Queensboro FC announces stadium at York College

On Tuesday morning, Queensboro FC officially announced the construction of a soccer specific stadium at York College. A 7,500-seat soccer-specific stadium is coming to the heart of Jamaica, Queens, set to be completed in time for the club’s United Soccer League (USL) Championship debut next year.
The stadium will serve as a home for the new Queens club and their academy, but will also be utilized by York College and the local community.
“It’s a great opportunity at a great location. It’s fantastic given the access from the local train system and plenty of bus stations nearby. We’re fortunate to be able to call this our future home,” said Chief Business Officer Adam Behnke.
“It means everything for the club and ownership, CUNY, and York to have this come together. It’s such an exciting moment for us to call this place home and to play in Queens.”
At an event at York College, a handful of local politicians, Queensboro FC staff, and academy players spoke to fans and media, outlining the benefits of the new facility.
“This is the ultimate public/private partnership that we need at this particular time and place,” said Congressman Gregory Meeks of NY’s 5th district.
“It’s going to reflect a dynamic change, bring businesses to this community, and create more jobs and opportunities.”
“This is tremendous for southeast Queens, for the students of York College, for soccer fans in Queens, and those around the world,” said council member Adrienne Adams.
“Building this new soccer stadium is an incredibly important investment that will have a reverberating effect on the entire community. It will be part of the revitalization of Jamaica that is already underway.”
For council member Francisco Moya, the project is the realization of dreams years in the making. Moya has been fighting to bring a professional soccer club and stadium to his home borough before Queensboro FC was founded, and when he spoke with the club’s future owner Jonathan Krane, the two took the first steps to bring the world’s game to the world’s borough.
“Jonathan and I met a few years ago and he had a vision of bringing a soccer team to the city of New York. I told him that there’s no better borough than the borough of Queens,” said Moya. “It truly has now come to fruition, the vision, the hard work, and for everybody at Queensboro FC, we thank you for all that you do and the investment you’re making in the community and borough of Queens. We are forever grateful.”
Moya, who grew up in Queens as the son of Ecuadorian immigrants, is one of many who grew to love the beautiful game of soccer in the heart of Queens. He believes the stadium is a big step in growing the game at the local level.
“When you grow up in Corona, Queens and you learn how to play the beautiful game of football in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, sandwiched between a baseball and tennis stadium, you see the difference this makes. Right now there is some young child that is playing in Flushing Meadows or Roy Wilkins Park, who will soon be donning the jersey of their borough.”
While the professional soccer market is dominated by the city’s two MLS clubs, it is the fledgling USL team that is bringing the first professionally-operated soccer-specific-stadium to New York City.
“It’s a wonderful thing to see a team that’s building their actual roots in their community,” added Moya. “Being the first to build a soccer specific stadium in New York City and having it in the borough of Queens makes this a historic day.”
Queensboro FC also announced the “1909 Club” for early season ticket holders. The limited-time promotion will grant 1909 fans lifetime membership to the club and rights to choose their seats in the new stadium. The deposit for the 1909 Club is just $25, which will also apply as a credit for the eventual price of season tickets.
While the plans are just being set in motion for a big inaugural season in 2022, the club’s academy team is prepating to take the field for the club’s debut in the USL Academy League.
After playing a handful of local opponents in friendly matches, the QBFC academy is set to play their first official game on May 9th, just weeks away.
The final academy roster is finally set and under the diligent eyes of head coach Josep Gombau and technical director Luis Gutierrez, Queensboro’s young stars are looking forward to their future with the club, and possibly even making the senior team.
Academy games and training will be hosted at the new stadium next year, with the club temporarily playing their home games at Mitchel Field at Nassau Community College on Long Island.

