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Long Island Nurse To Attend Biden-Harris Inauguration in D.C.

inauguration
Sandra Lindsay, a critical care nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine from Michelle Chester, Northwell’s director of employee health services on Dec. 14. (Mark Lennihan/Pool via Reuters)

A critical care nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, who was the first person in the United States to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, will attend the presidential inauguration on Wednesday.

Nurse Sandra Lindsay received the country’s first dose of the Pfizer vaccine outside of clinical trials on Dec. 14 at the New Hyde Park hospital. She received her second shot earlier this month.

“I feel hopeful today, relieved,” she said after receiving the first dose on a live stream with Northwell Health officials and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “This is a special moment, a special day.”

President-elect Joseph R. Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris will be inaugurated as President and Vice President of the United States, respectively, around noon on Wednesday. 

The Biden Inauguration Committee Tweeted a list of honored guests on Sunday, saying they’ll be “highlighting everyday Americans who have stepped up to serve their communities” during a “Celebrating America” program Wednesday at 8 p.m.

inauguration
Signage is seen outside the White House ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, in Washington, U.S., January 18, 2021. REUTER/Andrew Kelly

In addition to Lindsay, other citizens set to attend include Texan Sarah Fuller, the first woman to play and score in a Power Five college football team; 8-year-old Morgan Marsh-McGlone, of Wisconsin, who started a virtual lemonade stand and raised more than $50,000 to feed food-insecure families; UPS driver Anthony Gaskin, of Virginia; 8-year-old Cavanaugh Bell, of Maryland, who made care packages for elderly people and started a food pantry in his community; and Kindergarten teacher Mackenzie Adams, of Washington state.

Ahead of the inauguration, central Washington is an armed fortress, fenced off with razor wire and surrounded by 25,000 National Guard troops, a stark contrast to previous inaugurations, when the United States capital erupted in days of celebration.

Presidential inaugurations are normally high-security events, with metal detectors at key entry points, restricted ID-only zones, and National Guard supplementing local and federal law enforcement. But the level of precautions this year is unprecedented.

The Covid-19 pandemic had already canceled the inaugural balls. Now the National Mall is closed to the public due to threats of violence from groups who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

-With Reuters

Members of the National Guard patrol near the U.S. Capitol building ahead of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

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Long Island Has Highest Covid-19 Positivity Rate in New York

covid-19 positivity
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Long Island's Covid-19 positivity rate is "problematic" at his press briefing Monday.

Long Island has the highest Covid-19 positivity rate out of any other region in the state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during his press briefing Monday.

Out of all residents tested, 7.84 percent have tested positive for the virus in a seven-day average. The second-highest rate is Mohawk Valley at 7.78 percent. In comparison, New York City’s positivity rate is 5.73 percent.

“Long Island has taken a relative jump, which is concerning, and we’re watching that, because Long Island jumped up, not in the right direction,” Cuomo said. “You see the variation across the state. You go from the Southern Tier, which, by the way, had a big spike at one time, and reversed that. It shows you what a community can do when it comes together and recognizes this threat. Long Island, 7.8. That’s problematic, and that’s new, by the way.”

A total of 23 people died of Covid-19 on Long Island on Sunday, according to the state’s numbers, and about 1,649 Covid-19 patients are hospitalized in Long Island’s medical facilities.

On Monday, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said the county’s daily positivity rate was 6.2 percent, with the seven-day average at 7 percent, down from 8.6 percent 10 days ago.

“Covid-19 hospitalizations remain high,” she said in a statement, “which underscores the need to double down on mitigation measures like wearing a mask and social distancing.”

Suffolk County’s daily positivity rate was 8.5 percent on Monday, with an 8.6 percent seven-day average. 

Cuomo also expressed concerns about the UK strain, which is said to be more contagious and could drive cases up. There have been several confirmed cases of the UK Covid-19 strain on Long Island so far.

He also mentioned that other strains, such as the Brazilian and South African strains, are emerging, and urged the federal government to act.

“I still don’t understand how the CDC and the federal government can project or anticipate an action but do nothing,” he said. “If you know there’s a UK strain, if you know there’s a South African strain, if you know there’s a Brazilian strain why don’t you do something? Why don’t you stop those people from coming here?”

Related Story: Long Island Covid-19 Cases Double to 200,000 in 2 Months

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Events on Long Island 2021

events on long island
Martin Luther King Jr. during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, during which he delivered his historic "I Have a Dream" speech, calling for an end to racism. (Wikimedia Commons)

Many have the day off from work and school on Monday, Jan. 18, so take time to reflect on the reason for the national holiday — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Here are some ways to celebrate his life and legacy on Long Island.

