By  on July 11, 2008

Forty percent of the Manhattan Garment District’s production base could vanish in the next three years, according to a new survey, and designers are being urged to press City Hall to preserve a stable and enforceable production core.

After two years of trying to hammer out a rezoning proposal with city officials, the Council of Fashion Designers of America and leaders of the Garment Industry Development Corp., which did the survey, sent a letter Thursday to the CFDA’s 319 members calling on them “express a need for action” to the Bloomberg administration.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s second term winds down in 18 months, which adds to the sense of urgency. CFDA executive director Steven Kolb said Thursday, “Unless something happens soon under his watch, we could see the whole thing unravel.”

Kolb, who signed the letter along with the CFDA’s general secretary, Yeohlee Teng, and GIDC executive director Fatiah Hosein, said, “No one imagines that the current zoning is right for 2008.”

He is most interested in getting a proposal on the table to preserve manufacturing in the range of at least 250,000 to 350,000 square feet. There is roughly 800,000 square feet dedicated to apparel manufacturing in the Garment District’s side streets.

Another option might be to set up “clusters” of production in Long Island City or Brooklyn where factory space is available and more affordable, provided there is a built-in transportation corridor like shuttle buses that would make it easy for apparel workers to get to and from the city, Kolb said.

“We need the city to come to us with a specific plan,” whether that be “six to one,” “one to one,” [referring to potential ratios of square footage reductions], a conversion credit or some other concept,” Kolb said.

“We wanted to make sure a good number of our members know what could happen and that they take action,” he said. “Our side has been that there have been a lot of presentations and we have heard a lot of ideas, but we keep being told that we will hear something soon. We are not getting any specific plan in terms of what they want to do in the Garment District to protect production.”

A spokesman for the Mayor’s Office said Thursday, “We continue to actively pursue a plan to spur investment in the garment district and keep New York City the fashion capital of the world. A successful rezoning plan will balance the needs of the garment industry, the property owners and other developing businesses, and as soon as we achieve a consensus on what the right balance is, we will take a proposal forward.”

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