Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen

In a move to save Manhattan’s Garment Center, a rallying cry for more than a decade, New York City Economic Development Corp. said today it has released a Request for Expressions of Interest, or RFEI, that seeks to identify respondents interested in acquiring and operating property in or around the Garment Center that will provide dedicated space for fashion manufacturers. New York has committed up to $20 million in city funding toward a portion of the acquisition costs.

The building to be acquired will provide fashion manufacturers with real estate stability through affordable, long-term leases offered to tenants.

Those responding will need to identify a proposed building or buildings for acquisition that will serve as a dedicated home for fashion production (ie. machinery for pattern cutting, pleating, etc.) Respondents are being asked to include a nonprofit partner aligned with the mission of fashion manufacturing stability and growth in the Garment Center.

“Providing financial support for the acquisition of a Garment Center building dedicated to garment production is fundamental to our commitment to fashion design and manufacturing both in Midtown and across the city,” said Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen.

It is no secret that New York has been losing its manufacturing workforce over the last few decades. In fact, the city has lost 95 percent of its manufacturing workforce since its peak in 1950. In the garment center alone, garment manufacturing jobs have declined by 85 percent since 1987, when the city put special zoning regulations in place to try to preserve garment manufacturing in the Garment Center. From March 2017 to March 2018 alone, New York city’s apparel manufacturing industry jobs declined by an additional 7.7 percent, a loss of about 1,000 jobs, according to the Garment District Alliance.

Today, there are about 1,600 garment manufacturing firms citywide, and about 25 percent of these businesses, or approximately 400 firms are in the Garment Center. These companies face enormous global competition and real estate pressures despite preservation attempts. In addition New York’s Garment Center faces development from office space conversions. A steady flow of apparel brands have looked or have left Manhattan for less expensive rents in other boroughs.

“Garment production is critical to New York City’s identity as the fashion capital of the world,” said James Patchett, president and chief executive of NYCEDC. “The acquisition of a building in the heart of Manhattan will ensure that garment manufacturing is not only preserved, but has a home in the historical Garment Center. Today’s announcement wouldn’t be possible without the steadfast leadership of Speaker Johnson and [Manhattan] Borough President [Gale A.] Brewer.”

Brewer added, “To truly ensure New York City’s garment manufacturers always have a home in the Garment Center, acquiring a building is crucial. This component of the Garment Center plan is vital to the industry as well as the city, because the entire New York fashion world depends on having an accessible, skilled, local manufacturing base. I urge local property owners and the nonprofit community to participate in the RFEI, engage with the Economic Development Corp. and help us reach our goal of a permanent manufacturing hub in the heart of the Garment Center.”

The news today builds upon the NYCIDA Garment Center Program, a tax incentive package that can reduce property taxes for eligible property owners who offer long-term, affordable leases to fashion manufacturers. The NYCIDA Garment Center program requires property owners to offer 15-year leases with a maximum gross rent of $35 per square foot. In exchange, the participating property owners will receive discretionary tax benefits from the NYCIDA that range from $1 to $4 per square foot of manufacturing space that ranges between 25,000 and 100,000 square feet. On Sept. 18, the NYCIDA board approved three buildings totaling 200,000 square feet of fashion manufacturing space into the program.

Last June, Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a comprehensive plan that included the support of a single dedicated fashion production space in the Garment Center. The mayor’s plan includes programmatic support for the fashion industry, to be offered in partnership with the Council of Fashion Designers of America and the Garment District Alliance. The plan includes amendments to existing zoning in the Garment Center and is in the later stages of the city’s public review process.

Proposed targeted zoning changes will:

• Maintain existing manufacturing and commercial zoning.

• Lift the antiquated 1:1 preservation requirement of production space that has proven ineffective in protecting garment manufacturers.

• Limit the development of new hotels through a hotel special permit.

• Allow property owners to improve their properties.

• Improve neighborhood character through new height, setback and signage regulations.

“We are encouraged that the city is taking a comprehensive approach to support fashion design and manufacturing and skilled jobs citywide. Securing at least 500,000 square feet in the Garment Center is essential to the fashion eco-system to adequately provide for existing concentration of creative industries and network of manufacturers across the New York City metropolitan area, as we concluded at the Garment Center Steering Committee. Acquisition of a building dedicated to garment manufacturing businesses is extremely vital to achieve this amount of square footage and as a strong safeguard for garment tenants long after the NYCIDA tax incentive program expires. We are optimistic that the right team will come together to make this ambitious plan a reality,” said Susan Chin, FAIA, Hon. ASLA, executive director, Design Trust for Public Space.

An optional information session on the RFEI will be held Oct. 25 at 9 a.m. at NYCEDC’s offices at 110 William Street in New York. Those who wish to attend should RSVP to garmentcenteracqrfei@edc.nyc on or before Oct. 23. The RFEI will open this Nov. 2 and remain open through Nov. 1, 2019. Respondents may submit a response at any point.

“The creation of a dedicated building for fashion manufacturing is an important development of the RFEI and the NYCIDA Garment Center Program, which directly aligns with the needs of our industry to help preserve and support the entire fashion ecosystem. New York City fashion manufacturing is an important sector for fashion and the city’s economy at large, and the NYCEDC’s dedication to driving fashion manufacturing  forward can be seen through this effort and other successful programs like the CFDA’s Fashion Manufacturing Initiative,” said Steven Kolb, president and chief executive officer of the CFDA.

In 2017, the city said it planned to develop a Made in New York campus in the Sunset Park district of Brooklyn, using the city-owned Bush Terminal to provide lower-cost space to fashion brands. It is on track to open in 2020.

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