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Landmark Childs Building

Landmark Childs Building, Coney Island Boardwalk. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Tourists often ask “what are those ruins on the Boardwalk?” Some locals tell them the crumbling palazzo by the sea is an old bathhouse. The former Childs Restaurant building has been been vacant for so long, between stints as a chocolate factory, a roller rink, and a warehouse, most people have no memory of its glory days.

Last weekend, ATZ took these photos of the 1923 landmark, which is now in hibernation, awaiting restoration as part of a $53 million dollar City project. Terra-cotta fish and seashells and Neptune the god of the sea peek out from above the sidewalk shed and plywood fencing, which was recently installed around the property.

Childs Building, Coney Island Boardwalk

Detail of terracotta ornamentation on Childs Building, Coney Island Boardwalk. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

The construction of the shed and fencing and work on the floors are the only permits currently approved by the Department of Buildings. Several other permits are still listed as on hold pending the outcome of a lawsuit by the New York City Community Garden Coalition (NYCCGC) and the Coney Island Boardwalk Community Garden members vs the City and developer iStar Financial. The clerk for Judge Peter Sweeney, who got the case after a prior judge recused himself, told ATZ last week that the judge has not yet made a decision. At a hearing in December, Judge Sweeney asked both sides to submit briefs arguing for or against a jury trial.

“There is a chance that, given his willingness to bring the parkland issue before a jury, he might break up the case along its two issues and rule separately on each,” writes Aziz Dekhan on the NYCCGC’s website.”Or he might wait to rule on either issue until after he or a jury decides on the parkland issue.”

Former Community Garden on the Boardwalk

Site of former community garden adjacent to the Childs Building. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

The crux of the suit is the gardeners’ claim the land is public parkland and that the development project is an alienation of parkland without the required approval of the state legislature. In December 2013, the garden was razed without warning to make way for construction of the seating area for the amphitheater, which was initially expected to open in June 2015.

ATZ previously wrote about the project when it was under consideration (Clock Ticking on Plan for the Landmark Childs Building, September 25, 2013) and after the razing of the garden (Pre-Dawn Bulldozing of Coney Island Community Garden, December 29, 2013).

Neptune

Neptune medallion on Childs Building, Coney Island Boardwalk. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Designated a landmark nearly twelve years ago, on February 4, 2003, the building operated as a restaurant until the early 1950s. Childs was one of the largest restaurant chains in the country with 107 restaurants in 33 cities in the U.S. and Canada by the 1920s, but it was not a formula business. According to the Landmarks Preservation Commission report, the Boardwalk restaurant was designed specifically for Coney Island “in a fanciful resort style combining elements of the Spanish Colonial Revival with numerous maritime allusions that refer to its seaside location.”

Childs Building

Childs Building, Coney Island Boardwalk. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

January 29, 2015: Coney Island 2015: Subway Cafe, Sushi Lounge, IHOP, Checkers, Johnny Rockets

January 19, 2015: An Historic First As Elected Officials Join Community’s Fight to Save Coney Island Boardwalk

December 20, 2014: Save the Boardwalk for Future Gens! Sign Brooklyn Pols Petition to Make it ‘Scenic Landmark’

September 13, 2013: Coney Island Always: Visiting the Big CI Year-Round

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coney Island Brewing Co.

Coney Island Brewing Co, and The Plunge, a Belgian-style Ale, were among the sponsors of this year’s Polar Bear Plunge. Photo via Coney Island Brewing Facebook.

The Coney Island Brewing Company, whose craft beers celebrate the iconography of Coney Island, may soon have a place to call its own on Surf Avenue. Boston Beer Corporation, which applied in September for a license to open a brewery under the trade name Coney Island Brewing Company at 1904 Surf Avenue, received a conditional letter of approval from the NY State Liquor Authority last week.

The line of Coney Island beers was relaunched in 2013 after being sold to Alchemy & Science, a division of Boston’s Samuel Adams. The brewery will be located in a retail space on the outside of MCU Park formerly occupied by Danny Boy’s Pizza and adjacent to Peggy O’Neill’s and the MCU Credit Union.

