August 2017
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MAS in the News: Garment District Survey


ICYMI: On Monday, MAS released an independent survey finding potentially disastrous outcomes for New York’s fashion industry should the City’s proposal to remove zoning protections from the Manhattan Garment District go forward without any new safeguards in place.

Recent news coverage of this survey and its implications follows. MAS will continue to monitor this issue as the Department of City Planning prepares to take up the zoning change proposal on Monday, August 21.

Independent Survey Finds Zoning Change Would Disrupt Garment Industry

80 percent of garment workers & 65 percent of customers unlikely to travel to Sunset Park

The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) released findings from a series of surveys that reinforced the importance of a central garment district in Manhattan. The surveys—conducted by MAS in collaboration with the Design Trust for Public Space and the Pratt Center for Community Development between April and July 2017—found potentially disastrous outcomes for the industry should the City’s proposal to remove zoning protections from its Manhattan neighborhood go forward without any new safeguards in place.

Graphic for the Garment District survey results, customer survey

The survey results come as the Department of City Planning prepares to take up the zoning change in a review meeting scheduled for August 21, informed by recommendations from the Garment District Steering Committee. MAS continues to call on Mayor Bill de Blasio to support this industry by finding a local real estate solution that allows businesses to remain in the Garment District.

“The future of the city’s fashion industry is at stake. Our surveys show that the City’s plan for the Garment District is grounded in a fundamental misunderstanding of this industry, a rare, thriving manufacturing enclave in Manhattan,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, President of MAS. “An economic sector this significant to New York should not be made vulnerable. These entrepreneurs and skilled workers—mostly immigrants and mostly women—have made New York the capital of the fashion industry. They must have the opportunity to remain in the Garment District.”

Graphic for the Garment District survey results, owners and workers

Select Findings

The findings by MAS demonstrate the role of Manhattan’s Garment District as the center of gravity for the industry. The surveys also found widespread anxiety within the industry about the City’s proposal to open a new garment manufacturing campus in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. The new campus, located in the former Bush Terminal complex, is not expected to open until 2020 and will offer only a fraction of the manufacturing space currently in use in the District.

Regarding Manhattan’s Garment District

  • 35 percent report living outside the five boroughs entirely, most likely commuting into Midtown on New Jersey Transit, MetroNorth, and the Long Island Rail Road; less than one percent of workers in Manhattan’s Garment District report living in Brooklyn
  • Both customers and business owners report that the clustering of garment businesses in a tight-knit district is exactly its strength: 85 percent of buyers visit multiple businesses on a single day, some visiting six or more each trip; 71 percent of business owners work with neighboring businesses on a daily basis, including designers, theater costumers, manufacturers, patternmakers, wholesale and storefront retail suppliers, and consultants
  • 88 percent of fashion students report that proximity to Manhattan’s Garment District was a factor in their decision to study in New York
  • Rent increases and development pressure were cited as the biggest threats to Garment District businesses, with 42 percent of owners reporting that any increase in rent at this point would put their business in jeopardy
  • Garment District business owners overwhelmingly supported local real estate solutions as their preferred outcome: 84 percent calling for rent stabilization measures and 80 percent calling for consolidated, rent-protected relocation within the District
  • 77 percent of owners report that they have been located in the District for more than 10 years; Manhattan’s Garment District has been thriving and would continue to grow in a stable, healthy ecosystem of diverse businesses and affordable working spaces

Regarding the Proposed Sunset Park Campus

  • 80 percent of Garment District workers and 65 percent of customers say they are unwilling to move to Sunset Park
  • 83 percent of workers reported that traveling to Sunset Park would increase their commute time by 45-90 minutes; 80 percent said they would be unlikely to follow their jobs to the new location
  • 70 percent of customers reported that traveling to Sunset Park would increase their travel time by 30 minutes or more; 65 percent said they were unlikely to make the trip

Recent Background

In January 2017, Mayor de Blasio announced an investment of $136 million to create a Made in NY apparel industry campus in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. The City subsequently announced in March that it would seek to change the zoning in Manhattan’s Garment District to eliminate the protections for production space. In early summer 2017, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, and Council Member Corey Johnson announced the formation of the Garment District Steering Committee. The Committee is chaired by Borough President Brewer and includes representatives from the fashion industry, garment workers, the surrounding community, and other stakeholders, to develop recommendations to the City related to these proposals. On August 21, the Department of City Planning is expected to take up the zoning change proposal for Manhattan’s Garment District in a review meeting.

