L to E: New intended use of train station doesn’t work under County Health Code

Tuesday, June 24, 2014
by Erin and Peter Chase

One question that has not received much attention in connection with the 15-year Chappaqua Train Station lease issued to Love at 10514, is: exactly what food products may be sold there, assuming the site is kept essentially “as is”—the current plan—without running afoul of the Westchester County Health Code?  The answer: not much, actually.

Some might believe that so long as nothing is “cooked” in an oven or on a stovetop at the train station, there are no Code concerns.  However, based on our long experience in the restaurant industry and what we know about the site itself, that simply is not the case.  Pursuant to the Health Code, whenever you have an area where food is being prepared—which includes actions such as compiling or finishing off dishes, blending drinks and even transferring food from a bulk container to a customer-sized one for consumption on premises or off—the surfaces must be non-porous and easy to clean. 

This means all surfaces (counters, walls and floors) must be covered with materials such as tile and stainless steel.  In its present state, Café La Track, where the “kitchen” is and will remain, is virtually all dark wood, which absorbs smells and grease, is hard to clean and is a fire hazard. We have been told by the Town employee in charge of the building that a tenant “cannot even make toast” in the site as it presently exists.  Certainly, this statement reflects our understanding of the site’s current limitations under the Code (which, by the way, extend beyond just the surfaces to include possible issues with plumbing, utilities, equipment, etc.).

According to the Town Board, it selected Love at 10514 over our presentation and the only other one by Via Vanti Piccolo mainly because it will “do nothing” to the interior other than general refreshing, painting and floor buffing and thus constituted the best use of Town assets.  This could be just fine with some in the community because it would preserve the interior of La Track although, despite what the Town has said, that area is not original let alone “historic.”  It was basically stripped to the studs about a decade ago and much of the ticket area was renovated as well.  (We have architectural plans reflecting this.) 

Residents should be aware, however, that the main consequence of the “do nothing” approach is that it severely limits what types of food can be lawfully sold under the Health Code.  Essentially, it would have to be almost entirely foods cooked and pre-packaged in an off-site Health Code compliant site and sold on-site in the same packaging.

As we have made clear, we strongly believe the community wants and deserves so much more than just “take-out”.  Our submission as well as that of Via Vanti Piccolo, though different in the specific details, both offered bar/wine bar/small plate concepts in the evening hours, precisely because we felt that concept would best suit the needs of residents.  During the day, our respective concepts have somewhat different takes:  our presentation offered a food hall with the ability to eat-in or take-out; the other offered continuous small plate table service with a variety of community based activities.  All of us realized, though, that the current site would not pass inspection for even just the bar/wine bar/small plate concept without significant renovations to the kitchen area in La Track.  To that end, we each were ready to commit significant resources to bring the site fully up to Code, which is something Love at 10514 is not obligated to do and has not agreed to pay for. 

Putting aside our own views about what should go into the station, once the Board issued the lease to Love at 10514, it seemed implausible—though it might have been possible—that what was going to be sold would be restricted to true “take-out.”  Under the lease, while Love at 10514 has the option of offering only prepackaged “take-out” foods, it also has the option of offering foods that would necessarily involve on-site preparation to some extent.  If any such “preparation” happens, Code-compliance issues are likely to arise.  This can include foods needing a heat source to be finished-off (e.g., paninis and waffles which are made in presses), foods requiring compilation or customization (e.g., salads freshly compiled from a garde-manger or “salad station”), foods requiring repackaging (e.g., soups and stews ladled from a bulk container in a large steam table into customer-sized containers) and drinks requiring blending or other processing (e.g., smoothies and cleanses which customarily are made fresh, to order). 

In other words, even though the food and drinks offered by Love at 10514 might be authorized under the lease, if they involve any level of on-site preparation, they are likely to give rise to material Code issues that cannot be addressed without significantly renovating the site.  The current lease does not address renovations of that nature—what they are, who will pay for them, and when they will happen.  To the contrary, the lease expressly provides the interior is to remain almost entirely intact and precludes the tenant from making interior changes except for minor alterations.