1904 Surf Avenue

Coney Island Brewing Co has applied for a brewer’s license at the 1904 Surf Ave store formerly occupied by Danny Boy’s Pizza. November 16, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

A conditional approval letter is issued upon completion of the license application process but prior to approval of the premises. According to the NYSLA, after a brewer’s license is granted, the permittee has the option of applying for a retail license and tasting permit.

“We’re excited about the opportunity,” Kathleen Barnes of the Coney Island Brewing Company told ATZ last year. She said they’re planning to have a tasting room, retail space, a community center, and tours of the brewing process. Draft beers will be sold in growlers. Retail items include Coney beer-themed tap handles, coolers, beach towels, T-shirts and trucker hats currently sold on the company’s online store. Asked if the brewery would be applying for a permit to operate a brew pub or restaurant at the location, Barnes said they were not.

The new brewery will mark a return to Coney for the namesake brand, which under Shmaltz Brewing ownership operated the “World’s Smallest Brewery” in a tiny storefront next to the freak show. That brewery was part of Coney Island USA’s small business incubator program from 2011 until it got washed away by Sandy.

New graphics on display

New graphics on display at Brass Monkey Launch Party, November 18, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

November 19, 2014: Coney Island Brewing Co. Applies for License for Surf Ave Brewery

November 25, 2013: Coney Island Freak Show-Inspired Beer Takes A New Ride

January 31, 2012: Remnant of Under Boardwalk Bar Found in Coney Island

October 11, 2011: Photo of the Day: Butterflies & Beer Island by Bruce Handy

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Subway Cafe

Subway Cafe, Surf Avenue. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

More than two years after ATZ posted “Will Coney Island’s Surf Ave Become a Mecca for Franchises?” (December 19, 2012), the trend continues. Across the street from Luna Park, an IHOP is finalizing a deal to open a pancake restaurant while a Subway Cafe has their sign up and is set to open a year-and-a-half after signing a lease. New FEMA regulations after Sandy are partly to blame for construction delays at Subway Cafe, a restaurant concept featuring “Tuscany-style decor” aiming for a “coffeehouse ambiance” and a layout a little larger than an average Subway.

Sushi Lounge

Sushi Lounge, Surf Avenue at W 12th Street. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Amid the influx of already opened national chains and franchises such as It’Sugar, Applebee’s, Rita’s Italian Ice, and Dunkin’ Donuts on Surf Avenue, there have also been a few new Mom & Pops like Lunatics Ice Cream and Luna Park Cafe (no connection to the park). An outpost of Piece of Velvet, a cake and cupcake shop with locations in Fort Greene and Harlem, is opening across the street from old-time Mom & Pops Williams Candy and Pete’s Clam Stop

Sushi is coming to the corner of Surf Ave. and West 12th Street, across the street from Coney Island USA. Shalyapin Wonderwheel Karaoke (no connection to Wonder Wheel Park) morphed into Surf 12 Club and Lounge, which features live music, but their newest sign says “SUSHI LOUNGE.” A spokesman told ATZ they wanted to do something different. A new display case stood ready to serve desserts. Quartet of Catastrophe will play on Friday at 9:30pm.

Applebee's

Signs in Applebee’s windows on Surf Avenue. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Applebee’s, which opened in June 2013, has proven popular with locals and extended its hours. Multiple signs on the street and one in the sky announce they now serve breakfast daily from 8am till 12 noon. A sideshow banner for Gary Dreifus’ “Magic at Coney!!!” graces the window. After completing its run at Coney Island USA, the magical variety show has moved across the street to Applebee’s second floor for Sunday performances in the winter.

Unlike Manhattan, where Mom and Pops are being forced out by landlords who triple the rent and then turn around and lease to chains or upscale businesses, the new franchises on Coney Island’s Surf Avenue are replacing illegal furniture stores which have existed for years in defiance of the zoning. Until the early 1980’s the north side of Surf was home to individually-owned penny arcades and a variety of rides including bumper cars, carousels and even a Jumbo Jet-style coaster. By the time the last ride– Coney Island’s B & B Carousell — closed in 2005, the north side was known as the wrong side of Surf Avenue to locate a business because of the lack of foot traffic. Not any more.

