Sep
16

In re-imagined Brooklyn, AECOM wants to bring the 1 train to Red Hook

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A 9 train subway stop at the Atlantic Basin could support massive development around the Brooklyn waterfront. (AECOM)

A 9 train subway stop at the Atlantic Basin could support massive development around the Brooklyn waterfront. (AECOM)

For years, Red Hook, a quiet corner of Brooklyn isolated from the hustle and bustle of the rest of New York City with multi-million-dollar townhouses near the harbor and the borough’s largest concentration of public housing a few blocks away, has always been the next destination neighborhood ready to be gentrified until it isn’t. In the early 2000s, it nearly tipped, and then, according to New York Magazine, the area degentrified. It subsequently drowned in the floodwaters of Sandy and has come back a bit tonier around the edges with destination dining, craft distilleries and popular bars lining Van Brunt St. Red Hook’s future remains a murky one, and one way or another, without flood protection, the area will be underwater in a few decades.

And yet, the forces that try to shape the city can’t help themselves. While Red Hook’s biggest drawback and obstacle is a lack of subway access, a new proposal put forward by AECOM involves up to 45 million square feet of development and a three-stop subway spur from the 1 train in Lower Manhattan that would connect this part of Brooklyn to Manhattan on one side and the F, G and R trains at 4th Ave. and 9th Street on the other. With the BQX, much closer to reality than this subway extension (though both are still just lines on pieces of paper and likely to remain that way), Red Hook is once again in the crosshairs of developers and urban planners looking to make something out of an area that often just wants to be left alone.

The AECOM report landed with an exclamation point earlier this week. The 1 train to Red Hook! A tunnel under the harbor! Three new subway stations! All of this could be yours for the low, low price of $3.5 billion! Act now before prices increase!

Red Hook's subway extension could involve a spur off the 1 train with a connection to the BMT's 4th Avenue line. (AECOM)

Red Hook’s subway extension could involve a spur off the 1 train with a connection to the BMT’s 4th Avenue line. (AECOM)

If it seems too good to be true, that’s because it likely is. The subway proposal is just one part of a larger discussion that AECOM SVP and former Port Authority head Chris Ward discussed at length in a forum at NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management. AECOM’s proposal includes a call for up to 45 million square feet of development and a massive re-imagining of Red Hook with floodwalls surrounding the area and high rises development near both the water and the new subway stops. The streetscape would change for the better, and the area under the BQE would be stitched into the community rather than serving as a dangerous six lane highway itself. It is, AECOM officials have stated, the company’s attempt to start a conversation on solving the city’s housing crisis by focusing on areas with untapped potential and room for growth.

According to AECOM’s report [pdf], the Red Hook extension of the West Side IRT would involve a spur from south of Rector St. under the harbor with stops at the Atlantic Basin and in the public housing complex before joining with the the F, G and R at 4th Ave. It could eventually include a stop on Governor’s Island as well that could open the park year round or provide access to a new area on the island for a campus-like development. The subway would usher in Red Hook’s development, and the development would pay for the subway. “New subway infrastructure could be partially supported and paid back by revenue generated under this scenario, but will require
additional tax measures or other sources of funding avenues to fully pay for support the new subway line,” the report says. “The 35M development scenario would potentially provide less investment capital for new subway infrastructure as compared to the 45M scenario.”

AECOM believes this subway extension would cost only $3.5 billion, and development financing could cover around 40% of that price tag. As Chris Ward repeated stated the AECOM plan was to be the start of a conversation and not a heavy-handed top-down approach to building up Red Hook, I’m not sure where to begin or how seriously to take any of this. An Outer Borough subway extension through a sparsely populated area should be cheaper than building in Manhattan, but this IRT extension — called the 1 train — in renderings would require reconstruction and a new terminal station on the Manhattan side, a tunnel under the harbor, flood-proof stations underneath low-lying Red Hook, a tunnel that snakes below the BQE and underneath the Gowanus Canal and a new terminal at 4th Ave. parallel to and underneath the BMT 4th Ave. tracks. How this happens for just $3.5 billion, let alone when, is anyone’s guess. Based on the MTA’s current priorities and the city’s transit needs for current development, it could be decades before Red Hook gets the subway it so badly needs, 9 train or otherwise.

