Going to a Mets game at Citi Field is a special experience, and being able to enjoy popular NYC food brands while watching the game with loved ones is a home-run,” said Donovan.

We also got a behind the scenes look at the new Delta SKY360º Club, upgraded team store, buzz-worthy LED lighting, and the dynamic Queens Crew dance team.


Empanada Mama

  Cheesesteak Empanadas. Photo taken by Eli Kolins

Empanada Mama serves up empanadas the size of baseballs. Popular for being a snack that is easy to devour, you can’t go wrong with their Cheesesteak, Buffalo Chicken, Greek Spinach Pie, or Banana Nutella dessert flavors. Find them on the Field Level in Section 103 and embark on a trip to experience the food of America del Sur.


Glaze Donuts

Custom Mets Donuts. Photo taken by Eli Kolins

Enigee, a partner of Glaze Donuts, invites you to try their award-winning dounuts. Dig into their glazed doughnuts filled with orange Boston cream that’s ready to hit your tastebuds.  Their custom Mets donut is calling fans to cheer for their team, while satisfying your sweet tooth. Go Mets! 


Gyro Jimmy’s Greek grill 

 Lamb Gyro. Courtesy of @gyrojimmys

Try their delicious lamb gyro dripping with tzatziki sauce and loaded with lettuce, tomato, onions, fries, and packed inside a pita. Have a sweet tooth? Their traditional Greek loukoumades – fried and glazed honey balls topped with cinnamon powder will leave you craving more! Meet the chef behind the menu, Jimmy Stathakis, who previously worked as a waiter and then started the restaurant business 20 years ago, and during COVID-19 opened the joint together with his partner Billy Vasos wondering where the pandemic would lead them. (that’s what real passion is about right?) Eat like the Greek gods and summon your power like a baseball player on the field! Hoorah! (Knock yourself out and run to the Excelsior Level at the Caesars Sportsbook Metropolitan Market).


Taqueria Nixtamal NYC

Birria Tacos. Photo taken by Eli Kolins

Enjoy your favorite sports game by dipping their birria beef tacos with melted cheese cilantro and onions into a cup of broth. To top it off, taste the sweetness of their Esquites (street corn for Spanish). This delicious dessert flavored with mayonnaise, cotija, and cheese certainly steals the show ¡Viva la Mexico!

The owners Rosabla Ruiz & Fernando Luis opened the restaurant 13 years ago, and their  Taqueria is known to be making its way to stadiums and festivals. (Now you can grab it at Citifield’s the Field Level at Taste of the City. 


Wok n’ roll

Rainbow eggrolls. Photo taken by Eli Kolins

Dig into these unique eggrolls layered with fun and festive rainbow colors filled with raspberry jam and chocolate syrup. The joint has only been open for three years and offers a new alternative to your regular bowl takeaway with a modern Chinese takeout that comes in specialty boxes. The owner Christopher wants to keep his customers entertained: “I prioritize my customers’ food experience by bringing them something unique like our eggrolls next to doing collaborations with local artists from Long Island where we’re based.” (Try it on the Field Level at the Metropolitan Fry Factory in Taste of the City).


Chiddy’s Cheesesteaks 

Chiddy Dog. Photo taken by Eli Kolins

This is their second year at Citi field, and this time around, Chiddy introduces a hotdog-cheesesteak mashup. Two legends in one bite! This is a combo that’ll leave you wanting more! The idea behind the Chiddy Dog, combining cheesesteaks with hotdogs, logically came from the lack of space in the food truck. Mike owns Chiddy’s Cheesesteaks, and the nickname “Chiddy” is adopted from his last name Chidester. He’s been running the business together with his partners Evan and Daron: “Our cheesesteaks were pretty popular alongside our regular beef hotdogs, we thought why not put them together in one, and that’s how the Chiddy dog was born”, Mike says. They’ve been doing cheesesteaks for 10 years, and the peeps love it! (Available on the Field Level in Section 132) 

On the entertainment front, The Amazin’ Mets Foundation introduces a range of exciting initiatives at Citi Field this season. Fans can enjoy The Queens Crew show and explore the expanded Mets Team store alongside a new raffle program benefiting community programs. Additionally, the luxurious DeltaSky 360° Club debuts, offering upscale amenities and gourmet snacks. Each home game presents opportunities for fans to win prizes, which Mets owner Alex Cohen emphasizes on within the community. Anticipation builds for the upcoming season with these enhancements. 