Checkers Coney Island

Checkers in Stillwell Terminal, Surf Avenue. January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Two other previously announced and long under construction franchises that are expected to open in 2015 are Checkers in Stillwell Terminal, which has finally put its sign up, and its next door neighbor, Johnny Rockets. Like Subway Cafe, these businesses have been delayed by new and ever-changing post-Sandy building regulations. Johnny Rockets is waiting for approval of a storm surge resistant front to resume construction.

Just off Surf, on Stillwell Avenue, Thor Equities’ retail building is the site of New York City’s first Wahlburgers –Donnie, Mark and Paul Wahlberg’s burger franchise– opening in May and written into the script of the Wahlberg’s reality show on A & E.

UPDATE January 30, 2015:

The Coney Island Brewing Company, whose craft beers celebrate the iconography of Coney Island, may soon have a place to call its own on Surf Avenue. Boston Beer Corporation, which applied in September for a license to open a brewery under the trade name Coney Island Brewing Company at 1904 Surf Avenue, received a conditional letter of approval from the NY State Liquor Authority last week.

Johnny Rockets Coney Island

Johnny Rockets, Surf Avenue, January 25, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Related posts on ATZ…

May 26, 2014: Photo Album: Opening Day for 5 New Businesses & Exhibits in Coney Island

January 3, 2014: New Year, New Franchise: Rita’s Italian Ice Coming to Coney Island

September 11, 2013: Subway Cafe to Replace Furniture Store on Coney Island’s Surf Ave

February 13, 2013: Thor’s Coney Island: Candy Retailer It’Sugar to Open Surf Ave Store

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Eric Adams Mark Treyger

Borough President Eric Adams and Councilman Mark Treyger and officials at Dec 18 Announcement for New Year’s Eve Celebration in Coney Island. Photo via Coney Island Facebook

Today’s 1pm rally moved to Boardwalk pavilion at Brighton 4th St, few blocks west of Coney Island Ave, if still raining. Please spread the word!

Borough President Eric Adams, New York City Public Advocate Letitia James and possibly Senator Chuck Schumer are scheduled to join the January 18th community rally to save the historic Riegelmann Boardwalk. Councilman Mark Treyger and Councilman Chaim Deutsch, whose districts include the Coney Island-Brighton Beach Boardwalk, organized the rally, which is at 1pm on the Boardwalk at Coney Island Avenue in Brighton. Take the Q train to the Brighton Beach stop and then walk one block to the Boardwalk.

“I share their views on the Boardwalk,” Borough President Eric Adams said in a sitdown with the Brooklyn Daily last week. “We do need to protect Coney Island and what makes it so special — its history and traditions — and I think a wooden Boardwalk is a part of that.”

We hope YOU will join the rally, too. It’s not an exaggeration to say this may be our last chance to save the Boardwalk. Last month, New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission used a form letter from 2012 and incorrect info to reject the Council Members’ petition, according to “Coney’s Boardwalk Should Be a Landmark,” an essay by historian Charles Denson of the Coney Island History Project. Meanwhile, the City’s Parks Department and its commissioner Mitchell Silver are going ahead with a project to make a concrete roadway for so-called “emergency vehicles” (garbage trucks, Parks Dept vans etc.) on the Boardwalk in Brighton Beach, a pilot project approved in 2012 by six appointees of Mayor Bloomberg.

Boardwalk Not Sidewalk

Boardwalk Not Sidewalk/No Concrete. Sign on Building Facing Boardwalk East of Ocean Parkway in Brighton Beach. Photo © Bruce Handy

The Borough President co-sponsored Coney Island’s first New Year’s Eve celebration including an LED light show and fireworks at the Parachute Jump, fulfilling a promise he made during the campaign. “The Riegelmann Boardwalk is imprinted with over 90 years of history, helping to establish Coney Island as America’s playground,” Adams said in December, in support of CM Treyger and Deutsch’s petition to make the boardwalk a Scenic Landmark.

