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Thread: New York Subway and Bus System

  1. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by TalB View Post



    Posted: 4:07 am
    August 3, 2008

    The head of New York City Transit acknowledges that less than a quarter of the Big Apple's subway stations are in acceptable condition - and says the agency is an "unbelievably long distance" from bringing the rest up to par, even with higher fares.

    "There's not anything out there that anybody is very proud of," NYC Transit President Howard Roberts Jr. told The Post in a wide-ranging interview about the fundamental problems plaguing the city's 468 subway stations as the agency slashes its budget and talks about raising fares twice more in the coming three years.

    A Post survey of dozens of stations found a decrepit, aging system fraught with overcrowded trains, crumbling platforms and stations, unfinished repair work, serious rat and cockroach infestations, mystery ooze dripping from ceilings and termite-eaten signs.

    Riders also related stories of a gross lack of communication as well as frequent misinformation within the system.

    Roberts' response: It's extremely bad, and it isn't going to get better any time soon.

    Roberts said the number of stations in good condition could be "as low as 100," far fewer than his agency's capital plan suggests.

    With the MTA reporting a steep decline in revenue, especially at bridges and tunnels, straphangers won't see any improvements. The two proposed fare hikes, Roberts said, would "only maintain the status quo."

    "For years, they slashed station cleaning, and they slashed station maintenance," Roberts said of his predecessors at NYC Transit, who he said were forced into the cuts.

    "It created issues."

    He said he has hired an extra 260 cleaners for successful pilot programs on the L and 7 lines.

    But even with the added employees and $118 million invested in cleaning stations, one cleaner is left to patrol five stations on average, Roberts said.

    To "move stations to a state of daily maintenance worthy of our riders," Roberts said, NYC Transit determined it would need 815 more $40,000-a-year cleaners. It also needs more than the 737 maintenance workers it employs.

    Meanwhile, budget woes forced the MTA to bump $2.7 billion worth of capital improvements, including several station-rehabilitation projects. And now platforms are inspected for disrepair every 72 hours instead of every other day, as they were a few years ago.

    "We're not doing as many rehabs, and we have very limited capacity to maintain and clean the stations we do have," he said. "We really do not have the funding to do a first-class job."

    MTA advisory-board member Andrew Albert's Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee will release a report next week on the cleanliness of 50 randomly surveyed stations - the worst being the Bay 90th Street stop on the A line in Queens.

    "You really can't blame riders for being upset," Albert said.

    "When something looks decrepit, it looks like management doesn't care about their riders."

    Additional reporting by Jordan Edwards

    Those are some very deplorable conditions there that need immediate rectifying & fixing!!

  3. #22
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    MTA big vows 'elegant' hub at new Fulton Transit Center
    MTA big vows 'elegant' hub at new Fulton Transit Center


    Sunday, August 3rd 2008, 5:10 PM

    The MTA's new construction chief is committed to building a glass-walled Fulton Transit Center in lower Manhattan that maintains many "elegant" characteristics of earlier plans.

    "We are going to make sure the project is delivered," Capital Construction Co. President Michael Horodniceanu told the Daily News. "It will be aboveground. It will be transparent. The same elegant look will exist."

    The Metropolitan Transportation Authority startled business leaders and elected officials earlier this year by saying it couldn't afford the glass-domed entrance building that was to rise above the subway complex at Broadway and Fulton St. because of soaring construction costs.

    A new completion date hasn't been set for the hub project that emerged in the post-9/11 revitalization of lower Manhattan.

    Horodniceanu, who last week took the post vacated by Mysore Nagaraja, suggested the dome itself may not make the cut. But the final version will feature skylights allowing light to filter down to the main mezzanine, he said. He also wants to increase the amount of retail space, previously set at 24,500 square feet.

    "This is, after all, one of the most important things that we've done from a transportation point of view, from a hub point of view, in many years," he said.

    That's encouraging to Elizabeth Berger, head of the Downtown Alliance for New York. "What is really important is we get on with it and the MTA builds what they said they would build - an above-grade, iconic transportation center with retail - and that they build it now," she said.

