Building local manufacturing in the Garment District is gaining attention.

The world is teeming with questions and the Garment District Alliance is trying to help answer some of those being posed by its tenants.

There are approximately 4,250 tenants in the area — of which about 900 are fashion-related businesses, approximately 21 percent of the base. Of the 139,000 jobs in the district, about 18,000 are fashion-related representing 13 percent of the tenants. And approximately three percent are in manufacturing, according to the GDA’s Barbara Blair.

As the unimaginable events of the past week have unfolded, the GDA has been sharing information with its members pretty much on a daily basis about emergency funds. Working closely with the Real Estate Board of New York’s guidelines, the GDA planned to send more specifics today to property owners. Their teamwork is meant to inform Garment District tenants of several courses for action. Paramount to some small businesses may be learning about the program set up by New York City to provide no-interest loans to select small businesses affected by slowdowns triggered by COVID-19. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio initiated the program last week for companies with less than 100 employees, who have seen a 25 percent or more decline. If eligible, they will receive zero-interest loaned for up to $75,000 to help mitigate losses in profit.

In addition, the city is offering businesses with fewer than five employees a grant to cover 40 percent of payroll costs for two months to help retain employees.

Many of the smaller street-front operations are partially reliant on foot traffic and are not financially sound enough to survive a weeklong closure much less any more extended periods. Impacted businesses are being encouraged to sign up online to receive more updates about the new loan and grant program including application links.

Established in 1993 to improve the quality of life and economic vitality of Manhattan’s Garment District, the nonprofit has invested more than $80 million in the neighborhood to date. Formerly known as the Fashion Center Business Improvement District, the group tweaked its name partially as an indication of the area’s changing landscape. An influx of businesses from different industries have put down roots and with that there has been an uptick in the number of hotels, restaurants and cafes.

In response to the current crisis, the REBNY is working with other New York City organizations to push for significant expansion for federal, state and local programs  to support the economy and help restaurants, small businesses and retailers. Their plans include asking city and state officials to allow more small businesses to receive financial support and diversify programs to include cash grants, no-interest loans and low-interest loans. Other requests include delaying fines and fees for small businesses experiencing losses, suspension of the Commercial Rent Tax for ground-floor tenants, eliminate late payment penalties for property taxes and extend cure periods for various violations.

In anticipation of the fallout from COVID-19, another recommendation is to support legal services for COVID-19-related matters. Helping businesses to conduct insurance reviews to determine whether rent, lost revenue and other expenses can be covered by their insurance carriers has also been suggested by REBNY’s guidelines. There is also mention of reducing sales taxes, deferring sales tax payments and suspending late sales tax payment penalties.

The neighborhood was fairly desolate Tuesday morning. Instead of the usual crush of commuters racing to their offices, showrooms or nearby places of employment, the sidewalks were empty and the streets were free from the usual vehicular gridlock.

Most businesses and stores were shuttered except for a few coffee shops. In Times Square, megastores like Century 21 were temporarily closed with signs taped to their front doors explaining the reason – as if that were necessary for most of the waking world.

On another front, the Fashion Group International’s president Maryanne Grisz has sent a letter of support to members. They have been informed that FGI has postponed or will reschedule all of its March and April events including its regional conference that was slated to start April 30. That three-day event may have digital delivery options. All board of directors meetings will be held via conference calls.

FGI members are being reminded that  the Fashion Group Foundation is a registered charity with Amazon Smile, and that they should designate the foundation as their charity.

Emphasizing the importance of staying connected and supportive of friends and family, Grisz said, “We will come through this stronger, if we remember that we are all in this together.”

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