Save the Garment Center is back.
The group, which was created in 2007 but has been dormant for the past five years, has mobilized in opposition to a proposal by the city of New York to relocate fashion industry manufacturing from Seventh Avenue to Brooklyn and remove zoning protections within the Garment District.
About a month ago, the New York City Economic Development Corporation and the New York City Planning Commission presented a plan to relocate some of the Garment District’s 400-plus businesses and 66,000 workers to Sunset Park in Brooklyn.
Sunset Park boasts 265,000 square feet of garment manufacturing with an additional 500,000 square feet of industrial space becoming available this summer at the Brooklyn Army Terminal at rents that average $16 to $25 a square foot. An additional 200,000 square feet is expected to be available by spring 2020 at the Bush Terminal at the same average price.
There is also 2.4 million square feet available in the private market, the NYCEDC said.
Although the organization has said “no one is being relocated, pushed out or asked to move,” the city is also considering a removal of a zoning regulation that requires any space currently used for manufacturing be preserved by replacing it with another similarly sized manufacturing space within the district.
The issue is heating up as Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and 10th Congressional District Rep. Jerrold Nadler sent a joint letter to the NYCEDC and the Planning Commission last week expressing “serious concerns with the current proposals…to remove the requirements to preserve manufacturing space in the city’s Garment Center and to redevelop the Bush Terminal Buildings as a new hub for the garment industry in Sunset Park.” They said changing the zoning will “jeopardize New York’s status as a garment and fashion industry hub.”
On Monday afternoon, Brewer will host a public symposium entitled Urban Manufacturing and the Garment Center at the High School of Fashion Industries from 4 to 7 p.m. It will include panels on zoning and the garment ecosystem.
Save the Garment Center is proposing to consolidate the Garment Center into a smaller area of Manhattan with a dedicated minimum of 500,000 square feet for factories as well as 200,000 square feet for suppliers and service providers and 300,000 square feet for design and workforce training.
According to a spokesman, the group is proposing a campus of sorts in a consolidated Midtown location along with satellite hubs in other cities. The Brooklyn facility, he said, would be used for research and development of textiles and other fashion technology, creating twin hubs in both boroughs.
Save the Garment Center was created as a grassroots campaign by factory owners Samanta Cortes, Anthony Lilore, Paul Cavazza and Larry Geffner in response to the city’s plans to lift 1987 zoning laws that protected the leases of Garment District tenants. Designers Nanette Lepore, Yeohlee Teng and Anna Sui were among the first to support the group, which became a registered trade association in 2009.
On Friday, Teng said she continues to support the group’s effort. “They have my support,” she said. “We really think the issue is an all-encompassing one. We believe in locally made, sustainable and the future to ensure the city remains as innovative and creative as it has always been.”