The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for the ‘kosciuszko bridge’ Category

braying donkeys

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Regrets, I’ve had a few.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

“I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption.” There’s been an awful gnashing of teeth and a clash of cultures going on around the Newtown Creek of late, and a season of controversy has begun. My pal Bernie Ente always warned that as soon as the money began to flow from the various environmental lawsuits, you’d see the carpet baggers and opportunists assert themselves, and the one thing which everyone would forget about is the Newtown Creek itself as they fought over the scraps offered by the Politicians. I’ve been asked, dozens of times now, for my view on the current conflict and – uncharacteristically – I’ve stayed out of it and refused comment. Why? Because it really has nothing to do with me.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

“Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew, when I bit off more than I could chew.” Your humble narrator knows all the warring parties personally, some of them are even friends. I know that this means I’m trying to be like Sweden, and that the American way is to pick a side, but unlike everyone else – I can recognize a conflict of interest when it crosses my desk and won’t get involved in a war that doesn’t directly affect me. My interest is in the Newtown Creek itself, and telling its historic story, as well as recording the events of the early Superfund era for posterity. Are the factions vying for the control and future of the waterway, and their conflicts, going to matter in the long run? Only time will tell.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

“For what is a man, what has he got?” There’s a side which believes that Brooklyn is invading Queens, and attempting to inflict a Hipster invasion upon it. There’s a side which visualizes a vast conspiracy, the “Non Profit Industrial Complex” as it were, which will insure that all public monies flow through the hands of a chosen elite. There’s a side which just wants to be left alone to pursue their own goals along the Creek, whether it be splashing around in the water or planting gardens along its banks, however sophist these projects may be. What’s been forgotten, in my mind, is the economic engine that the Newtown Creek was, is, and always will be. Also, the real modern villain of the Creek – the sewer system – which dumps millions of gallons of Manhattan’s untreated filth into the water of Brooklyn and Queens every year, continues to operate in the same manner as it did a century ago, and is seldom mentioned anymore.

Of course, I’m just some guy with a camera and a filthy black raincoat, who doesn’t have advanced degrees in urban studies or whatever, so what do I know? I just see things “my way.”

There are two public Newtown Creek walking tours coming up, one in Queens and one that walks the currently undefended border of the two boroughs.

DUPBO, with Newtown Creek Alliance and MAS Janeswalk, on May 3rd.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

Modern Corridor, with Brooklyn Brainery, on May 18th.
Click here for more info and ticketing.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 29, 2014 at 12:01 pm

subsequently worshipped

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A return to DUKBO, and an ending to the hermitage of winter.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned earlier in the week, efforts at re engaging with the lifestyle and physical habits which personal discipline and medical advice demand – habits which this long season of ice and snow have retarded – have been and are underway. A humble narrator has turned into an oddly pallid mass of flabby, quivering, and utterly tumescent gelatin over the winter. Rotting bone and torn cartilage underlies a weakened musculature, and my overall physical and psychological condition has undertaken an unwholesome and worrisome transformation, even my skinvelope has developed an odd translucence.

Wet staring eyes, dull and unblinking, gaze out from beneath a humble narrator’s troubled brow and a voice which may not be a voice speaks in both his dreams and wakeful thoughts. It demands attention, repeating over and over, in a puzzlingly queer collection of wheezing exhalations and hallucinatory percussions, a sound whose closest approximation in the English alphabet can only be expressed as “DUKBO, DUKBO, DUKBO.”

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Problems encountered in this endeavor of physical and spiritual re training have included a series of minor physical maladies. Although many are attributable to the aging process, a couple have been slowing things down noticeably. A bit of tendinitis occurs in a certain knee, while other joints and appendages enjoy and signal the arrival of arthritic symptoms. My back hurts, and so does the middle finger of my right hand, which just seems to spasm out from an otherwise wholesomely clenched fist of its own volition.

The latter may be due to environmental stimuli, and seems to occur a lot when I am in the presence of humans – a habit one is trying to wean himself off of presently.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Right now, a humble narrator can’t wait to get his first solar radiation burns of 2014, when the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself will claim its summer regency over the weather. I’ve decided to follow that sound, a vibration which seems to be calling from both deep within the ground and from above, that rumbling exhortation “DUKBO, DUKBO, DUKBO,” wherever it may lead. Pain and age be damned, who can guess all there is, that might be down there?