Menchaca endorses Yang for mayor

Brooklyn councilman and former mayoral hopeful Carlos Menchaca has endorsed frontrunner Andrew Yang for mayor. The announcement was made at an event in Red Hook Wednesday morning, and was simultaneously live-streamed on Yang’s YouTube channel.
Before dropping out of the race last month, Menchaca was one of the most left-leaning Democratic candidates and was often opposed to Yang’s more moderate stances.
At Wednesday’s event, however, the two men focused primarily on how their backgrounds and identities informed the endorsement.
“I connected to Andrew’s story, which is the story of an immigrant family,” said Menchaca, who is Mexican-American. “We share a lot of values that are rooted in bringing community voices to the table to shape policies.”
Yang, an Asian-American son of immigrants, agreed with the sentiment:
“One of the reasons why Carlos and I see eye-to-eye is that we want to humanize government,” explained the tech entrepreneur and one-time presidential hopeful. “We want our government working better for us and the people.”
During the event, Menchaca spoke positively of Yang’s plan to create a public bank, which would offer loans at lower interest rates and fees than private institutions. Menchaca explained that such a measure would greatly benefit immigrant communities throughout the city, including those in his southern Brooklyn district.
Also at Wednesday’s event, Yang spoke about his plan to pressure wire transfer and check-cashing services like Western Union to lower their remittance fees. The candidate explained that such charges disproportionately affect immigrants communities who send money to relatives outside of the U.S.
Menchaca rose to prominence in city politics for his progressive actions, including his successful effort to stop a rezoning in Sunset Park. Yang, on the other hand, is known for his pro-business and pro-real estate stances, making the endorsement an unlikely alliance.
Other progressive candidates have also recently endorsed Yang, including Congressman Ritchie Torres of the Bronx and Assemblyman Ron Kim of Queens. The endorsements could possibly sway more left-leaning New Yorkers, who have remained skeptical of Yang’s moderate beliefs.
Last week, Yang was also given flak from his opponent, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who criticized the frontrunner for holding an event about placard abuse instead of focusing on racial justice in the wake of Duante Wright’s death in Minnesota.
“I think about what’s happening to families in New York all the time, particularly to victims of violent crime,” Yang said in response to Adams. “I think New Yorkers sense that we have the capacity to do multiple things at once.”
Standing with Yang in Red Hook, Menchaca highlighted the kindness and personable attitude that led to the endorsement. He said Yang contacted him after he dropped out of the race, a personal touch that strengthened their relationship.
“We connected on that human level,” Menchaca explained. “That’s the kind of mayor I want to have.”

Wind turbine plant opens in Sunset Park

Sunset Park celebrated Earth Day early with the opening of a new wind turbine assembly site on the 39th Street pier on Monday.
This past January, the Norwegian energy company Equinor was given the greenlight by the state Energy Research and Development Authority to construct three offshore wind farms near off coast of Long Island.
The company decided on the 39th Street Pier as their assembly site for the new turbines, placing the southern Brooklyn neighborhood at the forefront of New York’s fight against the climate crisis.
The project will also reconstruct the derelict pier, which has been abandoned for decades. The revitalization project will be funded by the company and by state-matched funds. The wind turbines assembled at the site will be as tall as the Chrysler Building.
“Today we are here to honor the progress that Sunset Park and Brooklyn’s working waterfront are making in the path to the greener future,” said Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez during an event on Monday. “The victory for the community brings us one step closer to a working sustainable waterfront by creating a production hub for the offshore industry in New York City.”
The 73-acre facility will operate as the staging, installation, and maintenance for the planned wind farms, two of which will be located about 50 miles away from the Verrazano Bridge. The third farm will be located further East off the coast of Long Island.
Assembly at the Sunset Park site is expected to begin in three years, after a long process of permitting, construction, and repair.
It will also generate new jobs for residents of Sunset Park and the surrounding area, and Equinor is planning on sourcing materials from local businesses.
“A more resilient New York must be a place where we provide opportunities, investment, and good union jobs as part of our adaptation, especially for often neglected communities in the outer boroughs that have borne much of the brunt of climate change,” said Councilman Justin Brannan of Bay Ridge. “Utilizing our unique waterfront and ports in southern Brooklyn to manufacture renewable energy like wind turbines is one major way we can do that.”