Kudos to CitiField’s Hospitality team for ensuring that even if the Mets season record is lousy, fans will be too busy eating to be upset, said John Jastremski, Host of New York New York Podcast for The Ringer on Spotify, SNY TV Sports Host, and BQE Media Sports Columnist.

The Mets season record is 14-13 so far. You can buy tickets here. Go Mets!

New Yorkers Witness Solar Eclipse

Eclipse Totality as seen from Upstate NY

Photos by Eli Kolins


Eclipse viewers at Athens Park in Astoria

Photos by Daleelah Saleh

Eclipse viewers on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Photos by Charlie Finnerty

City Presents First-of-its-Kind Environmental Inequality Study at Variety Boys & Girls Club

By Charlie Finnerty 

Peggy Shepard speaks at the Variety Boys and Girls Club. Credit: Celia Bernhardt

The Mayor’s Office of Climate & Environmental Justice (MOCEJ) released their Environmental Justice NYC (EJNYC) report Friday, April 5. In an event at the Variety Boys and Girls Club, MOCEJ Executive Director Elijah Hutchinson presented the findings of the report and demonstrated mapping tools available for the public to explore the data available, emphasizing that the report is the first of its kind in the city.

“With this information in hand, New Yorkers can now advance better policy and work together to achieve better health outcomes, reimagine polluting infrastructure, and increase tree canopy for all,” Hutchinson said.

The report examines flood and heat vulnerability, exposure to air and hazardous materials pollution, transit access, availability of safe and healthy housing, finding that low-income communities and communities of color in New York City are the most vulnerable to environmental inequities.

The Astoria neighborhood surrounding the Variety Boys and Girls Club has long been cited by environmental justice activists as one of the city’s most vulnerable communities, dubbed ‘Asthma Alley’ due to the air pollution from fossil fuel burning power plant smoke stacks which dominate the Astoria-Ditmars landscape. During the presentation, CEO of Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens Costa Constantinides asked students in the audience if they or someone they know has asthma or breathing problems. At least half the kids raised their hands.

“The wrongs that have happened to communities didn’t happen overnight. It happened over periods of time,” Constantinides said. “Here in this neighborhood, Robert Moses redlined west of 21st Street. And you have public housing built, in 1939 Queensbridge, in 1949 Ravenswood and Astoria houses. And in 1963, they put the big power plant. You guys all know the big power plant there on Vernon Boulevard, you see the big stacks and all the smoke? Well, in this neighborhood, west of 21st Street, the rates of asthma are higher than in the rest of the borough of Queens. What do you think contributes to that?”

Children raise their hands during Constantinides’ speech. Credit: Celia Bernhardt

Peggy Shepard, environmental activist and co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, said the report is a crucial milestone in undoing the harms of environmental inequality.

“I’ve been working on these issues for a very long time, and really just waiting for the city to understand its responsibility to address this,” Shepard said. “The whole point of this is not just to get the report. We needed to have the basic facts and now we do. Now it’s about developing a plan to fix these problems.”

Children learn to use EJNYC mapping tools at the Variety Boys and Girls Club. Credit: Celia Bernhardt

Pol Position: Trolling & Adams/Heastie

After we posted about our Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights walk with Assembly candidate Hiram Monserrate last week, we got some sparking comments on social media about why we would give this guy any press at all. 