It is not surprising to us that even this so-called “grab and go” concept described by Love at 10514 in its written RFP and reflected in the lease, would give rise to Code-issues.  Yet, what we did not know until just recently is that Love at 10514 actually is going to be a “Wine Bar” and small plate “Bistro”.  That is how the venue is being advertised by Love at 10514, both on-line (including with photographs of a mock up of its sign and of freshly prepared dishes it says it will offer) and at the Chappaqua Farmers Market, including a particularly heavy promotion this weekend. 

As further confirmation of its intentions, Love at 10514 has applied for a wine and beer license. This is a use not authorized under the lease, not shown in the floor plan attached to the lease, and not included by Love at 10514 in its written RFP or its in-person presentation to the Board.  At that time, Leslie Lampert, the owner, specifically rejected a wine bar concept, stating it “really wasn’t my vision for what the Chappaqua station should look like or feel like” as she thought the venue should cater to commuters, families and young people, and close down early, around 8pm.

However, it is essentially our concept, the same concept in fact that we proposed and which the Board expressly rejected—barely one month ago—as not being the best use of Town assets.  Remember, the Board’s primary explanation for its selection of Love at 10514 was that its “grab and go” concept (which would be self-service as the lease precludes wait service) not only better suited the community but also better suited the site because the interior supposedly could be left almost entirely unchanged. 

This explanation made absolutely no sense to us at the time, as we have explained elsewhere, but with the selected tenant now embracing the very same concept, the fallacy of the Board’s primary justification for eliminating our proposal (as well as Via Vanti Piccolo’s) is now indisputable.  Also, this concept change again shines a spotlight on how flawed the RFP was, because among other things, it did not clearly state an objective for the train station occupancy. 

We are not saying that what has transpired is a violation of the lease, which is on hold given our filing of the petition for a permissive referendum.  What we are saying is that this development raises a host of questions about what exactly is going on.  Did the Board mean what it said about what best suited the community or did it not?  How can the process have been fair if the main basis for rejecting the two other presentations went out the window in a matter of weeks?  Why did the concept change to include a wine bar and small plate offering?  Was it because, the Town and Love at 10514 heard from the community they were disappointed in just a “grab and go” concept and not having a new place to gather in the evening for a drink and some food?  How can this concept be going forward so aggressively when, as far as the public knows, it has not even been discussed let alone approved by the full Town Board?  Have individual Board members given their tacit approval for this new concept even though it should be a matter determined by the entire Board?  Is the idea, make it a fait accompli and then the Board will feel pressure to approve it?

Perhaps most importantly, has anyone, at any point in this process, closely examined use of the train station as a restaurant in terms of the Health Code?  The current lease only addresses Code-compliance in terms of the very minimal changes the tenant is allowed to make.  It does not, however, address Code-compliance in terms of all permitted use under the lease (other than strict “take-out”) let alone the tenant’s actual intended use as a wine bar and bistro, including what those renovations are to be, who will pay for them and when they will happen.  In fact, the tenant is expressly precluded from doing anything to the interior structure or plumbing, utilities, etc. except for those very minimal changes. 

Ultimately, Code compliance is for the Westchester County Board of Health to decide and not the New Castle Town Board, but from a contract perspective, agreement on the details of Code compliance have to be a part of the deal structure.  We estimated the costs for Code compliance alone to be substantial, which amounts we were willing to invest in the structure.  That would mean those improvements would be owned by the Town, at no cost to taxpayers.  We also, obviously, accounted for the work to happen in advance of the opening.  Not to do so would run the risk of a sudden shut down once violations are cited, resulting in significant inconvenience to commuters and others.

With all of the above in mind, there is a reasonable basis for concluding that the existing lease has little practical viability:

• What was presented, negotiated and agreed upon (self-service “grab and go”) is materially different from how the selected tenant now intends to actually use the site (wine bar/small plate bistro);
• The lease does not provide for on-site alcohol service or for related licensing.  Whether the Board has even discussed this topic we do not know;
• The lease does not provide for anything other than minimal upgrades, leaving open the issue of the requisite Code compliance as explained above;
• In terms of getting permits and licenses, the tenant’s obligation under the lease are tied to a floor plan and purpose that no longer applies; and
• Numerous other provisions in the lease would have to be reconsidered in the context of the new intended use, such as wait service (presently not allowed), hours of operation (presently closing at 8:30 on weekdays, 9:30 on Saturdays and 6:30 on Sundays), and water (town has agreed to pay for all tenant’s cold water use which will certainly increase with the proposed new use).

