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Mutinous Group Aims to Bring Change to Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce

Feb. 16, 2014 By Christian Murray

A splinter group within the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce has formed that aims to topple its leadership.

In recent weeks, Rigo Cardoso (the treasurer), Luke Adams (former chamber marketing director) and Patricia Dorfman (a past board member) have formed a “Friends of Business” coalition and are calling for the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce president Swain Weiner to be ousted.

The trio have canvassed Sunnyside and convinced more than 30 business owners to sign a petition that calls for greater transparency within the chamber and more networking events.

The coalition held a non-chamber event Tuesday evening at Quaint Restaurant, located at 46-10 Skillman Avenue, that was attended by more than 50 people—including four past chamber presidents, Dorfman said. She said the event was held since business owners want networking functions—something the chamber under its present leadership– has failed to organize.

The Friends of Business coalition formed after Cardoso got into a public spat with Weiner last month when he called into question Weiner’s leadership after Adams was laid off from his chamber marketing position due to a lack of chamber funds.

At the time, Cardoso claimed that there was a shortage of funds due to the lack of fundraising events and an “unenergetic effort to recruit new members.”

Weiner refuted these claims arguing that there had been several chamber fundraisers and that Cardoso was making a public issue about the matter in order to promote his ambitions of being president of the chamber with the election coming up in April.

Furthermore, in an interview, Weiner appeared mystified by the petition and formation of the coalition. “If these people who signed the petition are members [of the chamber], they should help me put on more events if that is what they truly want,” he said. “If they are not members [of the chamber], they should join and help set things up.”

Furthermore, he said, “If people are unhappy with the way I run things they can vote me out in the election in April. But why are they dragging my name through the mud? I haven’t done anything to hurt anyone. “

However, Cardoso claims that Weiner doesn’t have Sunnyside’s best interests at heart. He said that Weiner, who sells commercial real estate for Greiner-Maltz, is just here to sell big properties and then leave.  He said the president should be someone who lives or owns a business in Sunnyside.

Meanwhile, Luke Adams said: “Ira Greenberg and Becky Barker did a great job when they were president and they live in the area…All he [Weiner] wants to do is sell a lot of our property.”

However, Weiner said, “No one had an issue with it when I was voted president,” he said. “Now all of sudden they do.” Furthermore, he said, “I do business in North West Queens.”

Meanwhile, a week ago, former president Ira Greenberg resigned from the chamber board amid controversy. Greenberg stepped down after claiming that Weiner was using his status in the chamber—and chamber stationery—for his own commercial interests, according to several sources. Greenberg sent a copy of the following letter to members of the board, which had been distributed to local businesses.

Swain Wiener

Weiner said he was not going comment about Greenberg’s departure, although he said that there was “plenty of stuff that I can throw arrows at Ira about.” He said that maybe “I was a little bit too aggressive [using his chamber ties] but we all make mistakes.”

He said that he can’t understand why people just don’t call him if they have a problem with him as opposed to making a public issue out of every issue.

“I have worked at many places and donated my time to many groups and I have not seen behavior like this,” Weiner said.

Cardoso is currently in the process of notifying those existing chamber members—many of whom signed the petition–to make sure they mail in their ballots when they are sent out in March.

Too often, he said, the ballots are mailed out and members just don’t respond and they don’t vote. He said he wants to make sure members take time out to participate.

“It’s time for a change and some new blood in the chamber,” Adams said. “There are a lot of good people in this neighborhood and we need them now.”

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41 Comments

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Jackie Jr.

I am vindicated b/c I told everyone on this post that this fella is ethically challenged.

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Dorothy Morehead

Sunnyside businesses advertise on LICpost.com. Wespaw Pets, Claret and Bar 43, as well as the Turkish Cultural Center all advertise on both sites.

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Let's switch topics

Always nice to see ads for a Long Island City Florist and LIC restaurants in the Sunnyside Post. That should definitely boost the growth of business for the florists and restaurants in the Sunnyside Area!

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Dorothy Morehead

Thanks, Pat, for your accurate, and thorough, explanation of the situation. I was a member but dropped when there was nothing to keep me interested and involved. A once-a-month luncheon with a handful of members is simply not worth the membership fee. Luke produced totally by himself a monthly color newsletter, there was an excellent website, at least half a dozen business card exchange with dozens of local businesses participating, regular communication with government officials to communicate issues of importance to the business community. I look forward to the revitalization of the organization.