    The Transit Center's budget is set at $1.2 billion. The MTA has about $900 million for it, mostly in federal funds. Horodniceanu said he's looking to make cost-cutting design changes, but that won't fill the gap, officials concede.

    The MTA has indicated there is still much uncertainty.

    "We ...are working with our funding partners to identify sufficient funding for an aboveground structure that would satisfy the commitments made to the community," an MTA statement said.

  4. #23
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    M.T.A. Rolls Out Escalators With Conservation Features

    Published: August 5, 2008

    The 169 escalators throughout New York City’s subway system are not known for running smoothly — each averaged 68 breakdowns or repair calls last year — and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority now says it has a partial solution.

    Starting on Monday, 35 recently installed escalators at four stations will start operating at variable speeds as part of a pilot program. The escalators, which use infrared motion sensors, will slow to just 15 feet per minute when no one is on them, compared with the normal full speed of 100 feet per minute. The escalators will gradually accelerate to the full speed, over a few seconds, once a rider steps on.

    “Like humans, machines benefit from a little rest from time to time, and the escalators that provide service to subway customers are no exception,” said Paul J. Fleuranges, a spokesman for New York City Transit, the arm of the authority that runs the subways and buses.

    By replacing old escalators with new ones that use a variable-frequency drive and numerous sensors, positioned near the escalators, officials hope to save on energy costs, and, just as important, reduce the wear and tear on the many mechanical parts in the heavily used machines.

    “It’s not an idea we invented,” Thomas Kenny, principal mechanical engineer in the department of capital program management at New York City Transit, said in a phone interview. “We call it sleep mode. Others call it intermittent operation. It’s been used widely across the world, particularly in Europe and Asia.”

    Airports in Canada, Germany and Israel also use variable-speed escalators, officials said.

    But such escalators are rarely used in the United States, and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, which sets code standards for escalators, has not approved the devices yet. So New York City Transit sought and obtained permission from the code enforcement division at the New York State Departmenton Authority install the new escalators, and also subjected the escalators to rigorous tests in its internal system safety division, Mr. Kenny said.

    The 35 escalators that are part of the experiment include 12 escalators at the 34th Street-Herald Square station on the B, D, F, V, N, R, Q and W lines in Manhattan; 8 escalators (4 of which have been installed) at the Roosevelt Island station on the F line; 5 escalators (2 of which have been installed) at the Jamaica-Van Wyck station on the E line in Queens; and 10 escalators (6 of which have been installed) at the Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer terminus on the E line in Queens.

    By not running the escalators at a high constant speed, the authority estimates it will save at least $1,800 per escalator each year.

    “These escalators are a very visible example of our commitment to contributing to a greener, more sustainable environment,” said Howard H. Roberts Jr., the president of New York City Transit. “While at rest, these green escalators consume less energy, and are therefore more cost-effective.”

    The officials also hope that the reduced wear and tear could extend the useful life of certain escalator components by 11 to 33 percent.

    To explain how the new escalators work, officials are placing posters and brochures at the four subway stations.

    If the escalators work as intended, the variable-mode option will be used on more escalators at several more stations in the coming months, including the Bleecker Street station on the No. 6 line and the South Ferry terminus on the No. 1 line, both in Manhattan.

    The subway system’s 169 escalators are never all replaced at once, and the life cycle of an escalator can be as long as 35 years, so it will be years before all the escalators in the system operate at variable speeds, officials said.

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  6. #25
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    The Curious World of the Last Stop

    Published: August 22, 2008

    Richard Perry/The New York Times

    Outside the end of the L train in Canarsie, Brooklyn.

    At the end of the line, the subway creaks to a stop a few yards short of the yellow crash bumper. A few stragglers, or a lurch of homebound commuters, head for the street.

    Train cleaners wielding worn-sided corn brooms and generic spray bottles marked “lemon” or “Windex” amble onto the cars, rousting any sleepers and drunks unmoved by the conductor’s voice grating through speakers:

    “This is the last stop on this train.”

    Beyond the station gates, a priest dreams of a vineyard. A car bursts into flame. An ancient sign in a boarded-up window opposite the platform reads “Wrestling Weight.” A stuffed bear mans a betting window in a struggling OTB parlor. The dead lie in rows uncounted, and the living mourn and wait and work and love and strum guitars on the front stoop, annoying the neighbors.