When you consider these problems with the lease itself taken together with the highly irregular RFP process, the nonsensical nature of this entire matter is blaringly obvious.  Right now, the Town’s interest—which really are our interests as taxpayers—are not being served by stubbornly persisting with a lease that fails to address looming Health Code issues, regardless of the use, but that for a host of other reasons simply does not fit the “new” reality of the tenant’s intended use. 

With our filing of the petition for a permissive referendum, the Town has the opportunity, under the law, to rescind the lease and start the process anew.  That is what should happen.

The RFP process was wrong.
The lease is wrong. 
The only logical step is a rescission. 


Comments(45):
We encourage civil, civic discourse. All comments are reviewed before publication to assure that this standard is met.

Dear Chases (and Carla)
Why don’t you just stop it already. By your letters, comments and referendum you certainly are not making yourselves any more likable or any more attractive to get the lease. Yor constant badgering of the community is just a nuisance and is doing nothing productive to get the town a venue in the train station. You lost your bid, for whatever reason, and now you should just let it go. Take a page from the Al Gore playbook and walk away with your dignity in tact.

By Just stop on 06/24/2014 at 2:10 pm

More concrete evidence of how this town board not only does not know what it is doing, but continues to participate in back room deals and negotiations.  They really seem to believe that they can do whatever they want to do.  Greenie, this is not your private enterprise.  Your handpicked real estate expert is anything but.

Greenie, take some time to learn what it means to be a part of a government.  Lisa Katz laughed that “we are new, we do not know what we are doing” Ha Ha.  There is and was nothing funny about her ignorance, which unfortunately is more and more apparent at every board meeting.

At first I had no negative feeling about Leslie Lampert.  Now, the more that I see, I am left with very bad feelings about how she has been behaving, in public and on facebook.  We still do not know why it took so long and cost the town so much money to negotiate her lease.  What she has offered this town is not what the residents want.  I know that I will not be visiting her restaurant again.  She is ruining her own reputation.

By Jane P. on 06/24/2014 at 2:12 pm

Insterad of writing letters to NC NOW, you could have found a new location & opened a restaurnat already.  You lost, move on.

By Stop Wasting your time on 06/24/2014 at 2:54 pm

Erin & Peter,

You most not be accustomed to losing because you have been nothing but a sore loser. Nobody cares how amazing your other restaurants are, or how deep your pockets are. Your actions since the original RFP process are despicable. Live, Learn and move on. You both should be ashamed of yourself. Lampert has done nothing to deserve your “insights” into the “flaws” of her proposal. So what if she originally didn’t intend to have a wine bar, she listened to what the town wants and decided to offer it. She has done nothing less than try to bring community together. You have done nothing more than divide it.

By Someone please chase the Chases out of town. on 06/24/2014 at 3:11 pm

Wow! I wonder what the Town Board will have to say to this!

By Long Time Resident on 06/24/2014 at 3:13 pm

What are the monthly rents under each lease ?

By Still waiting for an answer on 06/24/2014 at 4:28 pm

Why should we be surprised that the Board did not do its due diligence?  Greenstein has a habit of turning things around to meet what he thinks needs to be done, even after he has committed to it.  Shame on Greenstein and the Board.  Now how much is this going to cost us in legal fees?  Greenstein’s choice of a friend as Town Attorney is paying off for his friend.

By Figures on 06/24/2014 at 4:31 pm

Do not expect logical or ethical steps from this town board.

By disgusted resident on 06/24/2014 at 4:41 pm

It is Lampert who should be ashamed.  She stole both Carla and the Chase’s proposals.
She tried to get away with as little as she could and the town balked so she comes back with what the other two already offered.  That is not honest or honorable. She is not what this town wants in the train station.  She should go away, as others have said, she is ruining her reputation.

By anonymous on 06/24/2014 at 6:42 pm

To Jane P. - Leslie’s Facebook page features some pleasant photographs of her businesses and family members. Unlike the people attacking her in print, she has posted no irate rants, bombastic allegations or personal insults. Not sure how you can find fault with her on that count.

By resident on 06/24/2014 at 6:51 pm

Did Ms. Lampert think of this expanded proposal all by herself, or was she prompted by our huckster in chief ?  It does not fly because it is underhanded and dishonest.