On another level though, this AECOM thing — report, plan, conversation piece — lays bare an issue with planning-by-development. Already Red Hook residents, activists, NIMBYs and YIMBYs are upset with this plan because it came out of the blue. They want to be a part of a conversation about Red Hook, and even if Ward insisted this was to be the start of a conversation, a 61-page pamphlet with fancy renderings and calls for 45 million square feet of growth hardly feel like the start of an open process. So does Red Hook get its subway or is this just a blip — the next chapter in Joe Raskin’s book on planned subway lines that never went anywhere? It seems like the latter to me, but at least we’re all talking about it.



Categories : Brooklyn

67 Responses to “In re-imagined Brooklyn, AECOM wants to bring the 1 train to Red Hook”

  1. Spuds says:

    Hey, if Cuomo can build the new TZ Bridge for 4.5 Billion (approximately ) and still have no idea where 2/3 of the money will come from? Then why not? Of course Andy will checking under every couch cushion for some spare change in the meantime.

  2. Adirondacker12800 says:

    provide access to a new area on the island for a campus-like development.

    The bridge to Brooklyn would cost too much. There has to be bridge to Brooklyn before you can build the campus-like whatever. To cart the construction materials and construction workers in. When it’s complete to get the fire trucks and ambulances on and off the island. And the garbage trucks. And the ones delivering food to the supermarket. FedEx and UPS and USPS. ConEd.

    • eo says:

      While a bridge is not a necessary condition, you are absolutely correct that it is a highly desirable one. Martha’s Vineyard does not have a bridge, but the island is much bigger and has its own firetrucks and ambulances. You could ferry the construction materials and the workers as well as all deliveries once a day. Medical emergencies could be by helicopter. It could all be done without a bridge, but the cost might be too high.

    • JEG says:

      While increased development would increase the likelihood of fire or medical emergencies, there is already that risk today, so that does not seem to be a persuasive argument.

  3. Elvis Delgado says:

    If you’re looking for a line in Lower Manhattan that’s suitable for a “tie-in” to a Red Hook line, then the unused Nassau Street tracks south of Broad Street strike me as more suitable then what’s being proposed here.

    They’re out of use, and therefore accessible for construction, between the Broad Street station and the junction with the Montague Street tunnel; whereas access to the working line between Rector Street and South Ferry is something of an issue.

    Besides, it doesn’t create a difficult-to-operate little stub of a line (proposed junction to South Ferry) that’s likely to create problems for everyone.

    • Funk says:

      Came here to say the same thing. The Montague St tunnel is criminally underused and the J train terminates in such an odd location. Feels like a perfect combination to me. Don’t know how it’d work logistically once you get into Brooklyn, but at least you arent worrying about builidng a brand new tunnel for a three entire new stops.

    • Berk32 says:

      Looks like they intend on using the “old” South Ferry loop station tracks (once the “new” station tracks reopen next summer) – so they’d be working off a set of tracks that wouldn’t be in use anymore.

      I figure nobody wants to extend the Nassau Street tracks because service doesn’t go to Midtown (which is why they don’t even have any service to Brooklyn in the Montague Tunnel anymore)

      • Chris says:

        Yeah, but the 1 goes up the West side, which has less jobs than the east side, so a bunch of people would have to transfer anyway, on the already overloaded cross-Midtown lines.

        Nassau at least allows Fulton transfers and choosing between Lex/7th/8th.

    • Marc Shepherd says:

      Building a subway line is a 100-year decision. The fact that the lower Nassau Street tracks are currently unused, is not the foundation for such a decision. Indeed, their lack of use provides a strong hint as to why they were not recommended for this project: the route is not that useful to commuters.

      About 95% of proposed subway extensions do not get built, so this one probably won’t get built either. I reserve judgment on what option makes the most sense, from an engineering an operations perspective, something that amateurs are seldom in a position to assess. But if it ever gets built, I am pretty sure what won’t be seriously considered, and that’s the Nassau Street tracks.

      • Funk says:

        If you could extend the J train for $1 billion vs. build a new tunnel for the 1 for $3.5 billion, why do you not think that wouldn’t be seriously considered? They do have jobs in lower Manhattan too. You need to get to midtown you can transfer at the $4 billion Fulton St. station.