MLK DAY WALK

Nonprofit organization Elmont Strong leads its inaugural MLK Day Walk to build community and show unity. Elmont Public Library, 700 Hempstead Turnpike, Elmont. elmontstrong.com 9 a.m.

MLK DAY OF SERVICE

The Sid Jacobson JCC will host several events, both virtual and in-person, throughout the day to celebrate MLK Day. First, there will be “Judaism and Justice” online lessons and a panel discussion via Zoom that will focus on achieving racial equity. Then there will be a donation drive, blood drive, and film streaming. Virtual/Sid Jacobson JCC, 300 Forest Drive

East Hills. sjjcc.org 9 a.m.-7 p.m.

MLK DAY OF REFLECTION

The Village of Hempstead and United People’s Organization holds its 28th annual MLK Day of Reflection. Masks and social distancing required  during the ceremony. Kennedy Memorial Park, 335 Greenwich St, Hempstead. villageofhempstead.org 10 a.m.

MARCH ON SUNRISE

Long Island Peaceful Protest will stage a demonstration against white supremacy in honor of King’s legacy. The march will travel east from Nassau to Suffolk. Massapequa Park Train Station. facebook.com/lipeacefulprotest 1 p.m.

MLK DAY OF SERVICE

Molloy College adapts its annual community volunteer day to include virtual offerings via Zoom and a contactless community donation drop-off. Kellenberg Circle, 1000 Hempstead Ave., Rockville Centre. molloy.edu  10 a.m.-2 p.m.

MLK DAY 2021

Barry & Florence Friedberg JCC hosts a kids’ craft and storytime focusing on MLK, plus an at-home volunteer opportunity for this year’s MLK Day. Friedberg JCC, 15 Neil Ct., Oceanside. friedbergjcc.org 11:45 a.m.-3 p.m.

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Long Island’s Bob Read, of Inside Edition, Dies of Covid-19

bob read
Robert B Read. (Courtesy United Way)

Bob Read, a Long Island native and managing editor and senior investigative producer for Inside Edition, died Saturday of Covid-19. He was 60.

Inside Edition announced Read’s death and aired a tribute to him, calling him “a cherished member of the Inside Edition family” and “a mentor to so many of our staff.”

“If there’s a story on Inside Edition that made headlines,” the program said, “it has Bob Read’s fingerprints all over it … His passion, tireless energy, and grace under pressure inspired all of us to do our best work.”

Read hailed from West Islip. He began his career at ABC News 20/20 and also worked at Dateline NBC. He reported and produced a variety of news, features, and investigative stories on those programs before arriving at Inside Edition.

The veteran journalist, who led all investigative projects on the show, worked at Inside Edition for 30 years until he was diagnosed with Covid-19 on Dec. 18. He had mostly been covering the pandemic since early last year.

Read is survived by his wife of 36 years, Michele, son Tyler, and daughter Casey. To honor his legacy, the family has set up the Robert B. Read Memorial Fund through United Way, which provides financial relief to families who are struggling due to the pandemic.

“Each day Robert chose happiness and generously shared his joy with others,” the donation page reads. “His ideal day was on the boat with family and friends dancing to reggae … a cool drink in hand, feeling the sun on his face with a smile in his heart. Robert worked hard, played hard and loved so deeply. Robert’s legacy lives on in his wife, children, family and friends.”

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Long Islanders Bemoan Covid-19 Vaccine Registration System

vaccine registration
Getty Images

As New York’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout expands to include more of the population, some Long Islanders are upset with the registration process.

All appointments must be made online, which has led to some technical difficulties and confusion; plus, few appointments are available, given that New York has limited vaccine supply.

“I, along with our residents, am frustrated with NY State’s online vaccine registration system, which has been experiencing persistent crashes due to high demand from increased eligibility,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said in a statement. “These failures are unacceptable and the state must resolve these issues immediately.”

Wading River resident Dino DiIorio said he and his family have spent many hours trying to get a vaccination appointment for his mother, 83-year-old Helena DiIorio, who has a rare, severe lung infection. Helena’s medical specialists agree she should be “top of the list” for the vaccine, Dino said. However, individual doctors cannot decide this, and Dino has repeatedly been told to register Helena through an online form. So far, all appointments have been taken.

“It is vital that she does not contract Covid-19 because she would not be able to survive it,” Dino said. “She needs this vaccine. But those 75 or older with medical conditions are now competing with hundreds of people 65 and older, and you can’t get these appointments.”