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Patricia Dorfman

I imagine that none of us mentioned in this story is happy about it. We seem silly. Mr. Murray may well have been evenhanded. But there needs to be a mention of what is at stake for the larger community. I hope Murray will allow this comment of close to 1400 words, and others at some point will find time to read it.

A large number of local businesses support leadership by Rigoberto Cardoso, who, if he wins the coming election, wishes to get back a focus of local businesses: local events, showcase local restaurants for meetings, and be more inclusive of local diverse business owners. Spanish and other specialized chambers of commerce are booming! Cardoso says he hopes that everyone to stick together for the good of all.

Mr. Cardoso is man of integrity, from my personal dealings with him for 12 years. Fundraising, membership recruitment and grant writing were not part of his duties. Cardoso does not want to serve long term as president, just long enough to get a locally minded person in the office of president. He reports a few have expressed interest to him already.

How is any of this my business? I am no longer a member, nor am I on the board, nor will I run. After Luke Adams was let go, four board members asked for my help to get back on track, as I did serve in the past. In addition to donating the former site and management, among my other volunteer tasks were promotion and events. My goal is essentially a “happy village” to live and work in.

I support Luke Adams because his actions exemplify the “Small Town in the Big City,” and the “Why roam? Shop at home,” former slogans of the chamber. He gives of himself whether he is paid or not, to help many fulfill our dreams. I believe that some of the criticisms of Adams in the blog comments are “plants.” Adams put up the first website in 1993, is computer literate and as far as I know was not fired for lack of ability.

What would be an ideal outcome? Several long-serving officers have given mightily of themselves and their funds their entire careers, literally supporting many local causes. The chamber needs them! Other firms and professionals want to join and have input. The town needs the old and the new. When some of us departed a while ago, we had 170+ members, ability to hold fundraisers and many initiatives, which benefited business and we hoped the community at large. That was possible because we had the “home field advantage;” knowing each other.

The aim of Cardoso, as far as I know, is not to dismantle or discredit, but restore the organization to usefulness, started in 1947 by public-spirited local businessmen, and regain the historical good will from and to the community. We need to honor and preserve that history. Queens has a way of being overrun by development, losing its nice buildings and features, and its local history lost.

Baffling: The board determined that funds were so low that Luke Adams had to be laid off. To most, Luke Adams was the board’s biggest asset. Why not plan a quick local fundraiser to raise funds for the chamber? Why get rid of the person most associated with local business boosting? Why tell five+ news outlets that you were broke and firing the person most associated with local promotion? Why no local solo initiatives? Why did no dues bills go out in 16 months until Cardoso sent it out, usually a task of other officers?

The president’s sales letter: Self-promotion is not a no-no. It is a merchant organization. But historically there has been a bit more local patriotism, more engagement with the community. Something must be offered to members for the $125 dues. The president, as he says, was duty elected. Board members have often used their chamber affiliation in self-descriptions in solicitations, but not on chamber letterhead with board member names. Doing so, like the firing of Adams, shows that the president and others, perhaps unintentionally, were puzzlingly ‘off mission.’ The resignation of the Chairman, attorney Ira Greenberg, over that matter, was distressing and a substantial loss.

A few ask for a new organization with no baggage. I am opposed. Why lose what the area’s merchant founding fathers worked so hard for? They made money in the community and spent a great deal of it here for good. Two have names on our parks. The bylaws have stood the test of time. One hopes this skirmish is a temporary one in the ups and downs of all lasting organizations.

Local mom & pop stores and professionals are a key part of our business community. If all business decisions are left only to property owners, developers, and real estate brokers, the landscape will soon be more bleak. Queens Boulevard will never be the Champs-Élysées, but may soon look worse, like some areas further out in Queens: often poorly-built apartment buildings with low ceilings and only stores which earn enough to afford the coming giant rents. We need firms built with love, as so many of ours are.

Some ask why do we even need a chamber, with Sunnyside Shines, a business improvement district or BID? The reason is simple. The BID is a property owners’ association. A BID needs 51% of property owners to go forward. The majority of BID board seats must be landlords. The revenue stream is constant because the property owners legally tax, within the footprint, every individual business, whose membership and payment is mandatory. A BID’s task is enhanced security, cleanliness, promotion, and holiday lights. It is not a democratic organization of merchants, but an officially sanctioned arm of NYC government for property owners to legally collect funds from their tenants for what they determine is best. This may or may not coincide with the needs of mom and pops or residents. Even it wanted to, a BID cannot advocate independently for merchants on topics of its choice.