        The number I threw out is just a guess because I imagine most of the cost would go to a new underwater tunnel and not digging through Red Hook. This city needs more subway service in areas that don’t have them and if you can come up with cheaper ways to do that than why not.

        PS If we are talking about planning forn 100 years from now then Red Hook needs to worry about staying above water before they can hope to get a subway line.

      • Michael549 says:

        It is not that the “The fact that the lower Nassau Street tracks are currently unused,. . . ”

        South of the Broad Street station the two-tracks of the J-train Nassau Street line fan out to four tracks. The two center tracks are used every day 24/7/365 to return J-trains back to Brooklyn and Queens.

        The two outer tracks connect to the Montague Street Tunnel of the R-train allowing past versions of the Brown-R, Brown-M, Blue-M, and Grey-QJ trains to travel between southern Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn. These tracks were damaged during Hurricane Sandy and will be slowly repaired over time.

        Engineering wise it is simply easier to connect these two center tracks to an underwater tunnel to Brooklyn, as compared to the proposal for the #1 train.

        On one level it is simply a matter of political will-power and funding.

        Mike

  4. Peter says:

    If we’re going to do a cross-harbor tunnel, a connection to Staten Island unlocks a hell of a lot more development potential than Red Hook. But in defense of AECOM’s plan, it would make that schlep home from Ikea a cinch!!

    • Alex says:

      Maybe, but a tunnel to Staten Island would be at least 5x longer and vastly more expensive to build.

    • Charley S says:

      Couldn’t agree more. A cross harbor tunnel to Staten Island to connect with the existing SIR alignment, while significantly more expensive, would see a significantly higher return on investment, and would finally connect State Island to the rest of the city in a meaningful way. It’s the second largest borough by land area and there is immense potential. You could extend the 1, E (if possible given all the infrastructure), 6 and/or J trains from their current termini in Lower Manhattan. Extending the 1 seems feasible, however I wonder how feasible it would be to extend the 6 from Brooklyn Bridge. With 4 tubes (two tunnels for each line) , with an intermodal stop on Governors Island.

      If you staged the construction from Governors Island and launched the TBMs from there, it would minimize the impact. Then St. George would become a major transfer station (ideally the 1 or E with the 6), giving Staten Island commuters the flexibility to transfer there if needed depending on if they need to head up the East or West Side. One line follows the existing SIR alignment, the other uses the West Shore ROW.

      Governors Island is owned by the City – once built, that land will be worth a fortune and can be sold to developers to help pay for this project.

      • Chris says:

        When the city bought Governers Island, one of the conditions was that housing couldn’t be built on it.

        • Nyland8 says:

          The condition was that housing wouldn’t be built on what was already existing. The forward thinking thing to do is to take all of the spoils from the two TBMs and deposit them at the southwest end of Governors Island, effectively doubling the size of the cone. (The entire southern part of the island is already landfill. Only the round northern portion is original) Then sell luxury development rights on the new landfill to help pay for the project.

          Billionaires can keep their yachts at the marina right below their condos, and be one train stop from the financial district. Limit the building elevations to 11 stories – the same height of the structures that were recently torn down from there.

          And the right train for the job is not the 1 Line, it’s the T Line. One TBM goes north to Hanover – and then continues right up Phase 4 of the 2nd Ave Saga – and the other crosses the Buttermilk Channel over to Red Hook. Where it goes from there … (an elevated train down 2nd Ave in Brooklyn, all the way to Owls Head and across to St. George!) could be anybody’s guess.

          A symbiotic public/private joint venture project that gets the job done.

          Governors Island becomes a four season park with subway access, the wealthy get their new luxurious neighborhood in the harbor, and we get the mass transit we’ve been saying we need for the past 80 years.

          Win-win-win. Easy peasy.

    • hU0N says:

      True. Though you’d probably want specially customised cars to run the 9 train that had some seats replaced with luggage racks for flatpack Billy’s.

    • AG says:

      I was just thinking the same thing… There is big old Staten Island sitting out there across the harbor from Brooklyn – which was supposed to get a subway connection 90 years ago… But just like the BQX – this is about real estate. Red Hook is supposed to be “hot” so they are hoping to bank on that to get support.