“Millions of visitors have made the pilgrimage to southern Brooklyn, and we want to see millions more enjoy its unique, iconic character in the decades to come,” said the Borough President. “I support a scenic landmark designation for the Riegelmann Boardwalk because I believe it is in the best interest of Brooklyn’s cultural and economic well-being. I look forward to working with my elected colleagues and local stakeholders to advance this proposal.”

Boardwalk renovation 1934

The Boardwalk opened in 1923 and was already undergoing renovation in 1934: Group of men ripping up old planking on Coney Island boardwalk near Half Moon Hotel. Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Collection

Mayor Bill de Blasio has not only continued the Bloomberg-approved Concretewalk but failed to listen to local council members and the community. All year, letters and requests for an environmental study and a meeting to discuss the Coney Island-Brighton Beach Boardwalk with Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver were rebuffed. A stakeholders’ meeting was belatedly arranged on the day before New Year’s Eve, according to a report by the NY Daily News titled “City won’t budge on plan to change Coney Island Boardwalk’s wooden planks to used plastic and concrete.”

“The fate of the Boardwalk is in your hands,” Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance president Rob Burstein wrote today in a letter calling for a huge turnout. “It’s not an exaggeration to say that this is our make or break moment! Please contribute to our common effort in the one way that you can make a difference- Show up and stand with us! I know that you believe that the Boardwalk is worth saving – for ourselves and for future generations – and should not be destroyed by uncaring bureaucrats. You must show up and say so!”

save the boardwalk

Related posts on ATZ…

December 20, 2014: Save the Boardwalk for Future Gens! Sign Brooklyn Pols Petition to Make it ‘Scenic Landmark’

March 22, 2012: The Coney Island-Brighton Beach Concretewalk Blues

March 9, 2012: The 10 People Who Will Decide the Fate of Coney Island Boardwalk

December 27, 2010: Photo of the Day: First Snow on Coney Island Boardwalk

Read Full Post »

Coney Island Kittens

Coney Island Boardwalk Kittens, September 28, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Since the dramatic rescue of Coney Island cat Snow Coney in November, we’ve written about model programs to manage feral and stray cats at Disneyland and the Atlantic City Boardwalk and asked – Why not Coney Island? It’s about to be launched.

There will be an organizational meeting on April 15th at 6:30pm at the Coney Island YMCA Community Room located on West 29th Street at Surf Avenue. Hosted by Brooklyn Rescue Umbrella, the purpose is to organize volunteers and support to help the stray and feral cats on the Coney Island Boardwalk. You must register via eventbrite since seating is limited. If you can’t make it on April 15th, follow the project’s new Facebook page or send a note to brooklyn.rescue.umbrella[AT]gmail[DOT]com indicating your interest to be contacted for the next meeting.

You’re invited to an organizational meeting to start a pilot program in Coney Island similar to Alley Cat Allies’ successful Atlantic City Boardwalk Cats Project to care for feral and stray cats. The program would utilize feeding stations, shelters and TNR—Trap Neuter Return – a humane and effective method of feral cat management that stabilizes the size of the colonies and reduces nuisance behaviors.

In Atlantic City, where the city-approved project was started in 2000, Alley Cat Allies Boardwalk Cats draws visitors from all over the country. Disneyland in California also has a managed colony of 200 feral cats who dine at five discreet feeding stations and receive medical care. The bonus for the community is the rodent population is kept under control and calls to public officials about cats are eliminated.

Meeting organizer Josie Marrero will talk about the feral and stray cat population along the Coney Island Boardwalk, where demolition and redevelopment have displaced some colonies and thrown others into crisis. A video of the Atlantic City Boardwalk Cats Project will be screened. A representative of the NYC Feral Cat Initiative, a program of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals committed to solving NYC’s feral cat overpopulation crisis through TNR, will attend to answer questions.