The good thing about sunburn - I’ve always thought – is that no matter how dead you are inside, if you’ve got a sunburn you can at least prove to yourself that you are still capable of feeling “something.”

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Written by Mitch Waxman

March 13, 2014 at 11:30 am

regarding life

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Color please, bright and saturated, tall glass with lots of ice.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This interminably frigid period has brought an abundance of dark gray into the sky, or so I am told. An unavoidable consequence of such atmospheric phenomena, one such as myself is possessed of the need to witness and be exposed to color. Bright, saturated, vibrant color. Accordingly, I’ve reached into the archives for today’s post. What’s more colorful or cheery than Mt. Zion Cemetery, after all?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Another shot in Queens, this time of the estimable Kosciuszko Bridge immersed in the emanations of the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself in the westerly sky. Spanning the antiloquacious depths of the Newtown Creek, the great steel monster will meet its end at the hands of state officials and municipal contractors quite soon, or so they tell me. One grows older by the minute, as does this bridge.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve always loved this lucky shot. Right place at the right time, a passing squall of thunderstorms had produced a phenomena known as Mammacular Clouds. I happened to be in town for a friends birthday and spotted the otherworldly lighting at work around the Chrysler Building. This is what it really looked like. Could use some of that kind of light in January.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 7, 2014 at 7:30 am

An unexpected birthday

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This is a reblog from exactly one year ago, commemorating both the Birthday of the Kosciuszko Bridge and the Night of the Living Dead.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Oh, the old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be,

Ain’t what she used to be, ain’t what she used to be.

The old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be, Many long years ago.

Seventy Four years ago today, the Little Flower cut the ribbon and officially opened the “New Meeker Avenue Bridge” to traffic. The following April in 1940, it was renamed as the Kosciuszko Bridge.

It’s the Night of the Living Dead, by the way. Also, it’s Vulcanalia

August 23, 1939, image New York City Municipal Archives at nycma.lunaimaging.com

- photo by Arthur J. Foley

According to the Long Island City Star-Journal of August 24th, 1939- the lineup of folks in the shot and action above are described as:

Mayor LaGuardia snips the ribbon which admitted the first autos lo use the lofty new Meeker Avenue Bridge over Newtown Creek in Laurel Hill, at the dedication held yesterday at Laurel Hill Plaza. To the right of the mayor is Acting Borough President John J. Halloran of Queens. To his left is Borough President Raymond V. Ingersoll of Brooklyn. Left of Ingersoll is Frederick J. H. Kracke, who was commissioner of Plant and Structures when that department originated plans for the bridge.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

American Bridge Company and Bethlehem Steel worked on her, along with dozens of other contractors. The Big K was part of what was known as “the Regional Plan”, which also provied the pretext for the erection of the Triborough, Whitestone, Marine Parkway and a slew of other bridges across the archipelago.

July 14, 1939, image New York City Municipal Archives at nycma.lunaimaging.com,

- photo by Arthur J. Foley

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Odds are very good that this is her last birthday (wrong again, Mitch), as the “Fast Track” program announced by the Governor will be kick starting the construction of a “Newer Meeker Avenue Bridge”- or perhaps the “Kosciuszko Two”- by the late spring of 2013. She will be gone by 2017, if one were to believe the schedule currently touted by State officials.

June 29, 1939, image New York City Municipal Archives at nycma.lunaimaging.com,

- photo by Joseph Shelderfer

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The historic shots included in this post all link out to the New York City Municipal Archives site, which has famously begun releasing thousands of historic images of the City online. One of the tricks to using the system, I’ve discovered, is knowing what things used to be called. It’s a “streetcar” versus “trolley” kind of thing. We call the former light rail system by the latter name, while those who dwelled in the past used the former.

June 29, 1939, image New York City Municipal Archives at nycma.lunaimaging.com,

- photo by Joseph Shelderfer

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Very little information is available about the construction and planning of the Kosciuszko, but there’s plenty about the New Meeker Avenue Bridge. The Big K was built for two official reasons- first, to provide a link between the multitudes of infinite Brooklyn and the World Fair Grounds in Flushing (Flushing Meadow Corona Park), and secondly to replace the aging swing bridge that spanned Newtown Creek between Meeker Avenue in Brooklyn and Laurel Hill Blvd. in Queens. Unofficially, Robert Moses really wanted to get the Brooklyn Queens Expressway built and this was as good a place as any to start.

