Sheila’s First Blog Post
December 13, 2017

I am the Executive Director and that means I spend most of my time connecting and managing the moving dots that serve as the infrastructure for The Chocolate Factory to fulfill its mission.

I do this work to support the artists and the arts. The arts do not exist to support my work as an Executive Director, but the artistic programming at The Chocolate Factory and other like organizations is made possible when the infrastructure is managed well.

December 13, 2017

I don’t think I need to remind you that we own a building, but just in case you are new to The Chocolate Factory Theater…it is true.

On July 20, 2017 we bought a building after being in contract for over two years after more than 10 years of studies, drawings, failed ‘real estate marriages’ with potential partners.

The City of New York and NYC Economic Development Council facilitated the acquisition made possible with major capital support from NYC Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, Planning support came from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and NYS Council on the Arts.

Good News!

Renovation & Relocation funds raised as of December 12, 2017 include $350,000 from The New York State Assembly and Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan; $75,000 from the LuEster T. Mertz Charitable Trust and $150,000 from the Howard Gilman Foundation.

We should be hearing a few unnamed to be revealed if successful) potential sources in the next few weeks.

We are also developing naming opportunities. We want to recognize everyone who made and is making this happen including individuals, corporations, the City, State and the great borough of Queens! Please let me know if you would like to discuss any opportunities.

There will also be a crowdfunding opportunity through Kickstarter for Capital donations from individuals that will run the month of February. We made a rule for ourselves at The Chocolate Factory not to use one of the crowdfunding platforms to raise funds for programming since that is one of the only ways that artists can raise funds directly and we are keeping to that. But, for the renovations we are hearing from our artists, friends, family and neighbors that they want to give ($5 – $500 depending on the person) toward the capital budget and being part of a campaign as the donations are recorded publicly will help them to feel linked to it directly.

It is coming together.

The renovation & relocation budget will include a staff hire not only to help with overlapping duties but we will be looking for someone from the neighborhood who can work on outreach in the Dutch Kills-Queensbridge-Ravenswood area. There is so much potential for expanded programming but one thing we know is that talking to a community about community engagement is not a good way to engage a community.

There are lots of logistical issues we are having to deal with in the interim and maybe you have suggestions and/or can help.

We need a snowblower for the 175’ of sidewalk that lines the new building. Currently we have 25’ and we take turns shoveling. It’s good for upper-body work-outs and it’s a winter outdoor activity so we have not complained to each other (much) before.  We are also working through the NYC Department of Finance to move the property off of the City’s tax roll. This takes time so we will probably have to make the first payment of 2018 of around $13,000 by January 1st to be reimbursed when the process is complete.

The time in and with the space is incredibly informative and will be very useful when we return to the architectural drawing board to revise plans for renovations based on the final budget in place for hard capital costs (early spring). There will continue to be capital, renovation and relocation needs over the next two-three years including acquiring new office and production equipment, etc. We have enough equipment to get going but it is a bigger space, the current equipment is nearing the end of its useful life and we may have some overlap.

We have been at the site regularly with artists, supporters, members of our funding, local and other audiences. The southern corner of our property seems to be a place for intimate nighttime work that happens in parked cars. I won’t share with you the daily clean up, but we are very grateful to Department of Sanitation for quickly getting us onto the pick up route so that our findings are in trash pick-up regularly.

Please let me know if you would like to come by to see the building! We would really like everyone to see the space as it is now and through the process. It is very exciting. You own it as much as we do. Queens owns this forever and that makes us very proud.

Also…I (and we) have been contacted by dozens of other arts organizations from every borough of New York City asking me to sit down with them and tell them the story of how we managed to get through an acquisition since we are a grass roots organization run by people without money of their (our) own. I feel terrible since I want to be helpful to my peers and to help support the arts in every community but I don’t have time to sit down with everyone (unless I make that my new job) so we are producing two evenings to tell the story and for Q&A.  So… please come to this ticketed event on either Monday, January 22 or Friday, January 26. There is limited seating so don’t wait to get your tickets. Special guests to be announced as the dates gets closer.

Okay, I have to share NOT good news…actually this next part kind of stinks.

Some of you know that our next-door neighbor to the north surprised us over Labor Day Weekend when somehow one of the Excavators (aka diggers) that is used on the lot adjacent to our property managed to plow into our northern wall causing serious damage. Welcome to the neighborhood!

It’s complicated.

We tried to negotiate directly but, and I quote, “…go the legal route and you won’t get a dime outta me…”

We did not enter into discussions unprepared. We contacted the insurance company and the police department immediately and have lots of documentation including video, visuals, quotes, and more.

We now have legal representation.

In closing…

That’s it for now. I hope I have more good news to share soon. Either way I will keep you informed.

Everyone here at The Chocolate Factory is wishing you a healthy & joyous holiday season – year end with family, friends and loved ones.


P.S. Save the Date! Taste of LIC – Tuesday, June 5, 2018