When we sat down with Hiram, he wanted to clear the air about his reputation and questioned a recent article from the Ledger which referred to his past legal troubles. After explaining that our readers are savvy and leaving it out could signify that we were trying to hide his past, he talked about his new life with a wife and young child. He also showed us that the part of his past life that has not changed is his love and fighting spirit for his community. And we will tell you something that is only talked about in the highest of Queens political circles: Monserrate is ‘relevant’ and he has a following which many in the democratic clubs fear fractures Queens democratic politics. He is running for Jeff Aubry’s seat. Larinda Hooks, who is well known at Elmcore, is the choice of county — and Aubry. Stay tuned for that race.

Internet trollers who minimize the message from our reporting about the sex workers and child labor tragedy going on in his neighborhood should focus on the message: that area needs attention. It doesn’t need a sweep once every six months. The illegal activity is rampant and for those living near Roosevelt Avenue, to have a reasonable quality of life shouldn’t be asking too much.

By the way another nugget he suggested is that the MTA should be an agency, not an authority, which doesn’t have the oversight and agency, would. Not a bad thought.

Carl Heastie, the leader of the NY State Assembly is doubling down on his notion on not recognizing that people who loot and harm retail workers should not be considered felons. Mayor Adams disagrees. But the power the Assembly Speaker wields means it goes nowhere. The missing piece in Heastie’s stance is that cops continue to lose the ability to perform their job. It means workers at these retail stores don’t pursue shoplifters. It means that what we continue to witness in drug stores all over the city the lawlessness of looting will not change. Don’t wonder why we will see store after store have simple everyday items behind locked glass shelves. It takes ten minutes to track down a store worker to open the glass showcase to get a bottle of aspirin… if you can even find a drug store within walking distance from your home anymore.

We don’t think reformers of criminal justice had this in mind. If criminal justice is truly to be reformed, laws and procedures like this have to be rolled back. The ‘new common sense’ goes too far when real criminality is not dealt with in a true ‘common sense’ manner.

Editorial: Willets Point Casino Poll …. Really?

Let’s do a neighborhood poll to see if people want legal cannabis shops on their main street. How about a community poll to see if residents agree to a homeless shelter in their neighborhood? We’ll bet the results wildly surpass the ‘75% against’ results of the State Senator Jessica Ramos’ Willets Point Casino poll for Corona. In fact we might see both our polls show 95% or-more against legal cannabis and homeless shelter. To base your decision to support a project on a neighborhood poll is careless. 

Jessica happens to be a solid representative for the district. As chair of the Senate labor committee she has been a champion for the rights of workers, fair pay and equality. Her district is in the transit hub of New York. Jackson Heights, Corona and Elmhurst bustle with trains and busses 24/7. As a member of the Senate transportation committee it’s quite important that Jessica represent us. 

But right under her nose, sex workers, illegal food vendors and cannabis shops are so rampant, it’s impossible to walk Roosevelt Avenue (like we did last week) without gasping in fright for the ‘neighbors’ who live within blocks of the avenue from 82nd to104th.  We have multiple brothels, dozens of ‘street meat’ vendors and dozens of little kids hawking everything from candy to eggs to iphone chargers. Where’s the interest in labor there?

We’re not calling her out. We know the police are present on Roosevelt. We know that she spends time in the district and it’s an enforcement problem, but it seems we all turn a blind eye and blame someone else for the problem. We talked to cops on patrol that night. We talked to Sanitation enforcement. They admit there is little they have the power to do. “These people doing illegal business don’t carry ID, so how are we going to summons them?” one official told us. Police and sanitation have to be given the tools to work together and do consistent sweeps. The neighbors deserve it.

We got the invitation from Hiram Monserrate to walk Roosevelt with him. We took it. Jessica, we would love to walk Roosevelt with you in the coming weeks. See what’s there. Polls and Town Halls are great, but decisions about the future of the neighborhood are never made by polls. People don’t want change. Many of us don’t understand change. Yet the City and the State, regardless of polls institute congestion pricing, open homeless shelters and license cannabis shops.