Judge rules Gowanus rezoning can move forward

This past Monday a Brooklyn judge lifted the temporary restraining order on the controversial Gowanus rezoning. The land use proposal is now allowed to move ahead to the public hearing phase of the approval process after months of bitter legal battles.
The rezoning was originally conceived by ex-mayor Michael Bloomberg, but found new life under Mayor Bill de Blasio.
It would rezone an 80-square-block area of the neighborhood to make way for new developments, including a controversial plan to build a complex on the highly polluted “Public Place” site along the Gowanus Canal.
The grassroots community group Voice of Gowanus, as well as other elected officials and organizers, have consistently opposed the plan. Their criticism is directed at both the legal process to approve the rezoning and the environmental risks that could come with new development.
In a meeting last month, Voice of Gowanus members argued that the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) for city projects should be halted during the pandemic. Alicia Boyd from the Crown Heights group Movement to Protect the People, explained how Virtual ULURP hearings were inaccessible for many New Yorkers.
“Forty percent of our community did not have access for an online hearing,” Boyd explained. “It’s another way to silence people’s voices, there is no way to protest.”
Jason Zakai, an attorney for the group, applied for a motion from the courts that would compel the city to conduct ULURP in person or otherwise more adequately, resulting in the restraining order.
“Before we even get to the political process, we need to make sure it is done correctly,” Zakai explained during last month’s meeting. “We want the city to follow New York City law.”
This past week, that restraining order was reversed when New York Supreme Court Justice Katherine Levine ruled to allow the city to continue with the public review process so long as an in-person hearing option was offered for those without internet access.
The in-person hearing will take place at J.J. Bryne Playground in Park Slope and will coincide with the virtual hearing. The date and time are yet to be announced.
However, Voice of Gowanus is still fighting the rezoning.
“The lifting of the temporary restraining order was provisional and contingent upon the city meeting certain requirements, which it has not yet done,” Zakai clarified in a new statement. “The court proceeding continues, and Voice of Gowanus will not waver in its fight on behalf of the community to ensure there is increased public participation, access, and transparency at any public hearings on the massive and controversial rezoning plan.”
Despite the pushback, the two City Council members representing the area — Brad Lander of and Stephen Levin — support the rezoning. In a statement, Lander’s Land Use and Budget director Julia Ehrman spoke of the need for the rezoning and the importance of forthcoming environmental review processes.
“The Gowanus neighborhood has been changing around us with as-of-right development over the last decade,” Ehrman wrote. “As we emerge from the pandemic, we have a chance to steer its future in the direction of a more integrated, affordable, and resilient community.
“Now that the public process is moving forward, we can have the conversations we need to ensure the rezoning plan addresses critical issues in Gowanus,” she added, “including the clean up, infrastructure, and funding for NYCHA.”
The Gowanus Canal is one of the most polluted waterways in the world, due in large part to its history as a former hub for industry.
Voice of Gowanus members are concerned that development along the waterway, especially at the Public Place site, could release residual contamination into the neighborhood.
Yet even as the rezoning moves towards public hearings, there is no guarantee that the project will see the light of day. The ULURP process typically takes seven months, leaving time for a new mayor and City Council to change course in Gowanus.

Rally celebrates guilty verdict in Floyd murder

Floyd in Minneapolis, Borough President Donovan Richards held an event praising the guilty verdict, but added there was “little cause for celebration.”
“While we breathe a sigh of relief, this fight is not over,” Richards told a small gathering at Borough Hall, pledging to “see this fight for accountability through.”
Richards, the first Black man to hold the post of Queens borough president, read the names of victims of police violence in New York City, including Amadou Diallo, Eric Garner and Sean Bell.
He reflected on how the decision to convict Chauvin of murder could easily have gone the other way.
“We’ve always felt that our lives did not matter,” he said. “Every time one of us lost our lives and there was no justice served, we felt devalued.”
Richards urged Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and said that the Black Lives Matter movement should not be seen as a threat to the police or other communities.
“This is not an indictment of an entire department,” he said. “We want the bad apples held accountable.”
He was joined by District Attorney Melinda Katz, Councilwoman Adrienne Adams, State Senator John Liu, Assembly members Jenifer Rajkumar, Khaleel Anderson and David Weprin, and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer.
Katz said she hoped that last week’s verdict was a step toward positive and systemic change, adding that with police accountability comes community trust and “a safer environment for everyone.”
Liu said that when he heard the verdict for the first time he felt elated, but that joy quickly turned to sadness because he realized the work was “not over, with a lot to do.”
Although Van Bramer, who is challenging Richards in the June Democratic Primary, has called for defunding the police, the controversial measure was not mentioned at last week’s event.
Richards told this paper afterwards that defunding the police “means a lot of different things” to people.
“Everybody gets caught on that word,” he said. “I believe we should make sure equitable resources are going into many communities to make sure they are safer.”
Anderson said to truly tackle the issue of systemic racism in the police force there needs to be “clear lines of engagement and accountability” within the police department.
“Not fluff,” he said, “but people losing their jobs.”

