Manhattan Rezoning Proposal in Garment District Sparks Debate

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The historical location of the Garment District in Manhattan could shrink with plans to rezone,  according to AM New York.

The city has proposed to rework current zoning. In 1987, the city mandated that areas designated for manufacture are equal in space to the areas designated for offices. The proposal is an effort to keep up with the modern growth of the city.

Companies that are media focused are among those that the city Economic Development Corp. (EDC) wants to attract in order to increase the variety of business in the area. Department of City Planning rep Barry Dinerstein said that the current zoning does not represent today’s world.

In addition to changing manufacture space, the proposal reduces space for hotels and adds residential-only designations.

The Garment District traditionally lies between Broadway and Ninth Avenue and at 35th to 40th. However, the manufacturing business in the area has been shrinking in recent years. The EDC reported that from 2000 to 2015, the number of jobs in garment manufacture went down by more than half, losing over 8,000 positions, leaving the estimated remainder at a little over 5,000. That makes a dramatic cut from the some 350,000 garment workers who were present during the 1950s.

Under the rezoning, manufacturers who wanted to could move to Sunset Park. The city would offer assistance to companies that wished to make the move. But fashion workers and business owners have not responded enthusiastically.

The EDC is gathering local responses to the proposal before deciding whether to move forward or not.

One garment company owner, Alex Robins, noted the importance of the public transit to his business. Moving would change the way the company runs its operations.

A nonprofit worker for Save The Garment Center, Samantha Cortes, said that dismantling the infrastructure for garment manufacture would detract from U.S. as well as New York production.  And Gale Brewer, the president of the Manhattan Borough, wants to see the EDC taking time to consider and listen to people in the garment industry.

The decline in the fashion industry in the area could be related to the expense in the area. According to Cortes, her rent increased from $2,500 to $8,000 over time.

The proposal includes a $236 million city commitment to the new spaces for fashion manufacturing. But whether the garment production community will find this a viable replacement remains to be seen.

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