By P. U. on 06/24/2014 at 6:52 pm

Another example of the gross incompetence by certain Board members and additional reasons why this MUST be a do-over. Further, if Love somehow rapidly evolves to something closer to The Chases’ or Carla’s concept, this is yet another instance of gross unfairness.  The Board changed the rules to justify and approve the operator they wanted.  Now only a month later, will they have to modify the lease to address their ignorance of the health code and/or add “uses” that are similar to the rejected proposals to better align with the interests of the community? 

Given all that has occurred, it would be best if the Love lease was rescinded and that a period of reassessment follows. However, certain Board Members cannot seem to admit that mistakes were made; instead they would rather compound them than accept responsibility and demonstrate some actual leadership

By now this takes the cake on 06/24/2014 at 6:53 pm

Elise, do you now see what a huge mistake that you have made by aligning yourself with this?

By Elise ? on 06/24/2014 at 7:10 pm

Surely the Chases have been remiss in not acknowledging the help of their lawyer and local political advisers in crafting this pitiful document full of legalese and not so veiled allegations of law breaking.
Too bad it has backfired.

By bob on 06/24/2014 at 7:15 pm

To the “sour grapes” critics:  would you truly prefer this business open up and be shut down by the department of health rather than know this before anything further goes ahead?  Have you taken a close look at the inside of la track?  I sure would not want any food I was going to eat prepared there. I can’t figure out how this has gotten this far without the town truly understanding the requirements. I thought it was going to be take-out. Boring maybe but safe and legal.

By Yikes on 06/24/2014 at 7:25 pm

@ resident ,

Are you saying that on Facebook Leslie does not offer a new concept for her plan that includes a wine bar and small plates ?

By ???? on 06/24/2014 at 7:32 pm

Oy vey ....... What a mess.

By Resident on 06/24/2014 at 7:37 pm

What was the plan on code compliance? See what happens and then deal with it by either limiting to prepackaged foods for 10 or 15 YEARS or negotiating the deal AGAIN to decide who pays?  Does this magnificent rent go down if the station needs work or do the taxpayers just bite the bullet because they need to so that it is fresh food?

By Long timer on 06/24/2014 at 7:54 pm

Dear Editor—could you please post the actual three proposals somewhere visible and keep them posted?  The proposals take this away from the “personal”. Residents should have the opportunity to judge objectively for themselves.

What i remember is Via Vante and the Chases made substantial submissions vs. Lampert who wrote a brief letter and the letter used phrases like grab and go.  Lampert was the low bid by quite a bit—that’s what i recall. I for one would like to review them all again.

Thanks in advance.

Editor’s Note:  http://www.newcastlenow.org/index.php/article/index/new_ladles_leslie_lampert_awarded_train_station_lease_for_love_at_10514

By Request for the Editor on 06/24/2014 at 8:00 pm

Dear Chase’s,

While you think your proposal should have won, and you think you are experts in opening businesses, and you have an endless cash flow- you are clueless in the hospitality industry. How dare you take charge against Lampert and her company? How dare you even associate your disgusting poor business styles with her. You don’t know what this woman has done for her community- and you can’t ever begin to know the impact that she has made throughout westchester and all the good that she has done. It is one thing if you want to say something about the board- but now you are personally slandering someone who has been a role model throughout this whole process.

You are disgusting sore losers and are a disgrace to Chappaqua. How dare you say that you are in the hospitality business? Shame on you! Your behavior has been inappropriate in every way and you distance yourself every day further from this town.

IF YOU CANT STAND THE HEAT THEN GET THE HECK OUT OF THE CHAPPAQUA KITCHEN.

 

 

By Despicable behavior on 06/24/2014 at 8:19 pm

The products from Ladle of Love are better than delicious. I look forward to when Leslie will be moving into the train station. Their booth is the busiest one at the market and I go there every week. You never hear anything bad from her staff or her- all they care about is taking care of their customers and moving forward with her plans. Why shouldn’t she promote her new place? She won the lease and she has a right to promote her products! I look forward to her booth and her pleasant staff. I find nothing wrong with her promoting good food and an exciting new location. But I find everything wrong with ganging up on someone who has done so well to so many.

