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Queens Chronicle

How sweet it was: Jack Frost and the Domino effect

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Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2019 10:30 am

Ellsworth Bunker was born in Yonkers on May 11, 1894. Upon graduation from Yale in 1916 he was groomed and ready to become president of the family sugar business with its refinery in Long Island City near Newtown Creek.

The National Sugar Refinery, aka Jack Frost Sugar, was huge, consisting of four buildings all on the waterfront. Sizes were 510-by-250 feet, 490-by-200 feet and, two other buildings, 200-by-465 feet. His biggest competitor was the American Sugar Co., or Domino Sugar, across the creek on the Brooklyn waterfront.

The two companies made New York City the sugar capital of the world. Bunker’s skills of negotiation later got him positions of ambassador to Argentina in 1951, Italy 1952, India 1957-1961 and South Vietnam, from 1967 to 1973. He was the first person to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom twice.

In 1977 Bunker was instrumental in transferring the Panama Canal to Panama. But all his skills could not save his sugar company. Union problems and a lack of demand for cane sugar due to a cost increase in beet sugar, high fructose corn syrup and synthetic sweeteners spelled doom.

His death at age 90 in September 1984 coincided with the death of the company. His old competitor, Domino, hung on until 2004, closing its area operation after 148 years. Today the future of the big sprawling waterfront is in the hands of the politicians and corporations, with a new chapter ready to be written.

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