Salvucci Critique of Twining/Normandy Tower

From: Frederick Salvucci <[email protected]>
Date: February 25, 2015 at 5:37:16 AM GMT
To: Cambridge City Council
Subject: Twining zoning

     I urge that the Up Zoning Petition be rejected.

     The development is totally out of scale with the community fabric, and with the transportation infrastructure which exists in Central Square. In particular, the Red Line is operating beyond its practical capacity today, and the current plans for new Red Line vehicles only propose to REPLACE but NOT INCREASE the current capacity. Approvals already granted by the city of Cambridge for increased density in Kendall Square will add to the already severe overcrowding of the Red Line. The recent disastrous collapse of transit service during the blizzards gives a glimpse of the terrible conditions that occur when the capacity of the transit system is exceeded.

     The city of Cambridge has already permitted development far in excess of the capacity which is available on the MBTA and should focus on how to convince the Governor to prioritize enough added investment in transit to meet the excess demand already approved by the city.
     In addition, Central Square is a particularly bad location at which to add further demand in excess of the transit capacity. The width of Prospect street, and complexity of the street intersections at Central Square are not going to change in a manner to improve the safety and convenience for the existing pedestrian , bus, bicycle and auto use already overusing the infrastructure. There are no plans in place nor contemplated to increase capacity.
     Moreover, it must be recognized that there are no unique conditions that justify higher density at the proposed location than anywhere else in the Central Square area, so if this proposal is approved, EVERY OTHER LANDOWNER IN CENTRAL SQUARE WILL DEMAND "EQUAL TREATMENT" to still further overload the existing infrastructure.
     It is important to remember that the underlying soil in the area is Boston Blue Clay, notorious for its lack of stability to support high structures. To construct high structures in this location should not be considered without extensive study of the unusually bad soils, and the proximity of the Red Line tunnel and other infrastructure. The construction techniques likely to be required to safely construct high structures in this location are likely to cause severe noise and disruption for the logistical support of the techniques and the scale of operations required. By contrast, construction of low rise structures consistent with existing zoning would impose no such unusual requirements.
     Finally, the claim that this development should be improved in order to increase the number of affordable units of housing needs to be put into context. When the City Council approved the proposals by MIT to increase permitted density on its land, MIT promised to do a study of the graduate student housing needs which are a major contributing factor in causing the affordable housing crisis in Cambridge. The Clay commission recommended that MIT should construct 1000 units of on or near campus housing, (a number far lower than most of us believe is necessary), and that Kendall square is an ideal place to add such graduate student housing.

     Yet MIT is now proposing to use the land resources near Kendall for commercial office and laboratory buildings, eliminate the existing 200 units of married student housing, and eventually produce an undefined number of replacement units. The proposed new commercial office and labs will further drive up the demand for affordable housing, worsening the already severe shortage.

     The way for the city of Cambridge to reduce the affordable housing shortage is to insist that MIT deliver on the 1000 units of graduate student housing in Kendall in the immediate future. Recognizing that the total shortage of graduate student housing at MIT exceeds 5000 units, and that over 2000 are currently occupying affordable housing units in Cambridge, the 1000 units in Kendall Square should be just the beginning of what MIT owes its own students, and the Cambridge community.

     But the token number of "affordable" units being discussed in Central Square, as justifying the totally out of scale and massive addition of non affordable housing units is a distraction from the necessary strategy of forcing MIT to deliver 1000 units immediately in Kendall square, and at least 1000 more in the near term future.
Frederick Salvucci, transportation lecturer at MIT.

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Sad Story of Silver Maple Forest

Sad Story of Silver Maple Forest:

Despite protests, civil disobedience, and more than a thousand petition signatures, and an initial injunction, many of the tall trees of the Silver Maple Forest have been cut down. The 15 acre silver Maple Forest, sitting at the juncture of Cambridge, Belmont and Arlington is scheduled for clearance to make way for a development by the O’Neill Properties group of Pennsylvania. Multiple demonstrations were held over the past week, and over 13 people arrested.

