New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is showing her support for the state’s fashion industry.
During the final day of New York Fashion Week, the governor said the garment district in the city will receive $4.5 million in funding as one of the winners of the state’s NY Forward program. NY Forward is intended to support the development and implementation of revitalization plans across the state.
In an announcement at the Fashion Institute of Technology where she was joined by Barbara Blair, president of the Garment District Alliance, as well as Dr. Joyce Brown, president of the college, Hochul said New York City’s garment industry rivals any in the world.
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“We all know what [the garment industry] is, but the rest of the world also knows as well,” she said. “Paris and Milan and London don’t compare to what we have right here. The most creative people in the world come here, and New York City is truly the fashion capital of the world. Think about it: 900 fashion companies right here, 180,000 people working in this industry. That’s what gets my attention.”
Those numbers represent nearly 6 percent of the entire workforce in New York City, she added, accounting for $10.9 billion in wages, “some of which ends up in our state budget,” and helps provide services for all New Yorkers.
The industry in the city dates back to the 1800s, during the Gilded Age, when it grew faster than any other in the country and actually represented nearly 10 percent of the economy. It also attracted immigrants from Poland, Russia and other countries.
“I believe that this neighborhood has tremendous potential to tell a story of immigrants coming here, of creative people coming here, of creating trends and setting trends that the rest of the world will emulate,” she said. “So let’s not lose that sense of identity, that sense of place, that is so powerful here. And I think that we can reimagine what we do here. It’s a center for commerce, a destination for tourism. People come here, they want to see the places where the fashion is innovated, and this is really an economic engine for downtown and Midtown.”
But it “needs a little bit of extra help,” she said, citing crime and other issues that plague the neighborhood. And that was the reason the district was selected to receive the $4.5 million — money it can use to revitalize the area and lean into its history. “It’s about improving neighborhoods, keeping everything in place, streetscapes — that’s what changes the neighborhood,” she said.
The next step is for the fashion industry and community members to “come up with the vision to execute” this revitalization. “Dream big,” she said. “Think about the creative opportunity you have. Think about what this community can be. A few years from now, we can look back and say, ‘2023 was a turning point when people thought that this might have been an area starting in decline.’ And we said, ‘No, we’re stopping that from happening. We’re stopping it.'”