The chamber is open to all, businesses, organizations, professionals, residents, free to advocate for what it wants, in or out of the BID area, and is structured democratically. Small businesses or organizations without a lot of financial clout can join with others to help themselves and have a “say.”

Let’s keep our small town qualities! Of course, the passed rezoning means bigger buildings and big money is here, but rezoning goes not have to mean unchecked development, crowding out the light, no opportunities for new, small businesses and diminished quality of life for residents. If there is a strong local component of small business owners and local organizations, there can be a balance, a place to express oneself which can suit everyone, and help make new investments flourish, not divide us.

Why am I so gung-ho on the chamber? I personally fulfilled an early obsession to get Rawson, Lowery and Bliss back on the streets and #7 so I could again get off at Bliss. At the time I began, I knew very few people here. The MTA and DOT were refusing and resisting our wheelbarrow full of signatures. Donald McCallian and others helped day and night (Don and I later testified with me at City Hall). Then it happened! Why? Someone told me to call Luke Adams. Luke helped me reach City Hall Marge Markey, Cathy Nolan and Eric Gioia, send them the signatures, and stop braying at the moon. I wasted five years when I could have spent a month. So when Luke then asked me to join “his” Chamber and help them, I did. I found a team, making many subsequent efforts easier.

Some ask what exactly has the chamber accomplished. The list is endless! Long term its achievements include parking under the elevated, the creation of the BID, refurbishment of the crumbling arch. More recently, they include getting Skillman sidewalk cafés included in the rezoning (Ira Greenberg), a good thing for the business growth and the community.

Unity among local large and small concerns in an independent group free to express themselves helps locals help themselves. So I hope that once the dust settles on this election, no matter what happens, that this distressing media attention will lead to transparency, unity and good will and keep us a “small town in the big city.”

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IRISH

I want to thank Luke Adams for all of the fun community bus trips that we went on. We had wonderful weekend trips including seeing plays, buffet dinners. swimming in the hotel pool, and then up and on our way to Atlantic City where we had another amazing day with lots of raffles. great prizes and lots of fun. And that was before we got to Atlantic City. All the while you were serving coffee, breakfast, mimosas, funny stories all while working very hard.

We met a lot of people from the neighborhood that we never would have met if it wasn’t for the bus trips. That’s what was great about the Chamber. It brought neighborhood people together and we had a great time. Maybe we should have some more bus trips. They were always sold out and you got a lot for your buck.

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Ressi Dent

@ 43rd @ 43rd You make some good points. I let the issue of ageism creep into my argument when I should not have. My apologies.

However, I still believe that a lifetime of experience with an organization is worth far more than good computer skills. If technology is a hindrance for an individual employee an employer who values expertise can make reasonable accommodations. And please don’t draw conclusions about what someone else thinks ,”If you don’t think mature people can learn to click a button” when you are reducing the argument to an inane point.

When you call it “very basic work” that constitutes the job, you ignore the much larger context. The peaceful transfer of power, the battling egos, the power plays behind the scene that forced a group that had been healthy for a good while into a steep decline is really the issue, not whether one employee or another spells well.

It seems someone wanted to change the group’s culture and it ended up sinking it entirely. That is not an employee’s failure, it is a failure of the leadership to understand the body he had taken over. You can’t improve an organization by scuttling what’s good about it.

And anyway, the gentleman in question was let go not for cause, but for lack of funds.

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43rd & 43rd

@Ressi-Dent Nobody is saying that the old folks should kill themselves. However, if you have a communications job, you should have basic communications skills. If you don’t, and you want to keep your job, you should learn them. I believe everyone is capable of learning to click on spellcheck. If you don’t think old people can click that button, that says more about you.

If your “lifetime of knowledge” doesn’t include basics like how to spell, what is it good for, professionally? Why do you think young people should only be paid peanuts as interns when they have more skills?

And why do you assume that everyone who has skills is immature? There are plenty of people not just in their 20s, but also in their 30s, 40s, 50s, who can do the very basic work that constitutes the job.

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Ressi Dent

@ Not Feeling It No, I do not admire anyone who sees my hometown as a l opportunity to exploit. Nope. I do not. It is a HOME, not a chance to stuff your pockets.

Go invent a better widget if you want to make money. Put people to work in one of the factories here. That will make this town stronger. Marketing, promotion, dealmaking? Bah. A bunch of fast talk in a room full of smoke and mirrors. Moving people around, destroying their peace of mind for the sake of “development” makes me sick to my stomach.