Coney Island Boardwalk Kitty

Coney Island Boardwalk Kitty, September 28, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

Immediate Needs

–Volunteers to assist with trapping, recovery, and transportation. Let us know if you have TNR certification or experience with feral cats or cat rescue.

–A volunteer coordinator as well to help with social media and fundraising. We would like to raise funds via Indiegogo or Kickstarter and also ask local businesses and property owners for support.

–Recovery space is needed for the cats immediately after trapping and post surgery. It should be a safe, quiet space. Male cats may be released after 24 hours, female cats after 48 hours.

–Approval of pilot program, including feeding stations, shelters and TNR, by the Parks Department and other City agencies, and property owners. Over the winter, BRU volunteers put out shelters, straw and food, only to be admonished and the shelters removed.

Coney Island Boardwalk Cats Project – Organizational Meeting hosted by Brooklyn Rescue Umbrella, Coney Island YMCA Community Room, 2980 W 29th St, Brooklyn, NY 11224. Tuesday, April 15, 2014 from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM

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Related Posts on ATZ…

March 16, 2014: Coney Island Bunny Makes Broadway Debut at Union Square Petco

January 27, 2014: AC Boardwalk, Disneyland Have Model Programs for Feral Cats–Why Not Coney Island?

December 10, 2013: Update on Coney Island Cat ‘Snow Coney’ & His Family

September 19, 2013: Photo of the Day: Coney Island Parakeets Go for a Walk

Read Full Post »

Friede Globe Tower

1907 Postcard for Friede Globe Tower, which was never built. The Strong Museum

More than a century after it was first announced and subsequently declared a swindle, the Friede Globe Tower is once again being proposed for Coney Island’s Surf Avenue. ATZ received a translated copy of an offering to investors for “a ground floor chance to share profits” in the project which is expected to cost $2 billion and pay up to 100% interest. A Russian billionaire plans to erect the 700-foot-tower on one of the lots on the south side of Surf rezoned for high-rise hotels.

Dubbed “The Globe Tower 2.0,” the structure will house a luxury hotel instead of the world’s largest amusement park of the original proposal. In order to comply with the Coney Island Rezoning of 2009 requiring a percentage of the property be used for amusements, Globe of Death Motorcyclists will perform a free act in the globe twice daily, weather permitting.

According to the offering, the hotel rooms will be small but luxuriously appointed and padded with sound proofing for undisturbed sleep despite the roar of the motorcycles. The tower will be crowned with the largest revolving searchlight in the world and lit by thousands of LED lights, making it visible from Mars.

Friede Globe Tower

Cover, illustrated supplement of the New York Tribune. January 20, 1907

When ATZ expressed skepticism that the new offering, which contained wording similar to Samuel Friede’s 1906 ad in the New York Herald, was genuine, the source replied that the Globe was an architectural wonder that had captured the developer’s imagination. He plans to make the penthouse his home away from home. “Remember when your Mayor Bloomberg said ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could get all the Russian billionaires to move here?'” Then he quoted the popular adage: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

The ceremony for laying the cornerstone is expected to be on May 26, 2014, on the 108th anniversary of the Globe’s original groundbreaking, and will feature a band concert, speeches and fireworks.

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Related posts on ATZ…

February 25, 2014: For Sale in Coney Island: 3 Blocks of Vacant Land Across from MCU Park

December 7, 2013: New Construction: Coney Island Area’s 1st Hotel in Decades

October 17, 2013: The New Coney Island: Thor Equities Vacant Lots, Dummy Arcades

February 17, 2011: New Construction: Coney Island’s 1st Private Beachfront Condos on Boardwalk

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Rsuh Aaron Hicks

Sideshow performer Rush Aaron Hicks. Photo via Facebook

Black history month is over and guess what? There are people who still don’t know blackface is never okay. Last year, it was Brooklyn State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who wore an afro wig and brown makeup to a Purim party, and whose apologies showed his ignorance. Now New York’s sideshow and burlesque community is in a furor over the news that rubber skin man Rush Aaron Hicks did his act in blackface at the Lower East Side’s Palace of Variety, the Slipper Room, on Friday.