  5. ben guthrie says:

    Why not extend the 2nd Ave subway instead of terminating at Hanover Sq? I think it will still be pretty deep at that point an should be able to continue under the existing tunnels

    • Marc Shepherd says:

      That is not a bad idea. I suspect it wasn’t considered because it requires SAS Phases 3/4 to be built, for which not a dime of funding has been identified. AECOM’s idea is probably a pipe dream, but if it happens at all, they don’t want to be dependent on a project that could be 20+ years away.

      • Alistair says:

        When I was playing with Brand New Subway the other day, I extended SAS to Red Hook and on to 36th St, taking over the D to Coney Island. That in turn allowed me to run the D further down the express tracks and make a right to Staten Island. An SAS/Red Hook/Staten Island package might make a lot of sense politically. (In fact, if you ran two services through the new SI tunnel and sent one via Red Hook to Whitehall Street and on to SAS, and the other express up Sixth Avenue to Midtown, you could probably eliminate the ferry entirely.)

  6. Brian says:

    Wow, this is pretty brazen. AECOM acquires URS, then Tishman, and now we have a vertically-integrated, near-monopoly planning, engineering and construction company, tied to a property developer, pretending it’s totally acceptable to ask the public to pony up 60 percent of the capital costs and 100 percent of the operating costs for a subway spur. Although it would be hard for them to sweep the table, AECOM could profit from any stage in this massive project, from planning to design/engineering to construction management of the subway, and they could have a similar role in other infrastructure like the necessary sea wall, AND they’ll take a healthy share of the profits from the land development. Their PR machine is pretty incredible. Well played. de Blasio’s reaction to this sham will be very telling. If the subway spur + development is Red Hook is such a slam dunk, AECOM/Tishman and other Red Hook landowners should be willing to put up 100% of the capital and 100% of the operating subsidy, using the incremental increase in land values (and associated rents) to pay for it all. Then the MTA and City can step out of the way and let them build, operate, and maintain it all themselves.

  7. Alon Levy says:

    Why on Earth would they branch it off the 1, instead of building an extension? It’d halve the frequency of service in the expensive underwater infrastructure, and complicate operations.

    Meanwhile, projects that are not development-oriented, like Utica, Nostrand, future SAS phases, and Triboro aren’t going anywhere. Good job, AECOM. We’re all proud.

    • Rich B says:

      I assume they can’t extend from South Ferry because it’s too close to the water and too close to the surface. Any station near an under-harbour tunnel needs to be quite deep. So in this case they have to go back further along the 1 track to find a place they can start the ramp down to the river tunnel.

      • Alon Levy says:

        They can close down South Ferry (or reduce it to emergency use) and open a new station with platforms deep enough to clear the water.

      • John-2 says:

        The new South Ferry station is below the R tracks for the Montague Tunnel, so it’s deep enough to go to Brooklyn. The problem for Red Hook is it’s pointed 90 degrees in the wrong direction — the line would have to turn, pass back under the Montague tunnel and then under the Jorelamon Street tunnel for the 4/5 trains, and then — depending on where it’s pointed to on the Brooklyn side — under the two tubes of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel.

        Logistically, it’s easier to cross the vehicular tubes around Battery Place, when they’re close to the surface. But the project also doesn’t deal with the question of what Staten Island residents are going to say about losing 50 percent of their 1 train service. They’re probably better off waiting for Phase V of the Second Avenue Subway in some upcoming century.

    • AG says:

      Or the 3 from Harlem up to the West Bronx – or the A from Inwood cutting across the Bronx… But Red Hook is “hot” so it gets the attention.

      • Alon Levy says:

        The 3 from Harlem might be useful, although I’m annoyed at the idea of building an underwater tunnel for a branch. The A from Inwood is a bad idea; Fordham is a great light rail corridor, but a bad subway corridor (see some explanation here).

        • Bolwerk says:

          Bleh, given the size and location of that extension, even with the development proposed, methinks that’d be lucky to get enough usage to justify a ? capacity branch. It extends to two mostly west side subway lines (the R and F) the 1 already competes with. Maybe it would have the unintended consequence of making the F and R more crowded going into Manhattan, since the 1 is further west in Manhattan.

          (That anchor is missing a link.)