On Monday morning, Oct. 20thscores of protesters lined up along Acorn Park Drive to oppose the clear cutting and removal of hundreds of silver maple trees. As Mike Connolly reported, the sounds of chainsaws and cracking, falling trees could be heard throughout the morning — along with determined chants from local advocates.

An initial injunction was granted raising the hopes of SMF supporters. However, Middlesex Superior Court Justice Rosslind Miller denied the request on Tuesday 21st, permitting the clearance to continue <>.

The effort to save the Silver Maple Forest represented multiple concerns – including maintaining green space and natural areas, protection of the Fresh Pond area from flooding, and preventing the worsening of the intense traffic congestion in the route 2 interchange area.

Our thanks to the many members of Cambridge Residence Alliance and Fresh Pond Residents Alliance who joined the Friends of the Alewife Reservation, along with Belmont and Arlington supporters, in the protests.

Proponents plan to continue their appeals through the courts – trees can grow back it the site is protected.  Hear an update on the continuing efforts at the upcoming Thursday October 30th meeting of Cambridge Residents Alliance.


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Working with New Allies to Protect our Communities

          Members and friends of the Cambridge Residents Alliance were active on many fronts over the last month, attempting to protect our community from over-development. In these efforts we have formed working alliances with newly involved neighbors in East Cambridge, Fresh Pond, and Harvard Square that will benefit all residents.

            Sullivan Courthouse and Jail; The former 280 foot tall Middlesex Courthouse and jail – one of the most poorly conceived and designed  buildings in Cambridge - is currently in the process of being sold by the State to the private developer Leggett-McCall . This firm plans to privatize the building for commercial tenants with ~2,000 new employees, and requiring ~1,000 parking places, most of which will be taken from existing city-owned lots. A large group of residents have organized themselves into the Neighborhood Association of East Cambridge and are calling for retaining the land for public use and benefit. They are requesting that the permits be denied and that the city assert its own sensible zoning and urban planning standards. The process with DCAM and the private developer as currently driven is a dead end. Read the Cambridge Day report .

       After meeting with the older East Cambridge Planning Team organization, the groups decided to join forces. This pressure has led to a delay of the hearing before the Planning Board. The proposed building would seriously overburden the streets and infrastructure in East Cambridge, increase the shadows, noise and light pollution, and generally undermine the adjoining residential neighborhoods. East Cambridge will already be forced to bear the sharply increased traffic burdens that will come from the many thousands of new employees working in the new buildings going up in Kendall Square. The transfer of scarce public property to commercial use is just the opposite of what the community needs. Thanks to Seth Teller, Bethany Stevens, Michael Hawley, Rhoda Fantasia, Peter Crawley, Ilan Levy  and their colleagues for taking the lead. Councilors Carlone, Mazen, McGovern and Toomey introduced a supportive policy order.

            The Foundry; This distinctive building on the corner of Binney and 3rd street was given to the City as part of the agreement to allow the construction of the enormous Alexandria biotech office complex. Members of the community have been fighting for years to have it turned into a public center for the arts. More recently they have been joined by the Young People’s Project advocating for community use as a STEAM learning center – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics- to help Cambridge youth take advantage of the opportunities of the innovation economy currently displacing residents, rather than employing them. The City Council devoted its entire meeting to the subject on  March 3rd and a City process has been set in motion to keep the building as a public resource for Cambridge. Thanks particularly to Ilan Levy for his tireless advocacy, and to Heather Hoffman, Mark Jaquith and their allies. Councilor Benzan has been a strong ally, with Mazen and Carlone.

            75 New Street: This is the short street that provides the major automotive entrance to Danehy Park fields, as well as the back entrance to the movie theatre and parking lot. The west end of the street intersects with the very difficult and dangerous Fresh Pond Parkway rotary at Sozio’s Appliances and Concord Ave. Developers are proposing building 93 units of market rate housing across from the park on the former J.C. Adams door and window site. Both local residents and park users expressed grave concern that New Street could not absorb the additional traffic that would be generated. They called for infrastructure improvements before any increased density along New Street. The critiques were sufficiently cogent that the Planning Board has delayed granting the special  permit until more information is provided. Local residents, encouraged by allies from Cambridge Residents Alliance, have formed the Fresh Pond Residents Association. Please consider signing their petition. Thanks to Jan Deveraux, Lisa Camacho, Terry Drucker, Peggy Barnes Lenart, Bill Forster, Jay Yesselman and their colleagues.