August 14, 1939, image New York City Municipal Archives at nycma.lunaimaging.com,

- photo by Arthur J. Foley

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One does look forward to that day in the latter half of this decade, which I seriously doubt will be anything even close to 2017, when the pedestrian lane of the new bridge will be open for inspection. One of the most frustrating parts of the current bridge is that it once sported such a lane for perambulation, but it has long been closed off- thwarting photographic exploitation of the surreal vantage point that it offers.

How I would love to set up a tripod on the Kosciuszko Bridge…

from nydailynews.com

Construction on a new bridge is now expected to begin in spring 2013 — a year ahead of schedule, thanks to $460 million made available for the job by Gov. Cuomo’s New York Work initiative.

The 73-year-old bridge, which carries the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway over the Newtown Creek, qualified for the money in part because it is on the state’s “deficient bridge” list.

The initial phase of construction will build an eastbound lane next to the existing bridge, according to the state Department of Transportation, the agency overseeing the project. The 1.1-mile bridge is expected to be done in 2017 and will cost about $800 million.

When completed, two new spans with a total of nine vehicle lanes and paths for pedestrians and bikes will replace the original structure.

Here’s a rare historic shot- in color- of the mighty span, from the year it was opened, also courtesy New York Municipal Archives

- photo by New York City Municipal Archives

- photo by Mitch Waxman

And just as a reminder, in the name of public good and an abundance of caution- don’t forget about the whole Night of the Living Dead thing- this could be trouble.

from youtube-

Want to see something cool? Summer 2013 Walking Tours-

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek - Saturday, August 24, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 23, 2013 at 9:30 am

went silently

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Sometimes you get what you pay for.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Wandering about in DUKBO recently, specifically western Maspeth (aka Berlin) nearby its border with Blissville, your humble narrator found himself confronted with one of the many conundrums which torment. My Dad was a “working guy,” one whose entire body was thrown into the meat grinder of manual labor during his working life. Routinely exposed to paint, solvents, and all sorts of other chemicals which his trade utilized, the old man eventually succumbed to cancer.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The old man had a list of industrial accidents which he would rattle off to those who asked. The time he fell off a ladder and was blinded for a few months when a pail of lye splashed into his eyes, or a freak accident that somehow opened up his inner arm from wrist to armpit which needed 400 stitches to close, or the long lasting bursitis and arthritic after effects of having worked at an industrial butcher in the freezer room when he was a kid. There were busted toes, bad knees, a gamey hip, bulging vertebrae, broken ribs, a shoulder that made sounds when he moved it, and the scar tissue on his hands had formed into thickened gloves.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Other than insisting that I figure out some way to get a desk job instead of following in his footsteps, the old man had no real regrets other than never having won the lottery nor owned a Cadillac. He did what he had to do and always tried to get the job done right, or at least as half assed as he could get away with. This has been referenced before, and when I see working guys doing what the fellow in the shot above is doing, I cringe a bit and start to think about the old man. The guy in the shot is doing so many things wrong, safety wise, that I was half expecting him to just burst into flame as I walked by.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

I spend enough time around the union types that I’ve kind of been infected by their logic. My upstairs neighbor sets out safety cones and a fire extinguisher when he barbecues, but he does something at work which he calls “firewatch” that requires permit and certification. “Even if ya don’t need it Bro, god forbid something happens you can at least say you did everything you could.” Also mentioned, in the past, has been the physical cowardice for which I am famous.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Given to capricious fits of panic and paranoia, your humble narrator attempts full situational awareness at all times, constantly scanning the local vicinity for threats. Those who know me personally will confirm the constant stream of warnings about broken sidewalks, things which drip, or suspicious personages to watch out for that spews forth. Additionally, I advise strangers who are crossing Northern Blvd. to stand behind something while standing at corners and waiting for the light to change. I’m all ‘effed up, but this really isn’t the old mans fault, I was just born weird. One of the things which allows one such as myself nepenthe is the presence of union guys like my pal upstairs, or these poor schmucks on a picket line in front of that dry ice and compressed gas place right at the corner of Laurel Hill and Review. Union labor keeps things nice and safe for the rest of us. You won’t find them sitting on a ladder using a metal grinder to remove paint without wearing glasses or a mask, nor wearing highly flammable synthetic fabrics while doing so.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The old man wasn’t in a union, he had some objection to them- something about the mafia and being Jewish and his older brother- a story which he changed periodically to prove a point or win an argument. I kind of wish he was, at least he would have gotten paid a lot better, and likely wouldn’t have been quite as busted up by the job. This little conundrum of mine, pondered while marching across the concrete devastations of DUKBO, is this: why do I care so much about what happens to strangers, nor mind my own business? Also, if I care so much, what can I do about it?