 

By Farmers market promotions on 06/24/2014 at 8:36 pm

To Messrs Just Stop it, I think actually the Chases and Carla are making friends and allies all over town because they are asking our town government to be accountable for a flawed decision making process. I am glad they have done their homework and are calling Adam out for his deceptive practices and end run around a legitimate RFP. It’s embarrassing to read how poorly this was handled and I hope this is not indicative of other negotiations to be managed in the future. If we are trying to attract new businesses here, our board is doing a great job of keeping that from happening.
Next thing you know Rob will propose tearing down town hall and bringing in Planet Fitness…oh wait, that is his next brilliant idea!

By To Just stop it... on 06/24/2014 at 9:12 pm

It certainly seems like the whole Town Board RFP, presentation and approval process and the subsequent lease negotiation was handled very poorly and with little research, planning and attention to detail.  The commenters who are critical of the Chases as “sore losers” are missing this point.  The process was simply mishandled and unfair.  Anyone who took the time out to make a meaningful presentation only to see the Town Board adopt conflicting positions has a right to be upset and to question the process.  It smells of back room dealings rather than public servants acting in the best interests of using a community asset wisely.  The referendum process exists to protect voters from this type of situation.  To call someone a sore loser is more appropriate on a play ground not a situation where business decisions are made.  If the Town Board is ever serious about bringing useful retail businesses to town, they have to build a reputation for knowing what they are doing and not one where potential business owners will think they are dealing with amateurs who make hasty uninformed decisions.

By Disappointed on 06/24/2014 at 9:56 pm

The people who signed the referendum didn’t give a hoot about the sponsors, it was just an opppty to send a message to the TB. The sponsors shouldn’t flatter themselves.  Good message to send, but understand the message.

By The point on 06/25/2014 at 10:17 pm

And so continues the stupidest chapter in New Castle history… Hey Chases, I liked your proposal best but I sure am glad you did not win the lease. Take your ball and go home is right. You are acting like sore losers, and you are being used by other sore losers, the losers who lost the election last fall and are grasping at this pathetic “issue” to try to make a point. It’s fine to go after town hall, but to go after Leslie Lampert, a respected local business person, is beyond the pale.

By Let's now return to our regularly scheduled progra on 06/25/2014 at 10:27 pm

“You are acting like sore losers, and you are being used by other sore losers, the losers who lost the election last fall and are grasping at this pathetic “issue” to try to make a point.”

Amen.

By bob on 06/26/2014 at 8:46 am

For those who whine in this manner—look at the proposals on the merits (can you even do that?). 

This process was incompetently administrated and wrongly decided.  Rescission is finally a step in the direction of accountablity and good government. 

Perhaps if there are “sore losers” or “sour grapes” they are among the Board itself.

This has NEVER been about the participates—and it has ALWAYS been about the PROCESS

By Quit it with "Sore Losers" and "Sour Grapes" comme on 06/26/2014 at 9:48 am

And now we have the rants by the sore winners with the same old buzzwords.

By bob on 06/26/2014 at 10:37 am

“Sore losers”? It is more like “sore spot”, Leslie’s sore spot that is. She did not account for the health code and did not stand behind the concept she got approved. This must be a very touchy situation for her particularly because she was getting advice from Rob on the specifics of her proposal in advance of her presentation in March. Why was Rob helping her that way? Did he help others too?  Bet not.

By Anonymous on 06/26/2014 at 12:55 pm

@ Anonymous,

Evidence please.

By bob on 06/26/2014 at 2:23 pm

After being told “no food please”  Leslie Lampert shows up for her presentation to the town board with an entourage, a song, dance and soup presentation that goes on and on.  Somehow, the town board is so snowed by this inordinate display of showmanship that they ignore her paltry 2 page written proposal.  A proposal less in every way than the other 2 proposals. How is it that Lampert and the town board knew nothing about existing health codes ?  Maybe they thought that it did not matter.  I wonder how things would have been different if we had had an experienced town administrator to advise the town board ?  I am as embarrassed for Leslie Lampert as I am at how foolish the town board has acted.

To those who are thinking that they are helping Ms. Lampert by disparaging the Chase’s and Carla, they are very much mistaken.

By Anonymous on 06/26/2014 at 3:06 pm

I am a business owner and I know for a fact that nobody draws plans, files a RFP or even thinks about becoming a food operating owner without speaking to the health department. Please stop wasting the towns time by publishing pieces you may not or cannot support.