            Harvard Square/Winthrop Park: From City Hall to the east, and Porter Square to the North, the only public park encountered is the historic Winthrop Square on Mt. Auburn Street and JFK street (Peets Coffee, Grendel’s Den). This park dates from pre-colonial times, and is a landmark and meeting place for people not only from Cambridge, but visitors from around the country and the world. The owners of the ugly two story Galleria Mall that houses Staples, Wagamama, and other restaurants is now proposing to build three stories on top of the first two, which would be 40 micro units of high rent housing. The proposal has been before the Cambridge Historical Commission, which has been critical of the initial design. At a crowded hearing Thursday March 6, members of the Harvard Square community, supported by speakers from Cambridge Residence Alliance , called for protecting the Park and disallowing the new construction or at least limiting the height and bulk of the new construction.

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Support East Cambridge Neighbors

Dear Friends,

     Most of you are familiar with the oversize, out-of-scale former Middlesex County Courthouse and Jail that sits in the heart of East Cambridge. As described by our East Cambridge neighbors this project was a major development mistake that has weighed on the neighborhood for a half century.

    Sadly the current plan is to increase the height and bulk of the building and transform it from public use to a private commercial development, to house 2,000 employees, requiring 1,000 parking spaces. The community cannot absorb this burden, nor can the already overburdened streets of Cambridgeport, Mid-Cambridge, Central Square, Alewife Brook, and Area 4.

    The Sullivan Courthouse is owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and last year, the state's Department of Capital Asset Management informed East Cambridge residents that the "concrete behemoth" was being transferred to the highest private bidder Leggat-McCall, with no regard for neighborhood concerns on issues such as height, traffic, parking, wind, solar glare and light pollution.

    On Tuesday, March 4th, at 7 pm, the Planning Board will vote on a redevelopment proposal for the Sullivan Courthouse and Middlesex County Jail, the 280-foot tall eyesore located in the middle of a residential neighborhood in East Cambridge.

    Please email the Planning Board and ask them to deny Special Permit Application #288, and oppose allowing a private developer to retain the full bulk of the building and change its use  from public service to private  commercial office space. Emails may be sent to [email protected] and cc'ed to <[email protected]>. You can learn more of our East Cambridge neighbor's concerns at <>, and below.
    Yesterday, a large group of East Cambridge residents gathered to plan next steps in response to the Commonwealth's unwillingness to consider their concerns. Read about it in Cambridge Day:
    The Cambridge Residents Alliance is working to unite people across the city in working for a livable, affordable and diverse Cambridge. Please take this opportunity to show solidarity with our neighbors from East Cambridge.

From the recently formed Neighbors Association of East Cambridge:

What is this about?
The Sullivan Courthouse, 40 Thorndike St, East Cambridge, 02141 is an infamous, costly failure, and its future is on the Planning Board’s agenda at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 4th, 2014.
The proposal on the table calls for re-skinning the existing building in glass, filling it with thousands of corporate commuters, and a few retailers and residents.
We ask the Planning Board to deny Special Permit Application #288 sought by the developer, which would retain the full bulk of the Courthouse.  Instead, we seek to reshape and re-envision a future of 40 Thorndike Street that is more in line with our neighborhood’s character.

Our concerns:

1. Height: At 280 feet, the existing building exceeds the neighborhood zoning by 200 feet.
2. Traffic: The proposed development will have over 2,000 people commuting to and
from work every day, creating intolerable traffic conditions in our already congested
neighborhood streets.
3. Parking: The proposed plan adds thousands of daily workers but just 92 dedicated spaces. This will pack the municipal garage and saturate the neighborhood.
4. Wind, solar glare and light pollution: The existing structure creates a notorious wind-tunnel effect and a building of the same size covered in glass could make this worse. At night the glass tower will flood the neighborhood with light. Solar glare during the day is inevitable.