Online systems have had to quickly update eligibility requirements as they include more people. As of Tuesday, all people 65 and older were added to the list, which also includes public-facing healthcare workers, public safety and transit workers, first responders, public-facing grocery store employees, and in-person educators, as well as nursing home staff and residents.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has asked New Yorkers for “patience at an impatient time” as the state waits for increases in vaccine allocations from the federal government to meet high demand.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has not yet responded to requests for comment.

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Jones Beach To Begin Drive-Thru Covid-19 Vaccinations Thursday

drive-thru covid-19
In March 2020, Jones Beach opened as a coronavirus testing site. On Thursday, people will begin getting the Covid-19 vaccine there. (REUTERS/Andrew Kelly)

Jones Beach State Park will open as the state’s first drive-thru Covid-19 vaccination center on Long Island Thursday, vaccinating eligible New Yorkers who snagged appointments.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced earlier this week the opening of five state-run vaccination sites throughout the state to accommodate the general public after eligible groups expanded to essential workers and those 65 and older.

“New York State is rapidly expanding our networks and capabilities to get as many New Yorkers vaccinated as fast as our supply allows,” Cuomo said in a statement. “The new vaccine sites across the state will expedite our distribution to get our most vulnerable New Yorkers vaccinated efficiently.”

The other four sites are located at Jacob K. Javits Center, Westchester County Center, and New York State Fair Expo Center, which all opened on Tuesday, and SUNY Albany, which opens Friday.

The New York State Department of Health website shows that all appointments at the Jones Beach site have already been booked. State officials say that more locations with more registration slots will open in the coming days.

Vaccine supply is still limited, with New York receiving about 300,000 doses per week from the federal government and about 7 million people eligible to receive it. Anyone registering may not get an appointment for another 14 weeks or more.

“Our greatest hindrance continues to be federal inaction,” Cuomo said. “We have come too far to be held back in our efforts by the inadequate vaccine supply from the federal government. I encourage New Yorkers to be patient throughout this process and urge our federal government to increase the supply to states.”

To check your eligibility and make an appointment, visit am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov or call 1-833-NYS-4-VAX.

In addition to the state-run sites, Northwell is administering the vaccine at certain locations in Garden City, Elmont, Hewlett, Lake Success, Syosset, Westbury, Amityville, Brentwood, Central Islip, Huntington, and Riverhead. To make an appointment, visit northwell.edu/coronavirus-covid-19/vaccine.

Nassau County also has sites in Uniondale and Westbury. To make an appointment, visit nassaucountyny.gov/vaccine.

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Long Island Congress Members Weigh in on Impeachment

impeachment
U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence stand while making remarks about early results from the 2020 U.S. presidential election in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., November 4, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

Long Island’s three Democratic Congress members have spoken out in support of removing President Donald J. Trump from office after his supporters violently stormed the Capitol building last week. Long Island’s two Republican Congressmen have remained silent regarding the president’s influence on the riot or whether he should be removed.

Congressional Democrats begin their drive to force Trump from office this week, with a House vote on articles of impeachment expected as early as Wednesday that could make him the only president in U.S. history to be impeached twice.

“President Trump, who must leave office on Jan. 20, 2021, cannot leave soon enough,” Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), said in a statement. “I will support any action against him that will hold him accountable for his irresponsible and reprehensible behavior.”

Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) and Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens) have also voiced support for impeachment.

“This was a domestic terrorist act that was aided and abetted and incited by this president,” Rice said Saturday on MSNBC. “Except for a handful [of Republicans], there’s silence on the other side of the aisle. That’s absolutely outrageous.”

Thousands of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol last week, scattering lawmakers who were certifying Democratic President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory, in a harrowing assault on the center of American democracy that left five dead.

The violence came after Trump urged supporters to march on the Capitol at a rally where he repeated false claims that his resounding election defeat was illegitimate. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, many of her fellow Democrats and a handful of Republicans say Trump should not be trusted to serve out his term, which ends on Jan. 20.

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) voted against the certification of Biden’s win, causing Long Island Democrats to call for Zeldin’s resignation. Zeldin has condemned the chaos at the Capitol but not spoken about impeachment.

Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-Bay Shore), however, did vote to certify Biden’s win. He has condemned the Capitol riots but not mentioned whether he is for or against impeaching Trump.

Several progressive Long Island advocacy groups were set to protest outside of Rice, Garbarino, Suozzi, and Zeldin’s offices this afternoon to call for Trump’s impeachment, as well as Zeldin’s removal from office. The groups include Indivisible Nassau County, NY02 Indivisibly, Long Island Activists, and Young Long Island For Justice.

