MAYORAL APPEAL: Rather than just send a letter to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio asking — for a second time — that the Garment Center Steering Committee’s recommendations be considered before any changes to the zoning are made, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (N.Y.) and a group of supporters held a press event Saturday morning.
On the rooftop of Nanette Lepore’s showroom, Lepore, Bob Savage, Yeohlee Teng, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and about 25 others voiced their concern about the potential upheaval of the neighborhood’s ecosystem. Standing beside a chart that outlined the garment center’s boundaries, Maloney recalled the time in the Seventies when the district was created by former Mayor Ed Koch and how he spoke “forcefully” about the need “to preserve this dynamic, creative ecosystem. He had that vision and every other mayor has kept that vision. I’m all for development in Brooklyn, but there’s room for everybody.”
Earlier this year city officials proposed a $136 million “Made in New York” campus at Bush Terminal in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park. About 40 Garment Center supporters helped to stall plans to set that plan in motion, by staging another press event days before an Aug. 21 City Planning Commission meeting. The discussion was shelved from the meeting, but city officials have yet to weigh in on the steering committee’s concerns.
Noting that U.S. consumers spent more than $380 billion in apparel and footwear in 2015 alone, Maloney said the industry employs roughly 1.8 million people in the U.S. Manufacturing accounts for roughly 1 million square feet in the garment district, and as indicated in the letter sent to de Blasio Saturday, the proposed industrial space in Sunset Park only represents a fraction of that. “This building would be torn down within two years,” Maloney said, referring to Lepore’s West 35th Street address and lamenting the area’s surge in hotels and the city’s ever-increasing luxury residential towers. Referring to the latter as “bank accounts,” Maloney said, “You go by The Plaza, there isn’t a light on.”
With nearly $11 billion in wages and $2 billion in tax revenue coming from the apparel industry, Maloney said de Blasio’s administration proposes to remove the zoning “without ensuring the survival of the industry. Most cities would be on their knees begging an industry that created so many jobs and revenue to stay and continue to expand.” Lepore described how factory suppliers still use the freight elevator in her building to deliver finished goods on racks, which she ships from the sixth floor of her building. “This is global manufacturing at its best because it provides democratic opportunities for everyone who has the inspiration and determination to start a fashion brand,” she said.