Madelaine Chocolate wants its fair share of the billions of disaster recovery dollars coming to the city post-Sandy.
“Superstorm Sandy put us out of the chocolate business,” said Jorge Farber, owner of the 65-year-old Rockaway business. “When I was able to get to the factory [after the storm], one thing was clear: things would never be the same.”
The New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) held a hearing Tuesday at the Madelaine Chocolate complex where Farber was able to address city officials and request funds from the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR), which is expected to bring in about $16 billion for superstorm victims.
Madelaine Chocolate officials are still working to pay back a $13 million loan from the Small Business Association, according to Farber. He suggested the CDBG-DR be “grant-only” because “many employers, like Madelaine, have already taken on all the debt they can handle.”
He also said the grant limit should be raised to $10 million for companies, like his, which meets defined criteria, including a significant number of employees and a great economic impact.
“I am not an economist . . . but Madelaine has the potential to continue to contribute millions to the New York City economy,” Farber said. “Make no mistake, the assistance we are asking for will make a huge difference in the lives of the employees who depend on us to continue making chocolate in New York City,” Farber said.
Before Sandy, Madelaine Chocolate’s 400 employees produced about 20 million pounds of chocolate per year, according to Farber.
The Rockaway Park sweet spot also boasted hiring a majority of their employees locally, as well as providing chocolate for local vendors. Today, they are utilizing half of their 200,000-square-foot complex and operating with about 100 employees, and Madelaine Chocolate is up for sale.
“It is little more than a skeleton crew,” Farber said. “But, if we can get the assistance we need, we can hold up our end of the partnership right here in New York City.”