        • Adirondacker12800 says:

          You’ve never been on Fordham Road at rush hour, have you? Building a tunnel for subway cars doesn’t cost much more than building a tunnel for trolley cars.
          If half the Second Avenue trains are going to Broadway and 125th the other half can go up Third Ave. The Concourse local or the Concourse express can use the other half of the capacity across Fordham Road and Pelham Parkway to Co-op City. An East Side line and a West Side line.

  8. A.G. says:

    Question for those who are against the plan on the politics, and not necessarily the technical merits. If AECOM offered to pay 100%, including cost overruns, in exchange for the right to develop the land, and included 30% low income housing and an additional 30% middle income housing across the site, would that make it palpable? Let’s even go as far as saying each of those 30% numbers need to be at least 75k units. I’m not claiming they could make it profitable, but it is possible.

    It would go as far as not even moving the funds through the city budget; AECOM would finance the construction on their own, with the city and state just stamping their construction permits.

    • Brian says:

      Yes, your idea would be phenomenal (with the caveat that AECOM+development partners would also need to assume operating costs and associated risks for 30-50 years after opening). It would be a revolution in joint development of transit and housing in NYC and the U.S., moving us closer to successful models in other “world-class” cities.

      But your scenario is not close to what AECOM has proposed.

      • Eric says:

        Operating costs would be minimal. NYC subway farebox recovery is 78% for the whole system, last I checked. A short inner-city extension would have high ridership and thus higher farebox recovery than average. It might even be profitable to run.

        • Bolwerk says:

          Minimal? Paying off the loans is an operating cost. I’d conservatively put that at over $200M/year given 5% interest on a $3.5 billion loan for the subway expansion.

          To put that in perspective, all subway fare revenue in 2014 was $3,171,793,085 (source). Might be doable but it’s hardly trivial.

          • Eric says:

            No, paying off the loans is a deferred capital cost. Otherwise, there is no such thing as a capital cost.

            • Bolwerk says:

              Well, there isn’t, or at least not in the same sense. “Capital cost” is more like the pricetag of what you buy that is used for multiple years, while paying for it still must come from an operating budget (or a future one).

              In this case, it’s a clear annual obligation and must be paid up when loan payments are due (probably semiannually?). Even if you don’t want to call that part of the operating budget, it’s still a kind of bizarre thing to downplay.

    • Eric says:

      “If AECOM offered to pay 100%, including cost overruns, in exchange for the right to develop the land”

      This should be required

      ” included 30% low income housing and an additional 30% middle income housing across the site”

      This should not be required. As it is, the increased quantity of housing will lower rents somewhat, while raising city tax revenues. If 60% of units are at submarket rates, the development will be much less profitable, and probably never get off the ground.

  9. Matthew says:

    I would assume that they are planning on reusing the fill from the excavated tunnels to build the new seawalls around Redhook instead of trying to barge in material from elsewhere while also shipping out all of the bedrock and fill from the tunnels. If that is the case, then it would make sense to link the subway project with the seawall project.

  10. Berk32 says:

    Why not add a stop at Governor’s Island if the tunnel will pass right under it? There was a plan for that a few years back.

  11. JEG says:

    “Already Red Hook residents, activists, NIMBYs and YIMBYs are upset with this plan because it came out of the blue. They want to be a part of a conversation about Red Hook, and even if Ward insisted this was to be the start of a conversation, a 61-page pamphlet with fancy renderings and calls for 45 million square feet of growth hardly feel like the start of an open process.”

    What exactly would a realistic, viable process look like? While vocal neighborhood residents purport to speak for “their” neighborhood, what process can really be said to comprehend the all the various constituencies in a fair manner? The idea that any “bottom up” approach would ever happen is far-fetched.

    In any event, New York City needs to build in excess of 75,000 new units of housing every year to keep up with rising populations. That fact doesn’t get a lot of play on a transit blog, but that what it is going to take to house everyone, and the city continues to miss that target by a wide margin. That requires new development in every neighborhood, including Red Hook, and someone needs to think big about development projects.

    • With regards to the need to build 75,000 units every year, there’s a huge transit component to that which de Blasio’s housing plan doesn’t capture. He thinks making East New York subway stations cleaner will solve the transportation crunch that comes with introducing more units to the area or that Coney Island is a viable place for affordable housing despite being relatively inaccessible to major job centers. At least AECOM is thinking holistically about how housing + affordability + transit access tie in together in NYC.