What would Superman do?

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Want to see something cool? Summer 2013 Walking Tours-

Kill Van Kull- Saturday, June 22, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, June 29, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

Modern Corridor- Saturday, July 13, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

possible variations

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

Upcoming Walking Tour- the Parks and Petroleum tour- May 12, next Sunday

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Meetup at the corner of Kingsland and Norman Avenues in Greenpoint.

We will be exploring the petroleum and waste transfer districts of the Newtown Creek watershed in North Brooklyn. Heavily industrialized, the area we will be walking through is the heart of the Greenpoint Oil Spill and home to scores of waste transfer stations and other heavy industries. We will be heading for the thrice damned Kosciuszko Bridge, which is scheduled for a demolition and replacement project which will be starting this year.

Photographers, in particular, will find this an interesting walk through of a little known and quite obscure section of New York City.

Be prepared: We’ll be encountering broken pavement, sometimes heavy truck traffic, and experiencing a virtual urban desert as we move through the concrete devastations of North Brooklyn. Dress and pack appropriately for hiking, closed toe shoes are highly recommended- as are a hat or parasol to shield you from the sun.

Bathroom opportunities will be found only at the start of the walk, which will be around three hours long and cover approximately three miles of ground.

Drivers, it would be wise to leave your cars in the vicinity of McGolrick Park in Greenpoint.

Click here for tickets to the Newtown Creek Alliance Parks and Petroleum walking tour with Mitch Waxman,
Sunday, May 12, 2013 at 11 am.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Down Under the Kosciuszko Bridge Onramp, or DUKBO, is the name I’ve assigned to this lunar landscape of industrial mills and waste transfer stations which lines the Brooklyn side of the Creek. This year is functionally the last time you will be able to witness this place, as the Kosciuszko Bridge replacement project will be kicking into high gear in the fall of 2013.

For the urban explorer and photographer crowd, this is a wonderland of shattered streets and rusted infrastructure which will soon be eradicated from all but living memory.

Tickets are available, should you care to witness the place prior to its forthcoming demolition.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The tour will tell the story of Standard Oil at its start and cross over the Greenpoint Oil Spill’s heart, revealing that lost world of industrial aspiration and 20th century dissolution which lies less than a mile from the geographic and population centers of New York City.

In the past, I’ve described the area as “Mordor” at this, your Newtown Pentacle, and the Tolkien analogy is apt. The very air you breathe is a poisonous fume, the water is hopelessly tainted with bizarre combinations and millions of gallons of petroleum and industrial chemicals, the soil is impregnated with heavy metals, asbestos, and truly- who can guess all there is that might be buried down there?

An odd concentration of food distribution, waste transfer and garbage handling facilities, and energy industry plants make the area remarkable, and everywhere you look will be a “colour“- a bizarrely iridescent sheen which resembles no wholesome nor familiar earthly color but is instead like something from out of space- coating every bit of broken masonry and the sweat slicked skin of laborer and passerby alike.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Other upcoming tours:

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, May 25, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Hidden Harbor: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman – Sunday, May 26,2013
Boat tour presented by the Working Harbor Committee,
Limited seating available, order advance tickets now. Group rates available.

for a full listing and schedule of tours and events, click here

The 2013 Spring and Summer Tours Schedule

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

Pana_NCA_CreekEDU_Boat_102311_013359_a

- photo by Mai Armstrong

Want to see something cool?

Odds are that a bunch of the folks who will be reading this might have no idea who Mitch Waxman is, why they should come along with him on a tour of some weird neighborhood in Brooklyn or Queens or Staten Island, nor what a Newtown Creek or Kill Van Kull are- let alone where. Who is this weirdo?