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MIT Housing Report calls for 1,000 New Beds

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Council Election Results

Dear Friends,

         The Cambridge Election Commission announced the official (but not “final”) election of nine City Councilors at its Nov. 15 meeting, including four challengers: Dennis Benzan, Dennis Carlone, Nadeem Mazen and Marc McGovern.

         We were greatly encouraged by the results of this election and we believe they reflect a significant desire for change on the part of the Cambridge electorate! The number of #1 votes for non-incumbents increased sharply, from 23% in 2011 to 47% this year. In our opinion, the magnitude of the jump is due not only to the two empty seats, but also reflects residents’ increasing concerns about rising housing costs, threatened over-development, traffic congestion, and the loss of open space.

         The Cambridge Residents Alliance contributed to this election by educating voters on crucial issues through: a series of forums last year on housing, traffic, and community planning; publication and distribution of more than 1,000 copies of our Platform Brochure—Working For a Livable, Affordable and Diverse Cambridge; the broad circulation of our Candidate Questionnaire Responses; and direct participation of our network members in the get-out-the-vote effort. We want to thank all of you who were active in the election, for consistently raising our issues in the various candidates’ campaigns and election events.

         We were especially encouraged by the election of Dennis Carlone, the candidate we endorsed. Dennis refused real estate contributions and his “Planning for People” campaign theme struck a chord with voters. His development experience, leadership qualities, and friendly balanced approach will make him an excellent councilor. Nadeem Mazen, whose platform calls for a citywide master plan and less emphasis on tall luxury towers, is another welcome newcomer. Marc McGovern has been a consistent voice for our city’s children and families coping with poverty. Dennis Benzan’s focus on making sure our young people are able to benefit from companies located in the city is an essential feature of the development discussion. Unfortunately, incumbent Minka van Beuzekom, who has been an ally for neighborhood groups on development issues, lost her seat.

       In fact, the official vote counts for candidates taking the 6,7,8, 9 and 10th positions were very close. Minka has filed for a hand recount, which will last for some weeks. The Cambridge Residents Alliance supports all efforts to increase openness, transparency, and voter participation. To volunteer as a recount observer for the Carlone Campaign, call 617-682-0657. To volunteer for the other campaigns that are recruiting observers, go to their websites.

      We will continue to address concerns about affordable housing, traffic congestion and threatened over-development as the city faces the pressure from large real estate developers to exploit the value of land in Kendall Square, Central Square, and Alewife Brook. After the recount, we look forward to working productively with all members of the new City Council to improve the quality of life for Cambridge residents. We hope you will continue to join us in these efforts!

Thanks from the Cambridge Residents Alliance Executive Committee:



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Fred Salvucci at 9/15 CResA Meeting

Sunday, September 15, 4 – 7 PM, St. Bartholomew’s Church,

On the agenda:

-       Fred Salvucci of MIT (former State Sec’y of Transportation) discussing MIT’s responsibility to help house the thousands of graduate students and other research staff working on the campus, who presently must find housing in Cambridge.

-       Using the CResA Platform for community education;

-       Responses of City Council candidates to the questionnaire;

-       Update on the Net Zero sustainable emissions petition;

-       Update on the proposed large-scale construction for Central Square.

Questions  to Jonathan King at  [email protected]



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Thursday July 25 meeting 7-9 PM

There will be another informative and lively meeting of the Steering Committee (or Core) of the Cambridge Residents Alliance this coming Thursday July 25 7-9 PM Dana Park Community Room 10 Corporal McTernan St., between Magazine and Pearl Streets, across the street from Dana Park. Agenda items include: - Presentation of CResA platform re Central Square and Cambridge over-development; - Updates on Planning Board, Ordinance Committee and City Council timelines re upzoning petitions; - Relating to 2014 City Council election campaigns; - Questionairres? Forums? Slates? Endorsements? Jonathan and Nancy

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June 27 General Meeting

Cambridge Residents Alliance June General Meeting

Thursday June 27 7:00 – 9:00 PM

St. Bartholomew’s Church 239 Harvard Street (East of Prospect)


7:00) Cold drinks and hello to neighbors;

7:10) Welcome and agenda review (Nancy Ryan);

