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Rezoning and Retaining the Garment District

In 2011, in response to the City’s attempt to rezone Manhattan’s Garment District, MAS released a report Fashioning the Future: NYC’s Garment District. In it we highlighted the continued importance of the district, a unique area of the city because, unlike neighborhoods like the Meatpacking District, it remains true to its name, and with over 40% of New York City’s apparel manufacturing businesses, continues to function as a hub for garment production.  The City eventually abandoned its rezoning efforts after being unable to come to an agreement with district stakeholders.

It has been reported recently, that Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen has suggested that she will take on the special district which had been created in 1987 to help prevent the conversion of manufacturing space to office use.  MAS agrees that the Special Garment Center District zoning should be updated, with the understanding that manufacturing uses remain to support the diversity of the district and its relevance as a resource for budding fashion designers.  This  unique district is important for the neighborhood and, even more critical, an important economic driver for the city as the fashion industry generates $2 billion in annual revenue.

Update the zoning

Concentration of Manufacturing Uses in the Garment DistrictThe Special Garment District is divided into preservation areas, which currently preserve about 7.7 million square feet of space in 101 buildings for manufacturing. However, manufacturing uses now take up just over one million square feet, with the remainder of the space either vacant or illegally converted to commercial uses. We believe that consolidating the preservation areas makes a lot of sense as part of a larger economic development plan. Our 2011 report lays out an approach for rezoning the area that would preserve and secure vital manufacturing space and allow complimentary design and wholesale uses, while also encouraging a diverse mix of commercial uses, enabling the neighborhood to become more diverse and lively. To do this we suggest breaking the district down into separate sub-zones – each with distinct features and zoned to encourage specific uses. For example, lifting the protections in the area of the district between Broadway and 7th Avenue to allow commercial uses as-of-right would still allow showroom and manufacturing but would also introduce new class B&C office uses. Read more about these specific zoning recommendations here.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation has taken significant steps to support the industry by establishing valuable partnerships and programs such as the Fashion Manufacturing Initiative (FMI), an initiative enacted with the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA)— a not-for-profit trade association whose membership consists of America’s foremost fashion designers —to  provide production facilities with grants to acquire advanced technology, equipment and other opportunities.  It is important for the City to continue in this vein and support the ancillary jobs that are critical to the well-being of the city’s fashion industry.  Just as the City decided that retaining amusement rides was important to maintaining Coney Island’s identity, and the theaters were essential to Times Square, we hope that the de Blasio administration will recognize the importance of retaining manufacturing in the Garment District.