About The Municipal Art Society of New York

For nearly 125 years, MAS has worked to educate and inspire New Yorkers to engage in the betterment of our city. Through three core campaign areas, MAS protects New York’s legacy spaces, encourages thoughtful planning and urban design, and fosters complete neighborhoods across the five boroughs.

Subway Crisis: Comments to City Council Transportation Committee

The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) believes the current state of the New York City subway system can be summed up in one word: crisis. As the dog days of the delicately-coined “Summer of Hell” have arrived, the system’s nearly six million daily riders are faced with a well-documented array of indignities, including, but not limited to, chronic delays, cancellations, severely overcrowded trains, and breakdowns. Only the transit fates know what lies ahead when the L train is shut down for repairs for fifteen months in April 2019.

In light of the derailment of the A train at 125th Street Station in June, which injured 34 riders and forced 800 passengers to escape through the dark tunnels, the mere safety of the system has come into serious question. To make matters worse, as fares continue to increase, the service of the system has veered in the opposite direction. A recent New York Times study showed that in the last two months, a resounding zero trains on the Lexington Avenue line met their hourly weekday rush-hour schedule.1

The fact is more people use the subway now than in the past 80 years. And the system’s aging infrastructure and antiquated signal system simply cannot accommodate the demand. Alarmingly, reports indicate it will take another half-century and $20 billion to upgrade the signal system.2

When the MTA chairman himself expressed living in absolute fear about what happens in the City’s public transit tunnels, it’s a call for immediate action. We recognize the recently announced $800 million rescue plan by the MTA to address the antiquated signal system. The plan calls for adding extra cars to certain lines, removing seats to accommodate additional passengers, addressing subway fires, and hiring 2,700 new workers. Whether the plan will lead to measurable improvements in subway service and safety remains to be seen. However, it is clear that much more needs to be done.

As the City’s current population of 8.5 million is expected to grow to 9.1 million by 2030, and with the various city rezonings bringing more people to areas dependent on public transit, the subway crisis must be addressed.3

We are pleased that the Committee on Transportation is convening today. This is not the time for pointing fingers or rehashing how things got so bad. It is time for a discussion of real solutions that address our immediate needs and forward-thinking and innovative ones for challenges yet to be seen.


  1. New York’s Subways Are Not Just Delayed. Some Trains Don’t Run at All., The New York Times, August 8, 2017
  2. Why Is Subway Service in New York Getting Worse?, The New York Times, May 31, 2017
  3. New York City Population Projections by Age/Sex and Borough, 2010-2040., Department of City Planning

President’s Letter, July 2017

President of The Municipal Art Society of New York Elizabeth Goldstein

Elizabeth Goldstein

The city has changed substantially since my childhood. When my dad schlepped us down from the Bronx to look at the architecture of what is now SoHo in the early 1960s, the cast iron beauties housed manufacturing of all kinds. I remember being awed by how different these building looked in the quiet of a Saturday morning than anything else I had ever seen. Now the neighborhood has passed through the “artist live/work and gallery” phase and the “lofts and cool independent shops and designers” phase to the “Apple store and tourism” phase. Who knows what comes next.

But the Garment District, despite having gone through its own transitions, still feels strikingly the same. It is certainly a lot harder to get run over by a trolley full of clothes being marched down from a manufacturer to a retail outlet, but the streets still have the bustle of people darting into buildings and shops. It still feels like you are discovering a fabric or notions shop that has been waiting for you to stumble into it. But of course, you didn’t really discover it, because it has been there serving the center of the garment industry in New York forever, maybe 70 years. And you might also not realize that above your head are floors and floors of manufacturers, designers, production houses, costume makers, importers, showrooms, and more, taking up literally millions of square feet. It is a humming, buzzing complex system of folks who rely heavily on each other to do their day-to-day business.

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Monument of the Month: Marquis de Lafayette

Thirty years ago, The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) launched the  Adopt-A-Monument program in collaboration with the NYC Public Design Commission and the NYC Parks Department, to secure private funding for the rescue of public art in danger of deterioration. To date, MAS’s Adopt programs have raised nearly $4 million dollars to conserve fifty-one works of art in all five boroughs. In honor of the 30th anniversary of the program, we are highlighting one restoration per month in 2017.

Restoration by the MAS Adopt-A-Monument Program (1991)

More than a century of city life had taken a toll on Union Square’s famed Marquis de Lafayette monument by the late 1980s. Nothing remained of the original foundry patination. Instead, the surface was covered by a chalky light blue-green copper sulfate with black areas of sulfide. Dark streaks and pitting, the result of acid rain, disfigured the face, torso and legs. The elegant stone pedestal was stained with dirt and pollutants, and the general’s sword was bent.

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