Yang promises swifter switch to clean energy

Andrew Yang wants to convert landfills into renewable energy.
Yang announced last week that if elected mayor, his administration would bring solar projects to former landfill sites in New York City, beginning with the Edgemere Landfill located adjacent to Rockaway Community Park on April 22.
Annika Colston, president and founder of AC Power, is working with Yang on his plan. Edgemere Landfill is one of thousands of brownfield sites around New York City that can be repurposed as community solar installations.
“This landfill could accommodate a large project of 12 megawatts, which is enough to power 2,500 homes,” said Colston. “Those homes could be offered solar through the state community solar program.
“This program will offer clean renewable energy to low and moderate-income families at a discount to their current electricity,” she added. “So there are so many benefits to these types of projects, not only environmentally, but also to the community and the city.”
Yang detailed his plan to power New York City with 80 percent clean energy by 2030 by focusing on solar deployment, battery storage permitting and construction, new interconnections to upstate wind and Canadian hydropower sources, and the acceleration of offshore wind assembly and transmission.
Currently, almost 75 percent of the city’s electricity still comes from fossil fuel. Under the city’s current plan to move to renewable energy sources, in a decade more than 50 percent of electricity will still come from power plants.
“We all agree the city needs to embrace the green economy, but the city has moved too slowly for too long,” said Yang. “What we need now is action. Every day we wait is a missed opportunity for our economy, our health, and our future. My administration won’t wait to pursue these important projects and essential goals.”
Yang also wants to put social and racial justice at the center of the city’s climate work and make sure all New Yorkers have the skills to participate in the green economy, as well as educate the next generation on climate change.
“We have to create green jobs,” said Yang. “A lot of the things I just talked about are going to be job creators, such as battery power plants, solar panel installations, and retrofitting municipal buildings, and that’s a win for us all.”

Catholic Charities hosts pop-up food pantry in Cypress Hills

Since the pandemic began last March, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens has been organizing pop-up food pantry events throughout the two boroughs.
This past Thursday, they set up a food pantry in the parking lot of Blessed Sacrament Church in Cyprus Hills.
“We have been taking people in since 8:30 a.m.,” explained Debbie Hampson, senior director of Community Health and Wellness Services for Catholic Charities, during the event. “We usually serve about 800 families.”
Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens operates 49 food pantries. However, when the pandemic hit last spring, the group saw a 1,000 percent increase in food requests from families in need.
In response, they began organizing the pop-up pantry events, and have since distributed over $3.4 million in food assistance to families experiencing food insecurity as a result of COVID-19.
“At the beginning we were doing this every week,” Hampson explained, “and at that time we were serving close to 1,500 families.”
Each pop-up food pantry event requires a great amount of planning and organization. Members of Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens and other volunteers fill bags with prepackaged foods the night before.
During the event, the group distributes the pre-filled bags, as well as fresh produce, dairy, and meat items on a first-come, first-served basis.
“It’s almost like a farmer’s market,” Hampson said as the group distributed food to attendees.
In addition to food, the pop-up event offers free COVID-19 testing and possibly COVID-19 vaccines in the near future. Catholic Charities has also partnered with the insurance provider BlueCross BlueShield, the food assistance program SNAP, and the COVID-19 emotional support helpline NY Project Hope, all of which had a presence at Thursday’s event.
“Besides being able to provide food, we want to let people know that they are not alone,” said Hampson. “We have counseling for folks because we know a lot of people have been depressed and anxious during the pandemic.”
Despite the ongoing challenges the pandemic poses, Thursday’s event very much felt like a celebration, with a DJ playing radio hits and taking requests.
Additionally, a large number of volunteers were also present, including members of the Carpenter’s Union, EJ Electric, and many parishioners from Blessed Sacrament Church.
Former Brooklyn state senator Marty Golden was in attendance as well, assisting with the food distribution and cracking jokes with the other volunteers.
“People were lined up around the corner earlier today,” he said. “We need to be there for people who are struggling during this difficult time.”