We want stable, healthy communities where all members, even those who have lived here for more than ten years, are valued.

I dont’ want to live in a town that “takes off.” You want that, I’ll give you a lift to LaGuardia.

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Sunnysider

The chamber of commerce in Sunnyside has been a slap shouldering organization for years and years. They really do not care about the Sunnyside community . They just like to go to the meetings ( always at Dazies) and complement each other on what they have done for the community ( which is not very much) we need real people on the board to focus more on our community than on themselves .

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Ressi Dent

@43rd and 43rd So, when poor youngsters come along the old folks should commit hari-kari? What a disgusting culture we have. In many other cultures a mature person is considered an invaluable resource that younger ones go to for advice. Here they slay you, then waste tons of resources reinventing the wheel. It is pitiful. Yes, young people are up on the new technology, but they are immature.

Sorry, in this rich city with all the brilliant business types in this town the Chamber should have enough to pay for a few interns to strengthen and broaden the marketing, not toss a lifetime of knowledge and start from scratch. That is ignorant.

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Not Feeling It

Sincerely, I am REALLY EMBARRSED to be living in this community. The Chamber is a JOKE. No wonder storefronts go empty, houses are broken into, crime is on the rise and this is what the Chamber posts on its website as its mission statement:

Our Mission
The Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to the promotion and advancement of the businesses within the community, in recognition that a vibrant retail community offers vitality that creates a strong residential community.

It’s obvious the entire board and all members need to be ousted and perhaps new, eager, dedicated people should take over. I would join as a community member for $25 but that membership doesn’t have voting privileges.

The fact that this “thriving community” with so much “potential” has lost so much retail business in the last few years is proof enough that this board is a joke. You have to admire Swain, at least he sees the chamber for what it is-an OPPORTUNITY to be EXPOLITED for his own commercial interests because all the members are dolts! Until Sunnyside gets it’s act together, we will continue to be overlooked and in certain circles laughed at. All my friends refer to Sunnyside as the neighborhood that “hasn’t quite taken off yet”-and that’s going on 20 years!! It’s clear there has been some change in the past 5-8 years, but for our location, housing options and transportation choices, this neighborhood should be thriving. Instead, it feels like it’s dying a slow death.

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Mind your Bizness

This does feel like a small group of people given lots of air time in the free local papers and this website. I think CoCs typically do what this current president is doing and I find his remarks interesting about the ‘behavior’ he’s encountering. I like how someone else said the model used by the Skillman pubs is more effective, philanthropic, fun-spirited and collaborative. I don’t think they have a president or membership fees. Is the CoC worth keeping?

Also, somebody must have voted for the guy, no?

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Celtic Bark

It does seem ironic that an old timer who was recently let go is calling for “new blood.”

As long as the “new blood” isn’t replacing him I suppose.

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JaneGrissom

New blood means new blood. How does the Chamber feel about all the empty stores? How do they feel about the robberies?

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43rd & 43rd

And Al, you aren’t thinking of the poor person who currently has holes in their budget, but who also has the necessary skills, who could do that job if it weren’t a sinecure.

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Al Casellzer

@ Celtic Bark
Hey, that gives me hope. Thanks.

Perhaps the people in charge right now will take a moment to recognize that they wouldn’t have any thing to be strutting down Queens Blvd. about if the person they so recently turned out into the cold hadn’t held it together with blood, sweat, tears and heart for the past few decades.

Then some human justice, not accounting ledger justice, might prevail.

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Celtic Bark

@Al Casellzer

By the end of the story, Scrooge was a changed man, generous, compassionate. People always forget that part.

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Al Casellzer

How about some computer training?

It may be easy for you, JG, to say someone should step down, but leaving a job isn’t the easiest thing in the world, you know? Especially when the paycheck patches the whole in your budget.

“Are there no workhouses?” said Ebenezer Scrooge.

It seems many of his descendants sailed the Atlantic and took deep root progeny in Sunnyside. What a crop of tightwads.

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Celtic Bark

“It’s time for a change and some new blood in the chamber,” Adams said.

“Blood In The Chamber” I think have just found the perfect name for my new thrash/goth metal band. Thanks, Luke.

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JaneGrissom

Disengaged Business Owner has the best comments: new leadership – but also, as good as he was, time for Luke Adams to step down especially if he does not have computer skills.