  12. Alex M says:

    You have a better chance of extending Phase 4 of the Second Ave line to Red Hook. Then this crap. Atleast you’ll actually have the capasity for trains (the 7th ave line is 100 yrs old and at capastiy. Do your transit research beofre you come up with ideas.

  13. tacony says:

    There is already a tunnel between Red Hook and Lower Manhattan. It is the least used of the vehicular bridges and tunnels to and from Manhattan. While the MTA runs some express buses through the tunnel from neighborhoods past Red Hook, none of them even make stops near Red Hook.

    If there is really so much unmet transit demand between Red Hook and Lower Manhattan, why not just run a local bus through the tunnel? Much like the BQX, people seem to be drawing fantasy routes on the map without much thought to what’s already there and why. The Battery Tunnel didn’t open until 1950 so I presume it simply never had transit in it and few thought of whether it should, unlike say the Queensboro Bridge, which has bus routes running where trolleys did since it was built. A local Red Hook to Fulton Street bus with decent frequencies seems like a reasonable request for the MTA to explore to improve transit access.

    Red Hook is inherently geographically isolated and thus not a slam dunk contender for subway expansion. Hip gentrifiers be damned, they don’t deserve a subway extension more than the thousands of people on Utica Ave who pack onto crowded buses every day. And why, post-Sandy, are we still obsessed with building high rises on the waterfront? Most of NYC is not waterfront. Most people live further inland. Why not build more high rises there? ‘Cause water looks pretty? C’mon.

    • AG says:

      I agree with everything you said with one caveat… Building modern structures above the flood plain actually helps with storms and sea level rise (new developments in Queens were proof during Sandy). But yeah – overall this is a plan that should be WAY DOWN the list of transit expansion.

    • Eric says:

      Any subway extension that is privately funded should be built. Including this one, if 100% of construction is privately funded.

  14. Eric Brasure says:

    Red Hook will be completely under water in a hundred years. I’d rather see transit construction money used to extend subway service to parts of the city that will not be underwater in a hundred years.

    • AG says:

      Actually that’s the only part of the plan that has merit. Batter Park City didn’t suffer like the rest of Manhattan because it was built for such contingencies. That’s there argument as to why there needs to be a “Batter Park City” off of Red Hook.

    • Bolwerk says:

      Concur with AG. Waterfront developments can be designed as barriers, and we can probably even expect that will be necessary this century.

  15. Eric F says:

    Does that map actually show a subway making a 90 degree turn? If the train is really going to literally defy the laws of physics, then it’s worth every penny. They need to have their maps be at least cursorily reviewed by an engineer.

    • Bolwerk says:

      Since I’m thinking the developer would have roughly a blank slate to build the subway line, why build so many sharp turns into it anyway? Especially since we have the advantage of pretty much needing to deep bore here.

    • AMH says:

      The subway already makes plenty of 90-degree turns. There is no law of physics preventing this. Still, the proposed route appears to maximize the length and circuity of the route while minimizing capacity.

  16. kclo3 says:

    The easiest way to extend the subway to Red Hook without modifying any current operations is to extend from former Court St station (Transit Museum) elevated over the BQE to Dwight St, and run a Red Hook–Hoyt-Schermerhorn shuttle. It utilizes dormant infrastructure and allows for better station placement through Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens, although I’m not sure how much residents would tolerate a minimum 2-seat ride to Manhattan.

  17. Manuel says:

    So the SAS cost about 4 billion and this would cost $3.5 billion can someone explain to why this one would be cheaper ?

  18. Frank B says:

    If they build this, then I’ll be definitely be there to cut the ribbon on opening day… With Elvis, The Lindbergh Baby, and Amelia Earhart.

  19. paulb says:

    I think Ward proposed this because re-development meets such angry local opposition in other parts of the city, plus, haven’t politicians like BdB pledged to protect the existing “character” of so many neighborhoods? There’s no point building an expensive subway line out to somewhere where opposition or protective zoning restrict new construction. Red Hook, with flood protection, has plenty of space for big new apartment buildings, and probably less NIMBY stuff. If a lower Manhattan SAS were anywhere in sight, sure it would make more sense to run a Red Hook spur from it.

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