It happens to be true that people and organizations who have come out in favor of the casino there have either been given money or promised money from the Steve Cohen treasure chest. Well we haven’t been promised anything, nor have we gotten any money and we can safely say that a casino and all the entertainment and food amenities that come with it will make Queens better.  Having a developer with deep pockets, who has shown that he gives back, is key. Signing a deal which will enhance the Willets Point transit hub, provide jobs, provide real shows and a deal that awards money for community improvement near the casino is a winner.

9 New Schools Headed to NYC Include Sunnyside Film School

Chancellor David Banks at Tweed Courthouse. Credit: Charlie Finnerty

by Charlie Finnerty

In an event at Tweed Courthouse Thursday, schools Chancellor David Banks announced that nine new schools will open across the city this fall, including elementary, middle, high school and trade school programs. Seven will come to Brooklyn, including three middle schools, three public schools and a new Bard Early College High School campus. Queens will see a brand new technical high school specializing in motion picture production open in Sunnyside. The announcement shows a major investment in education from the city as the school system recovers from pandemic-era drops in enrollment.

“Whether as a teacher in the Bronx, a principal in Queens, I know what it feels like when we get it right for kids and this is truly exciting for me,” DOE Executive Director of the Office of School Design and Charter Partnerships Shawn Rux said in a speech to the press.

Shawn Rux at Tweed Courthouse. Credit: Charlie Finnerty

The Motion Picture Technical High School in Sunnyside will teach students how to navigate the film industry with an emphasis on highlighting diverse storytelling. Principal Kevin Lopez said classes will focus on “below-the-line” production roles, such as camera operators, set designers, editors and sound engineers, which often go unseen by audiences but are the foundation of any successful film project.

Several of the new schools will open in Bay Ridge, where educators say there is a high level of need, particularly for English as a second language (ESL) classes for the area’s immigrant communities. Saher Said, who will serve as principal of P.S. 413 at 6740 3rd Ave., said his school will offer ESL classes for both children and adults. M.S. 428 in Brooklyn will offer dual-language classes for Spanish and Chinese-speaking students.

P.S. 331 will open at 6312 13th Ave. with an emphasis on entrepreneurship and advocacy. At the event, Principal Lisa C. Lin passed out shark keychains to promote the school’s Shark-Tank-inspired entrepreneurship competition for students.

M.S. 407 will open at 650 86th St. and will focus on sciences and research curriculum. Principal Stephen Lombardo said M.S. 407 graduates will have the skills and tools necessary to navigate the ever-changing worlds of technology and sciences.

Motion Picture Technical High School Principal Kevin Lopez. Credit: Charlie Finnerty

A highly-anticipated new Bard Early College campus in East New York will join the network of existing Bard campuses in Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx, offering students the opportunity to take college-level courses and an intensive seminar-based writing curriculum.

P.S. 482 Albee Square Montessori Public School in Downtown Brooklyn will offer a Montessori curriculum for the first time in the city’s public school system.

“These nine schools really push the boundaries of traditional education models,” Rux said. “They are cutting edge. They are unique. And they are directly responsive to what we know and continue to hear from our students and communities about what they need.”

The principals of the new schools with Shawn Rux. Credit Charlie Finnerty

Man Arraigned After Stabbing Girlfriend in Maspeth Bar

The man who fatally stabbed his girlfriend, 41-year-old bartender Sarah McNally, in Maspeth’s Ceili House before turning the knife on himself was arraigned today on charges of murder and criminal possession of a weapon, according to a press release from District Attorney Melinda Katz.

36-year-old Marcin Pieciak was McNally’s boyfriend. The two lived together  in Glendale for a year, according to cops. McNally was a former civil worker and bartender in her native Ireland. She had lived in the United States for about 10 years, according to the Daily News.

Police responded to a 911 call at the Irish pub on Grand Ave. near 69th Lane around 6:35 p.m., discovering McNally with a stab wound to her neck, and the 36-year-old man with self-inflicted stab wounds to his back and neck, according to officers.