By Matt S. on 06/26/2014 at 8:13 pm

Dear Anonymous,
If you want to see how an “experienced town administrator” would handle the situation, read this fact-based article to the very finish. http://theinsidepress.com/offer-to-love-at-10514-station-eatery-rescinded-by-town-board/ 

You will see how Penny Paderwski handled the mismanaged process that she oversaw in 2013… she passed the buck to this new town board to sort the mess that she and Susan Carpenter had created.

By Read the record on 06/26/2014 at 10:02 pm

to Anonymous,
it seems that you have a lot of behind the scenes information… who is your source? how can you come to your conclusions? or a you a follower of the house of mirrors and write things the way you hope to see them…

stop wasting the towns time….

By fale statements on 06/27/2014 at 5:52 am

Read the record,

This is hardly a record.

By record ? on 06/27/2014 at 8:53 am

Read the record, I think you have a point. While I do not want to impugn anyone without full knowledge of the proceedings, it does appear that our former Supervisor Susan carpenter and Town Adminstrator Penny Paderewski had ample opportunity to close the deal with Carla Gambescia.

Based on the town records reviewed and shared by Eilleen Gallagher, bathroom access clearly WAS a material issue long before Carla Gambescia began her negotiations with the town. Bathroom access was a clear requirement in the original (unsuccessful) RFP issued in March 2012. Bathroom access was a real and legitimate point of difference as Gamescia attempted to finalize her deal with the previous administration. Based on the record, it is clear that Carpenter and Paderewski were unable to finalize an agreement with Gambescia, and material issues like bathroom access remained unresolved.

Only when the new board tried to open up the process did Carla cry foul. She went public and smeared the town board. She and others claimed that Adam Brodsky made up the bathroom issue just to get rid of her. The record shows otherwise.

I am sorry to see so many well-meaning people get pulled into this imbroglio. Petition signers were (mostly) well-meaning, but they were duped.

By Do over on 06/27/2014 at 8:58 am

For “evidence” “bob”, why don"t you ask Rob next time you speak?  He knows he has been giving advice to Leslie since even before her presentation. You can also do a little research on your own and find it just the way I did by “watching” and “listening”.  Think about it.

Matt S. The article does a clear job of connecting the dots about the health code issues not being addressed, hard as it is to believe.

By Anonymous on 06/27/2014 at 9:16 am

I know my evidence and now I know you have done.

By bob on 06/27/2014 at 11:54 am

Once again I thank you bob. Calling this very clearly written and reasoned letter “legalese” shows what you are all about: a shill for Rob. Even if others find you unhelpful, I always appreciate your weighing in.

By ResidenT on 06/27/2014 at 12:16 pm

Do over,

The town board needs no help, they do a fine job smearing themselves by their actions.

BTW,  Carla did not smear the the board, quite the contrary.  Carla was treated very poorly. You are pulling a “Rob.”  Twist, distort, and misinform.

Wish we could do over the election.

By Do over on 06/27/2014 at 3:16 pm

It is unseemly for Rob to continue his aggressive and craven online attacks under his various pseudonyms.  His lack of integrity and dignity are very damaging to this town.

By Resident on 06/27/2014 at 4:13 pm

I would think that anyone in the food service business would be aware of the health code requirements, wouldn’t you?

By Long Time Resident on 06/28/2014 at 8:21 am

Dear Long Time Resident,
Of course. But it would appear neither the “winner” nor the Town Board did.

By What Next With This Farce? on 06/28/2014 at 3:18 pm

Dear anonymous and town residents,

You keep referring to people bring cowardly- why don’t you man up and put your names…. All of the puleeeezes and residents and anonymous…. You are all cowards who like to try and manipulate someone’s way of thinking. I think the whole lot of you are natcisstic sore losers who behave like cutters and get a thrill or a rush when they distort the truth.
Go watch your Jerry Springer reruns… Puleeeeze….

By Chrissy on 06/28/2014 at 4:35 pm

I agree with Crissy, when is the episode going to air with Carla and the restroom umpires? Really though, how about watching Erin and Peter and the enquirer magazine. We are supposed to be helping to build our community- if we wanted to go to the circus we could look for the big red tent.

Back to basics- let’s stop pointing fingers and start shaking hands!

By Jerry springer fan on 06/29/2014 at 12:50 pm


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