    There are 24 stops on the New York City subway system past which you can ride no farther. For those who get off somewhere else — almost everyone — the end is just a sign on the train. New Lots: wonder what that’s like. Dyre Avenue? Sounds kind of grim. Middle Village — what is that, a jousting park? As it turns out, the end of the line, like most ends, is a place of abiding mystery.

    At the city’s often-threadbare fringes, there is an inescapable sense of lonesomeness. There might be a Last Stop Deli, a forlorn bar, a maintenance yard populated mostly by rows of empty trains. There is, surprisingly often, a cemetery.

    Yet to visit all the system’s extremities is to see that the last stop is not a single, monolithic place. There are subway lines that end, logically, where the city runs out of land; lines that end, anticlimactically, where builders ran out of money; even a few that fetch up in bustling downtowns of one sort or another. From the marshy lowlands of Tottenville to the lush hills of Riverdale to the ceaseless clangor of Flushing, the end of the line manages to take in the entire breadth of the city beyond Midtown Manhattan.

    No. 4 to Woodlawn; M to Middle Village

    For this survey, every last stop was visited, though not all those visits will be included here. Nor will the last stops on lines like the C and the G, whose endpoints occur along other lines.

    What better place to begin the tour than at the end of life itself?

    At the turn of the 20th century, Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx was doing fine, really, as a resting place of the wealthy and powerful. But the cemetery fathers smelled action when they heard that the Jerome Avenue subway line might be extended.

    “From the earliest point in 1910,” says Susan Olsen, the cemetery’s historian, “our board of trustees are recording in their minutes about their activities with the folks who are building the subway: ‘We want that last stop here; we want people to be able to go.’ ”

    Woodlawn was linked to the rest of the city on what is now the No. 4 line in 1916, and business exploded. A sales office opened at the south end of the cemetery to greet the subway traffic. “We’d meet with you here,” Ms. Olsen says at an old wood table beneath the gaze of cemetery presidents in musty gilt-framed portraits. Woodlawn became the cemetery of the Harlem Renaissance, permanent home to Duke Ellington and W. C. Handy, father of the blues.

    Woodlawn was hardly the first cemetery to recognize the benefits of mass transit. In the pre-subway era there were a Calvary Cemetery line, a Holy Cross Cemetery line and a Green-Wood Cemetery line. In Middle Village, Queens, at the end of the former Lutheran Cemetery line, now known as the M, stands the Lutheran All Faiths Cemetery.

    “We still trust God at All Faiths,” a sign there says. Another sign notes that the State Division of Cemeteries has pronounced All Faiths “exceptionally well-operated and maintained.” A robin perches proudly atop it.

    A few quiet blocks away, the bad boys of Middle Village assemble on Bartholomew Sciacca’s stoop. Mr. Sciacca, 25, a deliveryman for the health department, picks out chords on an acoustic guitar. His friend Jordan Carfagno, 23, Newport tucked behind ear, fiddles with a lighter. Their band is called Starting Last. Their nemesis is the old lady across the street. She is, they say, driven mad by the guitar’s unamplified tinkle.

    “She doesn’t really say anything to us,” Mr. Sciacca says. “She just calls the police.”

    “That’s Middle Village,” Mr. Carfagno says. “People try to be nice.”

    N and W to Ditmars Blvd.

    Where the N and W lines end at Ditmars Boulevard in Astoria, Queens, there is a doorway near the turnstiles marked “Station Plaza.” It is often guarded by a man in black pants and a black dress shirt held together with a bobby pin; he has blackened fingernails, which he waves in front of his face while humming continuously.

    Beyond the doorway, a labyrinth of dim halls lined with businesses: electrolysist, lawyer, chiropractor, Internet cafe, cigar store. In “Serpico,” Al Pacino’s character chases a crook from the subway through Station Plaza, out a fire exit into a parking lot, only to be shot at by the cops. In real life, these days anyway, the main excitement in Station Plaza comes from Silver Age Comics, first store on your right.

    Even by the impressive standards of comic book stores, the staff of Silver Age, custodians of a collection of more than 200,000 magazines, are a rude bunch of geeks, resembling nothing so much as a pack of superannuated teenage dogs.