7:15) Presentation of Green Cambridge Net Zero emissions for large scale projects “Connolly Petition” (Mike Connolly);

7:30) Cambridge Residents Alliance Platform Recommendations (Housing, traffic, heights, etc); Discussion; and Adoption (Lee Farris, Shelley Reiman, Jackie Dee King of CResA Platform Committee);

8:30) Update on City hearings on CDD Central Square Upzoning proposals;

8:40) Update on Teague and Sidney Street Petitions (Charlie Teague; Vivek Sikri);

8:50) Planning for interacting with City Council candidate election campaigns;

8:55) Announcements;

9:00) Adjourn.

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Successful Neighborhoods First Forum

Putting Neighborhoods First Forum

     Community forum draws enthusiastic crowd: Speakers Tom Angotti, Reneae Gray, Bill Cunningham, Lee Farris, Richard Krushnic,and Ceasar McDowell provide a resident’s vision for Central Square.

In the face of developers’ proposals for a huge up-zoning of Central Square, more than 100 local residents came together at a forum on May 4 to seek ways in which neighborhood voices can be heard in the development of plans for the city’s future.

The forum, “Putting Neighborhoods First,” was sponsored by the Cambridge Residents Alliance and held at the Senior Center in Central Square. Residents learned that we are not alone in our fight to slow down gentrification and stop the displacement of families who can no longer afford to live in our city.

In New York City and other locales across the country, neighborhood groups are taking a stand against global real estate interests whose top-down mega-projects are pushing local people out and driving housing prices sky-high, according to Dr. Tom Angotti, a Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at the City University of New York.

Angotti and local community leaders spoke to the crowd and led lively question-and-answer discussions. Below are brief highlights of their talks, with links to videos. (More videos and transcripts will be posted on our website soon.)

The speakers, and many in the audience, called on the City to slow down the cascade of up-zonings and major new developments. They asked for a comprehensive and credible Master Plan for development that takes into account the impact of all the projects on the infrastructure and livability of the city. They called for the preservation and creation of more affordable housing.     

Prof. Tom Angotti, of CUNY:

Angotti described the efforts of neighborhood organizations opposed to Forest City Ratner’s plan to develop a huge basketball arena and 16 high-rise luxury apartment buildings on the site of the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. The plan targeted several square blocks in the middle of four low- and middle-income neighborhoods for removal; hundreds of residents and small businesses were forced to leave. 

The developer used clever tactics, Angotti noted, to divide the community opposition, including race-baiting. He negotiated a secret “community benefits agreement” with some neighborhood groups and promised them large amounts of affordable housing and construction jobs, most of which have never materialized. In exchange, any group that signed the deal was not allowed to publicly oppose the project.

Community groups in Chinatown, the Lower East Side, East Harlem and other neighborhoods are fighting similar battles with developers. One important pattern, Angotti said, is that neighborhood groups have moved beyond “no” to creating their own “community plans” with a positive vision for the future. More than 100 such plans have been created in the past 50 years in New York City. “Margaret Thatcher tried to make us believe in TINA, There Is No Alternative to the way things are,” he said. “But we say instead: Another World is Possible!”

View talk at

Renae Gray, Co-Chair of the Area 4 “Port” Coalition:

Renae talked about the changes that are impacting the long-time communities in Central Square and Area 4: the many tall buildings, the increased heavy traffic, the lack of green and open spaces, the increasingly expensive stores and restaurants—“for poor people, it’s fast food or nowhere in Central Square”—the lack of available spaces for community events such as weddings and funerals, the challenge in finding a peaceful walk route.

“I’m so tired of being in meetings where what I want is being dictated by somebody else!” Renae said. “My life is being impacted on a daily basis…The diversity that Cambridge touts is getting less and less. More and more, people are moving out of our neighborhoods because they can’t afford to live here. This area is becoming an innovation start-up mecca. What I hear is cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching!

“No jobs for our kids, no partnerships with our schools…I don’t see really affordable housing outside of certain neighborhoods…The very fabric of our community is changing. It feels like a takeover. Not a collaboration, not a partnership, not a ‘working-with.’ And we’re already experiencing the pitting against one another.”

