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Who could possibly be upset about a chocolate factory coming to the neighborhood? Someone who thinks its grand opening is "a celebration of gentrification," according to the New York Times. Elizabeth Yeampierre organized a boycott against Li-Lac Chocolate's Industry City debut back in November, hoping to rally others against a perceived threat she's seen swallow other areas in the city.
"[Sunset Park] needs to be a place where blue-collar people can live and work," she told the paper. "I was reacting to what I was seeing as a trend to hurt the composition of the neighborhood."
Naturally, the proprietors behind the (formerly) Manhattan-based chocolate house that first opened on Christopher Street in 1923 were surprised by the assault. "We're locals," co-owner, Anthony Cirone said. "We're not an unknown corporate entity owned by unnamed people in faraway places."
"If you see every change as a threat," community board chairman Daniel Murphy said of the incident, "your amygdala is too active." Regarding Industry City's impact on the surrounding area, he added: "We're not about being twee or making the neighborhood clean and nice," he said. "We like it messy. It's New York City—it's the kind of neighborhood that Walt Whitman would have walked through 150 years ago."
Li-Lac Chocolates had previously moved its operations to Brooklyn "because making chocolate in Manhattan is no longer viable," another co-owner, Chris Taylor, explained (Before Industry City, manufacturing took place in a smaller Sunset Park factory). "Our [current] store on Jane Street is surrounded by shops with purses and shoes without price tags, so that tells you something." The paper writes that the 10,000-square foot factory costs 18 times less per square foot than the tiny storefront.
· Chocolate Factory in Brooklyn Asks: What, Us? Gentrifiers? [NYT]
· Sweet! Even More Chocolate Is Coming to Sunset Park [Racked NY]
· Industry City [Racked NY]