    Regular customers come in for a new dose of abuse. “Hey, Vic,” Gus Poulakas, the store owner, says to Victor Dong, a conductor on the N train fresh from his shift. “What would it take for you to leave off coming here?”

    “Probably the afterlife,” Mr. Dong says, not looking up from a bin filled with back issues of Hulk and Secret Invasion.

    Back in the station, the humming man, when approached, lowers his hands and introduces himself as Harold Happel, professional singer. He takes a step back and launches into “Band of Gold,” not the 1970 Motownish chestnut but a forgotten hit from 1955 that Mr. Happel renders as a sort of one-man doo-wop.

    “I’ve never wanted wealth untold,” he sings in a thin, haunted voice. “My life has one design, one design: a simple little band of gold, to prove that you are mine.”

    Mr. Happel excuses his hand-waving.

    “I have an affliction that causes me unbelievable discomfort,” he says. “We scratch all day and all night — we can scratch in rhythm. It takes us all day to do a song.”

    R to Bay Ridge

    Coming out of the R train at 95th Street, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, is big-sky country, a wholesome, 1950s-looking neighborhood that appears, if not frozen in amber, kept up — it worked, so they stuck with it. Down toward the water, town houses with tiny lawns face tidy John Paul Jones Park. Count the cannonballs — 48 — near a big black cannon aimed at Staten Island directly across New York Bay.

    Cross over the Belt Parkway into Shore Road Park, and you seem them in the water: four turtles, big as dinner plates, looking for a place to land. They are red-eared sliders, a freshwater species unequipped for the salty bay, doomed by what Allen Salzberg, conservation coordinator of the New York Turtle and Tortoise Society, called “a clash of the spiritual and the scientific.”

    Some dumped sliders are overgrown pets, Mr. Salzberg said, but most are placed in the water by Buddhists who buy and release them for karmic credit.

    “Most of the ones tossed into the surrounding waters of New York,” Mr. Salzberg wrote in an e-mail message, “wind up taken out to the ocean as the tide goes out to die a slow death.”

    No. 1 to South Ferry

    The day before July 4 is steamy and hot. Tourists pour out of the South Ferry station at the base of Manhattan, where the No. 1 line ends, and make a beeline for the Statue of Liberty boats. Nathaniel Rodriguez, sweating inside his patina-colored Statue of Liberty rubber mask, calls after them: “How you doing, guys? Picture with the Statue of Liberty? It’s free. Small donation.”

    Mr. Rodriguez drapes his flag around an elderly woman from Norway and beams into her daughter’s camera.

    “Yesterday I was chased out of Battery Park across the street by the Spanish guys,” Mr. Rodriguez tells a passer-by. A mostly unemployed cook, part-time church janitor and newcomer to the human-statue profession, Mr. Rodriguez complains that he was run off by the Colombian cartel of Statue of Liberty impersonators who have had a lock on the concession for years.

    In Battery Park, mere mention of the upstart Mr. Rodriguez brings Juan Carlos Arias, one of the Colombians, down off his stack of milk crates. “He’s no artist,” Mr. Arias thunders, ripping off his Statue of Liberty mask like a pro wrestler. “He’s a citizen!”

    (Mr. Rodriguez, 48, is indeed a native of Queens.) Mr. Arias points to his city permit, issued to the Human Statue of Liberty General and Artistic Production Corporation. The job, Mr. Arias said, is best done by immigrant artisans.

    “I’m protecting the mask, the Statue of Liberty!” Mr. Arias says.

    No. 7 to Flushing-Main Street;

    A to Rockaway Park

    Past Shea Stadium, across the broad Flushing River, the No. 7 train in Queens plunges into a tunnel and discharges its passengers in another country. Station announcements in Mandarin. Markets swarming with people. Mazes of food stalls in the basements of shopping arcades. Liang Pi Chinese Burger.

    On Main Street in Flushing, down the block from the station, Kate Qian holds a sign: “Quitting Communist Party Service Center.” The service is provided by the Falun Gong, the spiritual organization outlawed and persecuted in China.