While some volunteers continued to man the food line, others went to the Blessed Sacrament Rectory for a special lunch buffet organized by the church. During the meal, the Star caught up with
“Food is a part of the community,” said John Gonzalez, an organizer for Catholic Charities. “We are happy that we can share it with our volunteers and local families.”
Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens is currently holding pop-up food pantry events every other Thursday, alternating between locations in Brooklyn and Queens. The next event is tentatively scheduled for May 6 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Astoria.

For more information on all of Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens food pantries and programming, visit their website at ccbq.org.

Plans to reconstruct Kissena Corridor fields

Community members had the chance to give their input and ideas on a planned $2.7 million reconstruction of the ball fields in Kissena Corridor Park.
“The ballfields in this section of Kissena Corridor Park have long suffered from pockmarked grass and flooding issues,” said Councilman Peter Koo. “Nevertheless, the fields are frequently used by our community due to a lack of other options.”
Koo and Speaker Corey Johnson secured a total of $3 million to fix the fields that sit on 1.5 acres along Utopia Parkway between Peck and Underhill avenues.
James Mituzas, director of Landscape Architecture for Queens NYC Parks, said the project could take over three years.
“We won’t have a shovel in the ground for another two years, and the construction process takes about 12 to 18 months,” he said. “We’ll probably miss a whole baseball season for construction.”
The project will address other issues, as well. Fencing will be repaired and drinking fountinas, security lighting and benches will be added.
Lee Ann Beauchamp, Landscape Architect at City of New York Parks & Recreation presented the issues that will be fixed.
“We will be reconstructing the ballfield, but we’ll also be reconstructing the pathways that lead to and around them,” said Lee Ann Beauchamp, a landscape architect with the Parks Department.
Jennifer Elias, who lives two blocks from the fields, said they are often used as a dog run.
“I can’t recall the last time I saw a ball game being played there,” she said.
Frank Weber, former president of St. Kevin’s Youth Guild, holds permits to use the fields and asked for natural turf to be part of the redesign.
“With the drainage issues, if you notice when you’re doing the surveys, there is an average of one to two steel manhole covers in the outfields, and if a child is running to catch a ball he or she could land on that manhole” he said.
Mituzas said that could be a possibility
“The type of funding we have right now for this project, it would be ideal for us to reconstruct the field as a natural turf ballfield,” said Mituzas. “I think that’s something we can do for this park at this time.”

Art competition to benefit cancer patients

An art contest is uniting diverse artists from Queens and beyond with a mission of bringing hope for cancer patients.

On April 30 at 5:30 p.m., Paddle For The Cure founder Leah Dulce Salmorin and this columnist will co-host an art show on Zoom and Facebook from the landmarked Ridgewood Savings Bank at 107-55 Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills.

“Arts For Life” will feature numerous artists competing in the categories of painting, photography, and drawing.

Winning artists will donate their artwork to be displayed at the Hope Pavilion Clinic. Entries will be judged by Mervin David, an artist and nurse practitioner with Elmhurst Hospital.

They will also receive $100 donated by Ridgewood Savings Bank. Artists who enrolled paid $20, which will benefit Elmhurst Hospital’s Hope Pavilion Cancer Clinic and Paddle For The Cure.

“Ridgewood Savings Bank has always been a bank that prides itself on its community.,” said branch manager Nancy Adzemovic. “I want to go out into the community and search for more partnerships.”

Over the years, the bank has funded history murals, sponsored the 112th Precinct’s Night Out Against Crime, organized blood drives, and coordinated a carnival-themed family festival.

The contest was inspired in part by an exhibit at Jade Eatery in Forests Hills Gardens by this columnist titled “Reflections of Historic Forest Hills.” Since 2019, it has been the center of several fundraising events for Paddle For the Cure.

Salmorin is herself a breast cancer survivor. She founded Paddle For The Cure, which supports fellow survivors through recreational opportunities to foster a healthy lifestyle and offer emotional support and team spirit.