“Unless there are consequences, Trump and his fascists will come back stronger than ever, whether that’s Trump or Trump 2.0,” they wrote in a Facebook post. “We demand Congress come back in session and enact immediate consequences and fundamental changes to prevent these fascists from succeeding in the future.”

-With Reuters

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Covid-19 Vaccine Eligibility Opens to Essential Workers, Elderly on Long Island

vaccine eligibility
Getty Images

Certain essential workers and seniors are now eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine on Long Island. 

All New Yorkers who fall in Phase 1B can make an appointment to receive the vaccine starting Monday, Jan. 11. This includes teachers and education workers, first responders, public safety workers, public transit workers, public-facing grocery store workers, and homeless individuals sharing accommodations with others. As of Tuesday, residents 65 and older are also eligible after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance from allowing seniors 75 and older to 65 and older to get the vaccine.

“We know that the vaccine is the best way to defeat this virus,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said at a news briefing on Saturday. “… So getting the word out to eligible groups on where they can get the vaccine is key.”

Nassau now has two county-run vaccine centers at Nassau Community College in Uniondale and Yes We Can Community Center in Westbury. Residents can check their eligibility and make appointments at those centers, as well as at Nassau University Medical Center, here.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has been directing residents to Northwell Health’s website, which lists six Suffolk locations and seven Nassau locations to get the vaccine. Residents can check their eligibility, find those locations, and make appointments here.

“Given high demand and limited supply of the vaccine at this time, appointments may be limited,” Bellone said in a statement, “but Suffolk County has the capacity to provide vaccines soon as they are available.”

If there are no available appointments, officials said to keep checking back, as they will be added on a rolling basis. There will also be more locations added in the coming weeks.

The vaccination of residents in Phase 1B is operating simultaneously with the vaccination of all patient-facing healthcare workers (Phase 1A). Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Friday that Phase 1B would start Monday after other elected officials, such as Curran and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, called for eligibility to open to first responders.

But more eligible groups means more supply is needed — and ultimately, vaccine supply depends on the federal government, which since December, has been distributing the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines proportionately by population to each state. 

As of now, New York receives about 300,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses per week; at that rate, Cuomo said, it will take the state 16 weeks — ending on or about April 16 — to fully vaccinate all people eligible in Phases 1A and 1B, provided they all elect to receive it.

“Hopefully the supply increases. We’re working with the Biden team on moving the supply out as quickly as possible,” Cuomo said, referring to talks with the incoming president. It was reported Friday that Biden plans to release additional doses of the vaccine, currently on reserve, upon taking office on Jan. 20 to speed up the vaccination process.

Curran noted on Saturday that the Nassau Community College site had already administered more than 1,000 vaccines since its opening on Tuesday, Jan. 5.

“This is just the beginning of our effort to ramp up vaccination,” Curran said, “… If you want to get it and you’re eligible, please roll up your sleeve and get the vaccine.”

For more information, visit the New York State Department of Health website at covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov or, starting 4 p.m. Jan. 11, call 1-833-NYS-4-VAX (1-833-697-4829).

-With Robert Pozarycki

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Nassau Police Reforms Drafted, Advocates Call for More Involvement

Nassau County Police
Nassau County Police

Use of body cameras, more police officer training, a mentorship program to increase diversity in the ranks, and an emphasis on transparency are all part of Nassau County Police Department’s newly unveiled proposed police reforms.

Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder outlined the draft list of reforms during a public hearing held by the Nassau County Legislature’s Public Safety committee on Thursday. Some advocates criticized the process in which police gathered public comments on the proposed reforms. The reforms are among those that Gov. Andrew Cuomo mandated police departments statewide undertake in response to nationwide protests against police brutality. 

“The communities that put their trust in law enforcement are asking for change and reform,” Ryder said. “We are listening, and we can always do better for our communities.”

Ryder reviewed the draft of procedural changes and programs, which must be approved by the county legislature and filed to the state by Nassau County Executive Laura Curran by April 1. Cuomo instated the order in June 2020 after the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd in May 2020 and nationwide protests that followed.

Advocates across Long Island have since been demanding increased accountability for police officers and an end to systemic and implicit racial bias in policing. Others have also called for diverting funding from police departments to social services that prevent crime.

To address these concerns, Nassau police has suggested a new, annual 10-hour training for officers covering intervention techniques, ethical and moral standards, bias, the law, and other relevant topics. Officers would then take a one-hour online test to certify that they understand bias and other important issues.

Nassau police has also proposed a mentoring program for individuals, especially young people of color, who want to join the force, in hopes of increasing diversity. It would be implemented in partnership with community organizations to help people overcome barriers to applying to become an officer.