    “We are helping some people realize that the Chinese Communist Party is the evilest,” Ms. Qian says, leading the way to a cramped office above a food court, where a worker shows off a notebook filled with signatures and tracking numbers the center has issued to those who have quit the party.

    With 57,000 passengers a day — an impossible-sounding one person every 1.5 seconds — Flushing Main Street is the busiest last stop in the system. The emptiest is Rockaway Park/Beach 116th Street on the A line in Queens, with only 850 passengers a day. It is not clear why this would be. Rockaway Park is a fairly lively neighborhood. But a lot of people there drive cars. And perhaps some never leave.

    Two blocks from the station, in Tribute Park, a plump, oracular-looking man in a tie-dyed tank top sits on a bench by the water, sipping an off-brand beer, smoking an off-brand cigarette.

    “Let me tell you something,” the man says. “You’re in a coma, you have dreams, one after the other. You don’t hear anything, you don’t see anything, but you think you’re walking around. I seen an orgy in an emergency room. On an airplane. And I had a 6-inch-tall woman sitting on a shelf, sitting there, singing rock n roll to keep me happy.”

    He sports silver mutton chops and dark shades. His tank top says “psychedelic beach club.” “They call me Elvis,” he says.

    Across from Elvis’s bench, a tiny duckling hops along the brick walkway inscribed with names of the 9/11 dead — Top Notch Dad Edwart T. Good. Al Shea, All American.

    Two Russian women scoop the duckling up in a pink shirt. “Little thing is shaking,” one woman says as they head back to the street.

    “Good thing they’re leaving,” Elvis says. “I gotta make wee-wee.” He steps through a gazebo and faces the bay.

    D, F, N and Q to Coney Island

    The glassy new Stillwell Avenue terminal for the D, F, N and Q lines at Coney Island in Brooklyn is said to evoke the Gare St.-Lazare in Paris. It cost $300 million, and according to New York City Transit officials, it is the largest subway station in the world. The old station was a gaping masterpiece of stalactited decrepitude that somehow seemed more fitting, nicely mirroring the seedy ambience of the Coney Island Boardwalk.

    Out on the Boardwalk, the barker at the Shoot the Freak paintball game lays it out in plain language: “We got a live human target. He’s a freak, he runs around and you shoot him, boom.”

    “I’ll show you some sharpshooting,” the shirtless guy in the F.D.N.Y. ballcap says. “I was in the Marines in Vietnam. I’ve just got to have a little of this first.” He opens a palm to reveal a hand-rolled cigarette.

    “Yeah, loosen up your muscles,” says the manager, Jason Neufeld.

    The freak himself, Eric Gonzalez, 18, who goes by Kaze, prefers to take his lumps straight. “Just keep a clear mind and it’ll get you through the day,” he says.

    Behind the subway terminal at the OTB parlor on Neptune Avenue, things are less festive. Shaky hands shove crumpled bills under the window in exchange for betting slips that wind up losers on the floor moments later. But not at Window 7, where an efficient-looking stuffed bear in a brown vest sits in the teller’s swivel chair. In a bid to stave off the closings that loom for many parlors, the branch manager, Michael Mellon, has pared staff to the bone.

    “I’m hoping in this day and age, the mom-and-pop OTBs that have the character of the neighborhood can survive,” Mr. Mellon says. “You have retired people spending time, people socializing. You wonder what these people would be doing if there wasn’t an OTB here.”

    F to Jamaica

    On the wall of the F station at 179th Street in Jamaica, Queens, spelled out in white and blue mosaic tile, is the legend “Monastery and Retreat House,” accompanied by an arrow pointing down Hillside Avenue.

    A block up the hill, there it sprawls, the 12-acre terra-cotta-roofed compound of the Passionist Monastery of the Immaculate Conception and Bishop Molloy Retreat House.

    The rector, the Rev. Peter Grace, explains that people come to the Roman Catholic monastery to confess things they dare not tell their parish priest. “You get some people who’re really on the edge,” Father Grace says. “You recommend counseling, and they go, ‘I’ve been to counseling.’ You say medication, ‘I’m already on medication.’ ” He adds, “We got a lot of priests who come here for confession.”