“I vowed to give where I can, to help others affected, and I feel that I cannot waste the rest of my life without making an impact on this planet,” said Salmorin.

To maintain a healthy body and state of mind, Salmorin swims, bikes, does yoga and acupuncture. She serves as a lector at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and St. Joan of Arc.

Her story, “Humility & Faith,” discusses her two lessons as a survivor and was featured in “Faces of Inspiration,” a book that spotlights breast cancer stories.

“Giving me the gift of life is also my way of giving back to Elmhurst Hospital, my home away from home where I was treated. I will never forget the first time I stepped into the doors and the entire staff welcomed me with beautiful smiles.

“I also believe that there are many artists who need to be recognized, and this event brings every individual together as one for a great cause,” she added. “Art is the key to healing that can touch one heart to another.” Purchase tickets for the virtual event here.

Queens to remember, mourn those COVID took

As of this week, Queens has lost 9,659 residents to COVID, a tragic loss of life for our borough. That’s 9,659 lives cut short, and 9,659 families dealing with the heartbreak of losing a loved one and being confronted daily with the cause of that pain.
This coming Saturday, May 1, some of those families and their friends will gather in Forest Park to remember all of those that have been lost.
The Queens COVID Remembrance Day will take place at the Forest Park Bandshell and be open to the public from 2 to 8 p.m.
Portraits of many of the victims will be on display, filling the empty benches of the bandshell. The portraits were created by 16-year-old artist Hannah Ernst, who started drawing COVID victims after her grandfather Cal passed away from the virus.
There will be a Floral Heart ceremony by artist Kristina Libby at 4 p.m. and a candlelight vigil at 7 p.m.
One of the faces that will be represented in the empty benches will be Woodhaven’s Jeffrey Cohen. I met Jeff just the one time, at a Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society meeting at the Avenue Diner right before our world turned upside down.
It was nice to meet him. We were friends on Facebook for a while, but hadn’t met in person until that night. He was interested in our neighborhood’s history and enjoyed the presentation. I have a feeling he would have come back to another meeting.
But we never met again. He passed away on April 16, 2020, at the age of 57.
Had I gotten to know Jeff better, I would be able to tell you more. Instead, I asked family and friends of Jeff to tell us a little bit about him. This is from Jeff’s father and his sisters, Rayna and Bari:

Jeffrey Cohen was born March 3, 1963, in Booth Memorial Hospital in Flushing. He grew up in Forest Park Co-ops in Woodhaven and ended up living there with his wife and daughter.
Jeffrey was a loving son, brother, husband, father, uncle and a great friend to all.
Growing up in Woodhaven in the 70’s and 80’s, you could always find Jeff in Forest Park with his friends with his long red rocker hair, which he was famous for and so proud.
As his sisters, we shared hair care products with him and took notes, but we were never allowed to touch his hair.
He made lifelong friends in Woodhaven and loved calling it home.
Jeff always had a smile on his face and was always kind and respectful to others. Everyone that knew him said, “Jeff was just a nice guy.”
“Even during bad times, you would never know because he would still greet you with a smile and without a care in the world.
You can’t plan life, and as his family we are devastated by what COVID took from us. Someone we loved, someone that still had so much life to live, someone we were not done with yet.
The night Jeff passed away, it happened so fast that we are still in disbelief. There is a huge hole our hearts.
Jeff, you are missed so much by all of us and we hope that you are with mommy watching over all of us.
Daddy, Rayna and Bari

Longtime friend Annette Frank wrote:

Jeff was my friend for 45 years. We grew up together, sharing happy times and sad times and every holiday possible.
Over the years, we became more like family than friends. Often I would describe Jeff as my “brother from another mother.”
It’s rare to have a lifelong friendship like ours. I will always cherish our memories. I miss my friend and brother Jeff.

We have all lost something over the past year due to COVID. But most of our losses and problems seem small when compared to the loss of a loved one.
And since the vast majority of the victims’ families were denied the ability to mourn their losses at wakes or funerals, this weekend’s remembrance ceremony is so very needed.
Needed by the Cohen family, mourning their loss of Jeff, and needed by the 9,658 other families mourning their own losses.
And if you are not one of those families, you are very, very lucky and can count your blessings while saying a prayer for the souls of those that COVID took from us all.

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