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Press Release

New York Works: De Blasio Administration, Speaker Johnson, and Manhattan Borough President Brewer Unveil Plan to Save Fashion Production in Garment District

Jun 04 2018

New Program Seeks to Preserve at Least 300K SF of Production Space in Midtown Manhattan, Providing Stability and Protection to Over 60 Fashion Businesses

Plan Includes Offer of City Funding to Work With a Nonprofit to Acquire a Dedicated Production Building in the District

NEW YORK, NY—Today, de Blasio Administration officials, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and industry and community leaders unveiled a comprehensive package of support for fashion production in the Garment District. The plan, which follows recommendations from the Garment District Steering Committee, creates support initiatives including a new tax incentive program to preserve manufacturing space in the Garment Center; supports a public-private partnership to acquire a building dedicated to garment production; and institutes a special permit to curb hotel development in the district. In addition, the plan includes a proposal for targeted zoning changes that will have a positive impact on the Garment District. The zoning changes associated with this package will begin the City’s public review process on June 11.

“Fashion design and manufacturing are both an intrinsic part of New York City’s economic future. Thanks to our agreement with Speaker Johnson, Manhattan Borough President Brewer, and our industry partners, that future will continue to include production in the Garment District,” said Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen.

“After decades of previous efforts, the de Blasio Administration has delivered a plan, developed in collaboration with industry stakeholders, elected leaders and the local community, to stabilize and preserve New York City’s historic fashion industry in the Garment District for years to come,” said NYCEDC President and CEO James Patchett. “The City’s iconic fashion industry is critical to our economic health, and this package represents a new chapter for the century-old fashion cluster, bringing its long-established businesses and new uses into a modern era that will reinforce Midtown as one of the City’s most vital job centers. I thank Speaker Corey Johnson and Borough President Gale Brewer for their leadership and steadfast commitment to making this plan a reality.”

“After years of effort, we’ve got a plan that will preserve the heart and soul of the city’s iconic Garment District. We still have a long public process ahead of us and I’m looking forward to a collaborative process that includes feedback from all stakeholders, but I am confident that working together we will ensure that New York City remains the fashion capital of the world. I want to thank EDC and the many industry advocates who have been working for years to get us where we are today,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

"The Garment Center's unique ecosystem of skilled workers and specialty suppliers clustered in one place is the foundation that the wider New York fashion world is built on. What we've negotiated here is a real plan to preserve it for years to come," said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. "This is much more than just a tax benefit program, although the IDA benefits are central. It’s an IDA program combined with a real commitment of resources to purchase permanent space. This package will help keep the fashion industry anchored here in New York."

The Garment Center IDA program is a tax incentive package through the New York City Industrial Development Agency (NYCIDA), which will allow property owners to offer long-term, affordable leases to fashion manufacturers, including companies that provide a service that supports the garment production supply chain, such as pattern-making, embroidery, embellishment, dyeing services and more.

The program requires property owners to offer 15-year leases with a maximum gross rent of $35 per square foot, which includes utilities and other expenses, and are subject to a penalty schedule and annual compliance review. In exchange, the participating property owners will receive discretionary tax benefits from the NYCIDA that range from $1.00 - $4.00 per square foot of manufacturing space that ranges between 25,000 - 100,000 square feet. To date, NYCIDA has commitments to preserve 300,000 square feet of production space through this program and welcomes additional participation. For more information, click here.

In addition to the IDA program, the de Blasio Administration has committed up to $20 million in City capital to facilitate the acquisition of a building in the Garment District. The commitment requires a public-private partnership with a nonprofit organization to operate and manage the building as a dedicated production space. The City is slated to release a request for expressions of interest to advance this opportunity in September 2018.

The plan includes amendments to existing zoning and will be presented for certification into the City’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), a public review process that allows local community boards, elected officials, the City Planning Commission, and City Council to evaluate and vote on the zoning changes, on June 11. The proposed targeted zoning change will:

  • Maintain existing manufacturing and commercial zoning
  • Lift the antiquated 1:1 preservation requirement of production space that has proven ineffective in protecting garment manufacturers
  • Limit the development of new hotels through a hotel special permit
  • Allow property owners to improve their properties
  • Improve neighborhood character through new height, setback and signage regulations

“As a member of the Garment District Steering Committee, what NYCEDC is proposing demonstrates hard work on their part and is a positive response to the working group’s requests and the industry’s needs, and it’s a doable plan as well. I believe in it and am committed to helping it move forward and working with the industry on this,” said Steven Kolb, President and CEO, Council of Fashion Designers of America.