    Though this niche would seem to guarantee the monastery’s eternal solvency, Immaculate Conception is being squeezed as hard as the rest of the Catholic Church. Money is running out; the 30 brothers who live at the monastery are aging fast. The dormitory hallway, lined with walkers and wheelchairs, evokes a nursing home. Father Grace, a youthful 63, reveals his big idea.

    “What I need to do is see if we can grow a vineyard here,” he said. He’s thinking ecotourism. “It would bring in some money,” he says, and nods toward the Catholic high school for girls across the street. “Once a year we’ll get the virgins from Mary Louis to stomp the grapes.”

    Signs of the End

    Some last stops seem to specialize in curious signage. “De ‘BASE’ Beauty Salon,” a storefront next to a car service proclaims along Dyre Avenue in the Bronx, where the No. 5 line ends. At the No. 2 line’s terminus nearby, White Plains Road is a treasure trail leading from Bah General Merchandise to the shuttered headquarters of the A & M Pasta Laboratorio Corporation to a tan-brick factory marked “Space Age Plastics.”

    Two doors from the Anointed Endtime Outreach Tabernacle, a business called Rescue Heating announces itself in stick-on letters of the type often affixed to rural mailboxes. Its 70-ish proprietor, Malcolm Rothman, emerges into the rain to dispense some sound advice. “There are two paths in life, the good path and the bad path,” he says. “Try to stay on the good path.”

    At the end of the No. 3 line in New Lots, Brooklyn, the theme is gloves. On a sultry afternoon, a New York City Transit glove rests on the elevated tracks. Down below on Livonia Avenue, a black rubber glove, slightly dirt-encrusted, crouches defiantly in the middle of the sidewalk. A stippled yellow work glove grips the gate of the Elton Playground. A pair of medical rubber gloves, rolled up together, has been tossed atop the gate of the Saba Deli.

    Two blocks away, there is a crumbling cemetery. The headstones tell the story of Brooklyn’s streets and neighborhoods: Lydia Lott, Van Siclen, Eldert, Vanderveer, Rapelje, Cosine, Conover. Beside the graveyard, a sign on an old wooden church reads, “You are invited here. Pastor Rev. Awkward.”

    The Rev. D’Lafayette Awkward is not in, and declines to respond to phone messages.

    At the end of the line, explanations are seldom forthcoming.

    The McDonald’s parking lot across from the Wakefield Avenue-241st Street station on the No. 2 line in the Bronx, 6:30 on a Monday evening: Ocia Lewis stares forlornly at what was very recently his maroon 1991 Cadillac Sedan DeVille. It is a smoldering shell, tires melted, windows broken by firefighters in their zeal to extinguish the flames that devoured his car.

    “I just drove here — get a burger, go inside, come back out — and my car was on fire,” says Mr. Lewis, a roofer. Passing teenagers stop to pose for pictures by the wreckage. “This is weird,” Mr. Lewis says.

    As the Staten Island Railway nudges into the Tottenville station in the city’s southwest corner, the doors open onto a becalmed coastal scene: brackish water, pilings worn to ragged toothpicks. At the shoreline, sheets of seaweed lie flattened and dried against black rock like tissue clung to bone. A single tiny crab scuttles across a stone. A metal washer, so eaten away by rust and algae and the sea that it could be an ancient coin, bobbles in the tide.

    L to Canarsie

    In front of the Rockaway Parkway station building at the end of the L line in Canarsie, Brooklyn, a girl stands forlornly holding a bouquet of shiny birthday balloons.

    On the parkway itself, the signs are everywhere: Fixed Ends 2 Barbershop; Cake Enz West Indian Bakery. Up a cockeyed red-carpeted stairway from a going-out-of-business clothing store is the lair of Miss Rose, Spiritual Reader and Adviser.

    Miss Rose wears a green stone around her neck and a sorrowful expression. Wisps of oranged hair fall around her thin face as she sits at the table in the hallway outside her apartment.

    For $5, she agrees, reluctantly, to answer one question. The question is: What comes after the end?

    Miss Rose delivers a lengthy disquisition on life’s suffering, then circles back.

    “The question you asked, I don’t answer that here,” she says. “I’m moving to another place soon. I can answer it there. That reading costs $100.”

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