Check out the “bio” page here at Newtown Pentacle, or this profile of me from the NY Times published in 2012. My tours of Newtown Creek have garnered no small amount of interest from the fourth estate- whether it be DNAInfountappedcities.com, Queens Chroniclenewyorkview.net, the 22blog, photobycateblog.com, or Queensnyc, and I’ve turned up in a bunch of media reports, documentaries, and been interviewed for multitudinous reports on the lamentable history of the Newtown Creek.

Most recently, it was National Geographic and Curbed. Attendees on my tours come from a variety of backgrounds- photographers, history and rail buffs, maritime enthusiasts, and there always seems to be an odd and welcome concentration of elected officials and journalists about.

What is with this guy?

I’m the Newtown Creek Alliance Historian, Official Photographer and Steering Committee member of the Working Harbor Committee, a member of the Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee and the Newtown Creek CAG, and am also a member of the Kosciuszko Bridge Stakeholders Advisory Committee. Newtown Pentacle, this blog, has been steadily published since 2009. I live in Astoria, Queens with my wife and our little dog, Zuzu.

In just the last few years, I have exposed thousands of people to the Newtown Creek, and its incredible history. This is where the industrial revolution actually happened, along this 3.8 mile long waterway that defines the border of Brooklyn and Queens.

t3_Atlas_PoisonCauldron_082512_012520_a

- photo by Mai Armstrong

In 2013, continuing relationships with Atlas Obscura, Newtown Creek Alliance, and the Working Harbor Committee (as well as friends like the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, and others) allow me to offer the following schedule. Live ticketing links will be made available as they come online, and all dates are subject to cancellation or rescheduling due to weather or unforeseen circumstance. There are 6 unique walking tours listed here, and one boat trip in which I will be the principal speaker.

Private tours are possible, schedule permitting, and can be arranged by contacting me here. Last year, for instance, several private University classes engaged me for a day at the Creek, as did a few private groups. As mentioned, contact me and we will figure something out if you’ve got a meetup group, college class, or special request.

Here then, is my official schedule as it stands right now. There will likely be a few additions as time goes on, which I will let you know about as they occur. Best to subscribe to this blog (top right, email subscription)  or “follow” me on Twitter @newtownpentacle for news.

In April, 2013- There will be a brand new tour  of Greenpoint debuted, which I call “Glittering Realms.”

Glittering Realms- Saturday, April 20, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

In May, 2013- We start off with 13 Steps around Dutch Kills, go to the Insalubrious Valley, visit DUKBO, and finish off the month with a Working Harbor boat tour.

13 Steps around Dutch Kills- Saturday, May 4, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Parks and Petroleum- Sunday, May 12, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets on sale soon.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, May 25, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

Hidden Harbor: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman – Sunday, May 26,2013
Boat tour presented by the Working Harbor Committee,
Limited seating available, order advance tickets now. Group rates available.

NCA Birdwatch Bus tour- June 24, 2012

- photo by Mai Armstrong

In June, 2013- We visit the Poison Cauldron, return to the Insalubrious Valley, and check out the Kill Van Kull.

The Poison Cauldron- Saturday, June 15, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

Kill Van Kull- Saturday, June 22, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets on sale soon.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, June 29, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets on sale soon.

In July, 2013- We visit Queens’s Hunters Point with a brand new tour. I might have another offering or two for you, but nothing I can speak about quite yet.

Modern Corridor- Saturday, July 13, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

t3_MWA_COWD_071412_012314_a

- photo by Mai Armstrong

In August, 2013- We return to the Poison Cauldron, repeat the 13 steps, and the Kill Van Kull walks.

Kill Van Kull- Saturday, August 10, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets on sale soon.

13 Steps around Dutch Kills- Saturday, August 17, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets on sale soon.

The Poison Cauldron- Saturday, August 24, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

There are a few other dates coming in the fall, and a couple of more summer events which are still being discussed, but I’ll let you know more about them in coming posts.

Also, I will definitely be onboard but not on the microphone during the Working Harbor Committee “Beyond Sandy” Hidden Harbor tours on Tuesday nights, all summer. Hope you can come along.

Click here for more on “Beyond Sandy.”

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