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Tequilla Mockingbird

Just by looking around, it is obvious that Sunnyside chamber of commerce is not doing a good job at fostering the growth of the business community.

I am not interested in their petty quarrels or personal vendettas, I would rather see them held accountable on results and efficiency.

This is not a thriving neighborhood business-wise and this is too bad for the residents.

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Ressi Dent

@This is BS! You have some overwhelming ego, you know that?

You want new? Go to a deserted island, you can start civilization over and everything will be new.

As it is you live in a place with a history, and many of the people around you know that history and have been adding new chapters to it for their whole lives. Because you haven’t participated in it doesn’t mean no one else should know it and respect it.

Have you ever heard of “When in Rome do as the Roman’s do”? It means respect the town you are new in, sit back and learn the ropes or you, not anyone else, you are the ugly, ugly, ugly unwelcome intruder with bad manners. You have the perspective of a infant that comes to ridiculous conclusions based on a laughable lack of information. It’s cute in a baby, but no in you.

Get lost.

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This is BS!

Who cares about this BS? Swain, Greenberg, Rigo, Dorfman, Adams, they all need to stop their nonsense, realize that they make up 5/30,000ths of the neighborhood and do something useful with their time. No one cares about this Chamber BS. This is a immigrant working-class neighborhood. Whatever version of Sunnyside they are stuck in stopped existing years ago. I want new for God sake! This is crap, this is BS!

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Disengaged Business Owner

I agree the Chamber needs new leadership, but replacing Weiner with Cardoso (and Dorfman and Adams, of all people! the guy that doesn’t know how to write an email subject line or turn off the CAPS LOCK) is not a solution.

Using Chamber stationary to pitch your services may not be cool, but stuffing Pronto Car Services flyers in the Chamber mailings isn’t cool either. How is the Treasurer using the Chamber’s postage to send out flyers on behalf of his own business any worse than what Weiner does?

Love that the restaurant owners up on Skillman have figured out ways to support and cross-promote each other with some creative events and without a Chamber.

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Krissi

ooof…. THE DRAMA!

He should def have not used the stationary. NOT COOL.

And I agree that the President of the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce should be a resident or business owner. While I don’t mean to demonize the man, I do think perhaps it needs new leadership.

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Ressi Dent

The man SELLS COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE. He sees Sunnyside as his own personal kazillion dollar piggy bank. He can sell, then resell, knockdown, then sell something else, etc. etc. etc. He has no friggin idea what Sunnysider’s need. He knows what real estate developers want, destabilization of long-time residents is just “collateral damage” as far as they are concerned.

I wasn’t aware of it then, but way back a decade or so ago, this little place I call home was divvied up among the greedy folk, big business, the City Council, the community board, and God knows who else in coffee shops, conference calls, and board rooms.

Then they hired marketers to write slick brochures and put out press releases about how overcrowded the place is, how dangerous traffic is, how decrepit the old neighborhood has become, softening us up.

They let the roads go, the Honeywell bridge was closed for decades, until the developers saw a chance to make money. So, suddenly, a new subway line to the east side, a refurbished bridge, calmer traffic on Queens Blvd. so people might actually want to live there, etc. etc.

As craven as this all is, it is but a shadow of a drop in a bucket. Like the Irish song “The Town I Loved So Well,” is in the hands of the enemy.

I don’t think we can get it back, but we sure can land a few good punches before we go down.

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Rich Klein

I don’t know Mr. Weiner and am not a Chamber member. But it’s certainly an ethical lapse to use Chamber stationary to promote your business at the expense of other hard working members. However, what’s more baffling to me is how a business owner who lives in Westchester and whose closest business office is in Long Island City gets elected president of Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce. I question the ability of someone who doesn’t live or work here to have the best interests of the business community at heart.

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40th Street Geek

If anyone knew anything about today’s marketing landscape there would be more than enough money to fund all you idiots.

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Craic Dealer

How is this BS? Swain has a conflict of interest. It must have been Swine himself posting that comment.

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This is BS!

If the SP keeps covering this BS, it will rank worst blog in Queens. Maybe it will tie with Queens Crap. This is BS!

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Anonymous

That letter is a clear violation of any conflict of interest policy. Misrepresenting that the chamber endorses his business.
That’s an issue for any organisation. He didn’t fulfill his duty.

That’s just based on above letter.

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Wisenheimer

Oh, boy. Too many new people came in too fast. Greed blinds people to what really matters, each other.

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