View talk at

Bill Cunningham, Association of Cambridge Tenants and a resident of Newtowne Court public housing:

Bill talked about how public housing is under attack, in Cambridge and across the country. Since 1990, the country has lost more than 10% of its public housing stock. Public housing has gone from a construction program to a demolition program. Most housing subsidies are now in the form of vouchers, but even the voucher programs are facing cutbacks. Because housing authorities are desperate for money to make up for the cuts, some have ended up selling their properties or making deals with developers.

Historically, the tenants in public housing developments in Cambridge have had relatives and friends living in the surrounding neighborhoods. This was part of the basis for strong political support for public housing. But rising rents in private housing have pushed out many of those supporters. To save public housing today, we will need to build new ties and a new movement. The recent struggle over Forest City/Ratner’s expansion of University Park shows us what forces are at play today in Cambridge. We can hope that this signals the beginning of that new social movement.

Richard Krushnic, neighborhood development professional in Boston, member of the Cambridge Residents Alliance, and an Inman Square resident:

Richard summarized his research into the demographic and economic make-up of Cambridge. He described Cambridge as a city in the midst of a sweeping transformation, one which has been underway for decades but is now accelerating: from a city of families with children to a city of singles, from affordable rents to extremely high rents, from light manufacturing to high-tech and bio-tech research and development, from an economically diverse population with a working-class base to a relatively homogeneous population of more affluent professionals.

Adding fuel to the fire of this transformation is the leap in new commercial and residential development, with some 18.7 million square feet of development above 2010 levels that is either complete, underway, or planned for the next twenty years, a 23.5% increase in total built space in the city.

Richard noted that building high-rise towers of mostly market-rate housing, as proposed by developers and city planners, does not really moderate housing prices and keep low- and middle-income families in the city. As long as the boom in high tech and bio-sciences draws huge numbers of highly paid workers into the city, the demand for market-rate housing is “virtually infinite” and the new luxury housing will only drive rents up in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Lee Farris, Cambridge Residents Alliance and Area 4 “Port” Coalition:

Lee discussed the efforts of the Cambridge Residents Alliance to limit the size of the Forest City bio-lab at 300 Mass. Ave. and the successful fight to ensure that 168 units of affordable housing originally developed by Forest City in University Park would remain affordable for the 75-year lease of the land.

The Central Square Advisory Committee (CSAC) has called for up-zoning in Central Square that would allow the current height limit of 80 feet to be raised to heights up to 160 feet by a special permit on condition that 25% of the bonus floor area be devoted permanently to middle-income housing. In the Osborne Triangle (where Main Street and Mass Ave converge), an additional 2 stories would be allowed under a transfer of development rights bonus. That means there is potential for 18-story towers with up to 30-foot mechanical penthouses on top. CSAC hopes these very tall residential towers would result in 1000-2000 new units of housing in Central Square.

Lee repeated the position of the Cambridge Residents Alliance that no major up-zonings should be granted until the City has produced a Master Plan. Residents are concerned about the ripple effect of the high rents in these proposed buildings, the increased traffic and parking problems, the building shadows and loss of sky views, the turning over of scarce and precious public land to private developers primarily interested in making a profit. At the same time, we are interested in finding other ways to build affordable housing, including the non-profit development of lower-rise buildings, filled with a larger proportion of affordable units.

Caesar McDowell, Professor of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT:

Caesar said the rich discussion at the forum had reminded him “how smart people are who actually live and have experience in the city…The issue here is not, do we know what to do? The issue is: Why are those who have the authority and the power not listening? That’s the question!”

While he agreed on the need for a comprehensive master plan for the city, more affordable housing, and other measures to foster a “livable” city, he said that many people would not know what was meant by those proposals. So he suggested a “metric” by which future development plans should be measured. The metric would be based on the fact that roughly 45% of the students who attend Cambridge public schools are low-income. “So how about a city design method for the future,” he asked, “that is predicated on the fact that 80% of the people who graduate from the high school can live in the city?” His proposal met with enthusiastic applause.

View talk at

 Jackie Dee King





















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