“We don’t want to lose any good officer who should be on this police department,” Ryder said. “We’re working on that. That’s going to take time.”

Another significant change would be the bi-annual reporting of police data. The department has an anonymous complaints system, which would now accept photo and video supplements. That information will be released every six months in compliance with new transparency laws. The department will also collect traffic stop data, including the race of individuals stopped, and release the report every six months.

In addition, Ryder said that the department would implement body cameras by the fall of this year, despite pushback from police unions.

The preliminary plan was made in cooperation with the Police And Community Trust group (PACT) and Collaborative Task Force (CCT), as well as 132 community meetings since last summer, Ryder said. However, when it came time for public comment, several advocates claimed they did not have meaningful participation in the process.

“The process involving PACT and CCT has been flawed,” said Frederick Brewington, who said he represents Long Island Advocates For Police Accountability (LIAFPA).

“It was not written together, it was not written with the community,” Susan Goetherrer, also of LIAFPA and director of Nassau’s New York Civil Liberties Union, echoed, adding that legislative action needs to occur, not just internal procedure changes.

Shanequa Levin, an advocate representing LI United to Transform Policing & Community Safety, said that the coalition of dozens of organizations has drafted their own “people’s plan” for the police department, which would be available at the beginning of February.

“This is not just about, ‘Oh, how do we improve a system?’” she said. “This is about my life. This is about my people’s life. This is about my brother’s life, my son’s life, my husband’s life. This is real stuff that we encounter on a daily basis.”

Michael Stein, a retired New York City police officer, expressed concerns about the use of body cameras, suggesting they are costly and do not bring significant change. “It didn’t transform policing [in other cities],” he said. “It just put the people making complaints in the hot seat more and more often.”

Lawmakers then gave their thoughts on the drafted reforms, including Nassau Legislator Steve Rhoads (R-Bellmore), who is chair of the minority affairs committee. He said he’d expressed concerns about inclusive involvement in PACT and requested more formal reports on PACT meetings from Curran in July, but did not receive them.

“It seems we’ve been missing some important segments of the community in coming up with the draft proposal,” he said.

Ryder said that having the draft document go public “opens it up” for all residents to make suggestions.

In a statement, Curran agreed, and called on all residents to provide input to “improve public safety and reinforce trust between police and the community.”

“As we work towards a final plan, my administration will remain guided by a balanced, transparent, and inclusive approach,” she said.

For more information about Nassau County Police Department procedures and to view the draft of reforms, visit nassaucountyny.gov/eo203.

Related Story: Nassau Committee Will Study Police Response to Mental Health Crises

Related Story: Suffolk Panel To Devise Police Reform Plan

Related Story: Racial Justice Marches Spark Police Reforms on Long Island

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Sunrise Mall in East Massapequa Sold For $29.7M To Urban Edge Properties

Google Earth Image

Westfield Group has sold the Sunrise Mall, on Sunrise Highway in East Massapequa, to Urban Edge Properties for $29.7 million.

Urban Edge announced its acquisition of the 1.2 million-square-foot retail space, saying it has “tremendous redevelopment opportunities,” in a press release on Monday.

“Sunrise Mall is a unique asset with a prime location in a dense, attractive region along the southern shore of Long Island,” Jeff Olson, CEO of Urban Edge said in a statement. “This acquisition provides a terrific opportunity for Urban Edge to leverage our redevelopment expertise in repurposing underutilized land and creating value.”

Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino said he has spoken with Urban Edge and made clear that, with any changes made with the mall, “it’s very important to build economics and bring in jobs” in the area.

Saladino also noted that the site is zoned for retail and commercial only and sought to reassure residents that redevelopment proposals would not be approved without their input.

“None of it would be done without hearings,” he told the Press. “We will listen to the school districts, the community, and stakeholders. Whatever comes there, it will happen with their input.” 

Sunrise Mall currently has 65 percent occupancy and seen a domino effect of store and food court vendor closures over the years. Its anchor retailers include Macy’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Sears, and Dave & Buster’s. With 35 percent vacancy, the mall’s largest vacant space formerly housed a JC Penney and has been empty since it closed in 2017.

Urban Edge bought the mall in partnership with two other companies, RIPCO Real Estate, and JG Petrucci, and will collaborate on redeveloping the property, which sits on 77 acres. Details of the redevelopment have not yet been disclosed.

Urban Edge owns 79 properties, including several shopping centers on Long Island such as the Freeport and Meadowbrook Commons in Freeport, Burnside Commons in Inwood, Huntington Commons, and two others in New Hyde Park and Commack.

The company calls itself a “real estate investment trust focused on managing, acquiring, developing, and redeveloping retail real estate.”

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