NEW YORK – In advance of what will be the city’s first public presentation of proposed zoning changes for the Garment District on Wednesday, the New York City Economic Development Corporation has responded to a letter from elected Manhattan officials regarding the situation.
Wednesday’s meeting is being organized by the Land Use Committee of Manhattan Community Board 5 and will be held at the SGI Cultural center at 7 East 15th Street. At play is about one million square feet that have been earmarked for apparel manufacturing and another one million set aside for support purposes. With Broadway and Seventh Avenue as the main throughways, the district runs from Fifth to Ninth Avenues stretching from 35th to 41st Streets. New York’s fashion industry sustains 900-plus companies generating $98 billion in annual revenues and creating more than 180,000 jobs.
Several industry executives involved with preliminary discussions have voiced concern about initial suggestions that could lead to Manhattan manufacturing being transferred to Brooklyn. The $25 billion new Hudson Yards project under way and Penn Station’s $2 billion overhaul are two other factors that have some Garment Center tenants feeling hemmed in.
NYCEDC president James Patchett has mapped out some of the city-led efforts in a letter dated March 17 to Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler (NY-10), State Senator Brad Hoylman, State Assembly Member Dick Gottfried, Council Member Corey Johnson, Manhattan Community Board 4 Chair Delores Rubin, and Manhattan Community Board 5 Chair Vikki Barbero. Patchett noted that over the past 18 months the city and the Council of Fashion Designers of America reached out to garment manufacturers, designers, showrooms/suppliers and industry leaders “to better understand the challenges the industry faces today and discuss practical, long-term solutions to address them.”
In a letter to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio dated Feb. 15, New York City Council member Carlos Menchaca, Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez, Nadler and Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams noted that “we wish to better understand how the city will support Garment Center jobs in the Garment Center in Manhattan and how the $136 million ‘Made in New York’ campus at Bush Terminal will fit in with broader planning for Sunset Park especially South Brooklyn Marine Terminal and future port expansion.”
Patchett’s response highlighted how interviewing and holding focus groups with more than 100 companies, individuals and industry organizations helped to identify:
· Key barriers to operating in New York City, and especially the Garment District.
· Information on New York City’s unique fashion ecosystem and supply chain.
· Opportunities to support and fill critical gaps in the industry.
· Interest in relocating or expanding to other fashion clusters.
Brewer still voiced concern via e-mail Monday. “I’m glad the EDC is finally starting to reach out to more stakeholders and provide new information, but I remain concerned that this plan is half-baked. The garment and fashion industries in New York are an ecosystem, and many of these businesses thrive because they are within blocks of each other. Lifting the Garment Center’s zoning protections now, especially when much of the targeted Brooklyn space won’t be ready for years, is asking for a crisis.”
To try to get a better understanding, city officials are meeting directly with additional garment manufacturers, fashion companies and other stakeholders “to ensure their input informs the continued development of the city’s initiative,” Patchett said. “The Garment Center remains the historic home of the fashion industry, and the city and industry expects that many manufacturing businesses will continue to flourish there. Today, there are approximately 830,000 square feet of garment manufacturing space located in the Garment District’s preservation areas. Through our outreach to date, we understand that manufacturers in the district are operating on varied lease terms, ranging from month-to-month to more than 10 years. For those manufacturing businesses that have been successful in the Garment Center, the city is exploring an expansion of our programs to help them stay competitive, and creating opportunities for them to expand. We are also exploring tools to help mitigate real estate pressure from competing uses like hotels.”
But Patchett noted that for other manufacturers that have “struggled to find a stable real estate solution in the Garment Center,” the de Blasio administration has committed to “creating new, affordable space in city-owned assets in Sunset Park, which has organically become New York City’s second-largest garment manufacturing hub.”
He pointed out that the Sunset Park neighborhood has 2.4 million square feet of available industrial space on the private market. After the $100 million-plus renovation of the Brooklyn Army Terminal, NYCEDC will have more than 500,000 square feet of industrial space available for lease starting this fall. NYCEDC, “as a mission-driven nonprofit entity, will offer garment manufacturers long-term leases at affordable rates in state-of-the-art newly renovated industrial buildings,” he said.
Patchett also said that this is in advance of the city’s $136 million investment in 200,000 square feet of dedicated space for garment manufacturers at the Made in NY Campus at Bush Terminal, which is scheduled to come online in 2020. “We believe strongly that the way to ensure the Sunset Park waterfront remains an affordable, job-intensive industrial center is to invest in modern manufacturing spaces. We are proud of the work this administration has done to ensure that. We believe that garment manufacturing, a historic sector in the area, will fit well within Sunset Park’s industrial landscape well into the future,” he wrote.