Both were transported to Elmhurst Hospital Center in critical condition, where McNally later succumbed to her injuries, police confirmed.

“This was an attack that shocked the community,” Katz said. “It was unprovoked and a devastating loss for the family. We are using every resource to make sure there is accountability.”

Piecack faces charges of murder in the second degree and two counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree. Queens Criminal Court Judge Julieta Lozano ordered him to return to court on April 5. Piecack could face up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

The news of McNally’s death reverberated beyond the local community, prompting condolences from a parliament member serving her hometown of Longford, Ireland, who described her as a “wonderful young woman.”

According to crime data analysis by Gothamist, domestic and interpartner violence in New York City is on the rise in recent years, claiming 71 lives in 2022. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached 24/7 at 800-799-7233 and offers interpretation for over 200 languages.

Food Charity Needs Increase in Glendale & Ridgewood

In the spring of 2024, amidst the ongoing recovery from a global pandemic, the neighborhoods of Glendale and Ridgewood in Queens, New York, are grappling with a rapidly intensifying crisis that belies their suburban affluence. With median home prices reaching $862,000 in Glendale and soaring to $1.2 million in Ridgewood, these communities present a façade of prosperity. However, beneath this veneer lies a starkly different reality: an escalating demand for food assistance that challenges the perception of suburban wealth.

The Campaign Against Hunger (TCAH), a vanguard in the fight against food insecurity, has reported a startling 181% increase in pantry services in Ridgewood and an even more concerning 281% increase in Glendale. These figures not only highlight a burgeoning crisis but also underscore the organization’s critical role in meeting an unprecedented demand for food assistance amidst dwindling resources. Despite facing challenges such as a decrease in funding, partly due to the exodus of donors from New York City, TCAH has managed to distribute over 25 million nutritious meals to more than 2 million community members since the onset of the pandemic. This response was unparalleled, significantly eclipsing their pre-pandemic impact and underscoring their pivotal role in the community’s resilience.

The underlying causes of this surge in food insecurity are multifaceted. The United Way’s True Cost of Living policy brief sheds light on the grim economic realities faced by residents, which are far removed from the average incomes that the home prices in these areas might suggest. Despite an average annual household income of $94,274 in these neighborhoods, with a median income of $77,350, the cost of living in New York City, amplified by the pandemic’s economic impact, has pushed an increasing number of families towards the brink of financial instability. This discrepancy highlights the inadequacy of median incomes to cover basic living expenses, including healthcare, childcare, and transportation, let alone the inflated housing costs.

The escalating demand for food assistance in Glendale and Ridgewood is a reflection of a broader societal issue, where the true cost of living far exceeds what many residents earn. This situation has resulted in a hidden crisis of hunger and food insecurity in communities that, on the surface, appear to thrive economically. Dr. Melony Samuels, the Founder & CEO of TCAH, emphasizes that behind every statistic is a real person or family facing difficult choices between paying bills and ensuring food security. “The numbers are a wake-up call,” she states, advocating for greater awareness and action to address this pressing issue.

TCAH’s efforts to combat hunger in these neighborhoods go beyond mere statistics. They represent a beacon of hope and solidarity, showcasing the importance of community organizations in providing essential services and support during times of crisis. The organization’s work, particularly in serving 15% of its client base from Glendale and Ridgewood, illustrates the critical need for both immediate and long-term solutions to urban food insecurity.

As TCAH continues to navigate the challenges of increased demand for food assistance, their work is a poignant reminder of the hidden hunger that persists in the midst of apparent abundance. It calls for a collective response from policymakers, community leaders, and the public to ensure that the fundamental right to food is not compromised by economic disparities. The situation in Glendale and Ridgewood exemplifies the urgent need for a comprehensive strategy to address the root causes of food insecurity, ensuring that no resident is left behind in the quest for a prosperous and equitable future.



  • Data, The Campaign Against Hunger internal data systems
  • https://unitedwaynyc.org/true-cost-of-living/ 

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