Initially, the performer tried to brush off criticism by posting that he did it “at random” and wasn’t racist because he “slept with two black girls this year,” which only made matters worse and provoked a rebuke on the blog Jezebel. Since then, all posts on his Facebook page that are critical of him, including outraged comments as well as friendly advice from members of New York’s sideshow and burlesque world, are being deleted.

Al G Field Minstrels

Circa 1910 Poster for Minstrel and Vaudeville Comedian Nick Hufford. Al G Field Minstrels, Otis Lithograph Co. Library of Congress Collection

What’s next for this young performer? An apology followed by an assignment to read a few books on the history of blackface and minstrelsy and write a report on what he has learned would be in order. James Habacker, artistic director of the Slipper Room, told ATZ:

The Slipper Room has always been a place that has welcomed diversity. Over the years our stage has been graced by people of every ethnicity, sexual orientation, body type, and proclivity. We do not now, nor will we ever have, a policy of telling artists what they can and can’t do in their acts. Rush Hicks made a poor choice in doing blackface. His unfortunate comments after the fact have only served to make matters worse for him. We had a few bookings with him for this spring, which we have cancelled, to give him time to reflect on his actions and their consequences.

Last season, Hicks was in the cast of the Coney Island Circus Sideshow but his scheduled appearance at the organization’s Gala later this month has been cancelled. Coney Island USA artistic director Dick Zigun told ATZ in an email:

Yes I am aware of this sad controversy. Rush is not currently under contract with CIUSA. His questionable performance took place at the Slipper Room and he was in no way there on behalf of CIUSA . He was scheduled to perform with us in a few weeks and that appearance has been cancelled.

No performer has ever appeared on any CIUSA stage in blackface. Whether or not Rush ever appears with us again will depend on his apologies and actions regarding this incident. I will personally be monitoring his personal and performance statements

William H. West's Big Minstrel Jubilee

Circa 1899 Poster of Carroll Johnson as himself and in blackface. William H. West’s Big Minstrel Jubilee. Strobridge Litho. Co., Library of Congress Collection

The Brooklyn-based performer was born with vascular Ehlers Danlos syndrome, a condition that gives him hypermobile joints and the ability to stretch his skin in the tradition of classic sideshow acts like The Rubber Skin Man and The Elastic Man. Hicks usually appears in whiteface, as seen in photos on his Facebook page. On Friday night at the Slipper Room, after showing up without a costume and white greasepaint, he decided on the spur-of-the-moment to do his act nude and in black makeup, according to a YouTube video which is now “private.”

Despite the furor on social media, Hicks is not without supporters. One friend recommends that Hicks’ critics should “get so excited about police surveillance, NSA encroachment, violent hate crimes, genetic modification of food, pollution, pay inequality and other things that actually call for 700 comments on a Facebook page and an article in Jezebel and others.” Steve Peluso, who produces a show at Lucky 13 Saloon, thinks the controversy will be good for business. As he says on Facebook:

Congratulations Rush Aaron Hicks. You are doing exactly what any good clown should. Playing the fool to expose the foolishness of others. Plus you got LOADS of FREE advertising for yourself, The Slipper Room and every other venue and performer/producer who works with you. Including me!

Thanks for saving me the expense of a full page layout in the Voice for our shows. I’m one of the few producers who understand that in showbiz Controversy like this is simply… GOLD!

The vintage posters shown above are from the Library of Congress’s collection of more than 175 original lithographs documenting the history of 19th and early 20th century minstrel shows.

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Related posts on ATZ…

November 7, 2013: Photos from the Glory Days of the Sideshow Banner

June 27, 2013: Photo Album: The Front of the Show at Meadowlands Fair

February 4, 2013: Rare & Vintage: Girl to Gorilla Sideshow Banner

November 4, 2011: Up for Auction: Ringling Bros Circus Side Show Poster

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