“This plan provides needed investments in the fashion manufacturing sector, while at the same time removing antiquated zoning restrictions that have simply failed to stop the exodus of jobs overseas,” said Barbara A. Blair, President, Garment District Alliance. “We applaud the efforts of the City and EDC, as well as City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, with addressing the longstanding and complex challenges of the fashion industry and the Garment District. This plan offers the best opportunity yet to bolster the economic diversity of the area while offering a long-term sustainable solution for fashion manufacturers.”

“This is a historic moment, especially for the manufacturing sector of the fashion industry. I trust and believe that the initiative will not only stabilize the business, it will both sustain and grow it with the political will that has been expressed and promised, and the participation of all stakeholders,” said fashion designer Yeohlee Teng.

"The Speaker, the Borough President, and the Economic Development Corporation have spent a tremendous amount of time and energy crafting a strategy that can address the needs of New York's fashion industry in a comprehensive and forward-looking way," said Adam Friedman, Director of the Pratt Center for Community Development. "While details remain to be hammered out, I am confident that the industry, the workers, the community, and all the other stakeholders that make New York the largest concentration of fashion businesses on the planet continue to thrive well into the future."

“I am pleased to join in this announcement today to help stabilize and permanently preserve the Garment Center in Manhattan. New York’s garment industry is fragile and shrinking, its entire ecosystem is reliant on manufacturers and designers’ close proximity to each other, and the current zoning needs to be revised to better reflect the realities of today,” said U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). “I am heartened that today’s announcement of this significant package of programs to support manufacturers will help preserve the industry and allow it to flourish while cementing New York City's status as the fashion capital of the world. I want to commend Speaker Corey Johnson and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who lead this effort on behalf of the Garment Center Steering Committee and fought for this industry, working together with EDC President James Patchett and Mayor de Blasio and his team. Together, I believe we have put the City in a position to preserve this vital industry for many decades to come.”

“The Garment Center is a cornerstone of New York’s fashion industry and an economic engine for our city. Thank you to Mayor de Blasio, Council Speaker Johnson, Borough President Brewer, and EDC for their efforts to preserve manufacturing space in Midtown Manhattan and protect this legacy industry,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman.

"Saving and keeping the Garment District in Manhattan means saving valuable employment opportunities and preserving an industrial ecosystem unique to midtown Manhattan," said State Senator Marisol Alcántara. "I am glad that our steering committee meetings resulted in city funding that will keep our fashion production industry intact. Moving production would have meant moving jobs and disconnecting production from fashion education, warehousing, and display."

“It would be unthinkable for midtown to lose the Garment Center – it is a critical economic engine and an essential part of the creative ethos of our city,” said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12). “We need to make that the fashion industry remains New York City’s third largest economic generator. I am confident that this plan offers long-term, sustainable solutions and will help ensure that New York City stays the fashion capital of the world. Thank you to Mayor de Blasio, Council Speaker Johnson, Manhattan Borough President Brewer, the EDC and the Garment District Steering Committee for developing a plan to preserve the Garment District in Midtown Manhattan.”

“The City’s commitment to protect production space in the Garment District is an important step in the effort to preserve jobs in the garment and related industries on Manhattan’s West Side,” said Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried. “We will continue to work with stakeholders in industry and in the community to ensure that this critical center of production, design, and fashion maintains its vital longtime presence in the Garment District.”

"The fashion and garment industry plays a large role in our city's economy and provides tens of thousands of jobs for New Yorkers," said Council Member Vallone, Chair of the Committee on Economic Development. "Preserving local garment manufacturing is critical to the continued success of the industry and this comprehensive plan will go a long way towards achieving that goal."

"Manhattan Community Board 4 is happy to hear the Administration has formulated a substantive set of initial proposals in response to the recommendations of the Garment Center Steering Committee Report. CB4 will work with our elected representatives to enhance the Administration’s proposals further in the upcoming months,” said Burt Lazarin, Chair, Manhattan Community Board 4.

“We are encouraged by the progress made since the initial proposal was presented to us over a year ago. We are particularly excited by the potential acquisition of a building dedicated entirely for garment industry use,” said Vikki Barbero, Chair, Manhattan Community Board 5. "While the current proposal doesn’t yet meet the requirements laid out by the Garment District Steering Committee, over the next seven months, as it goes through ULURP, we remain hopeful that, through the efforts of Speaker Johnson and Borough President Brewer, the plan’s worth to the garment industry will continue to grow.”

"We appreciate the Administration, Council Speaker Johnson and Borough President Brewer advancing key recommendations of the Garment Center Steering Committee, and investing in tools for long-term preservation of garment production space in mid-Manhattan to ensure the continued vitality of this neighborhood and to support NYC as a global fashion capital," said Susan Chin, FAIA, Hon. ASLA, Executive Director, Design Trust for Public Space. "Design Trust for Public Space looks forward to working closely with all public and private stakeholders to further develop a multi-faceted program of tax abatements and business incentives as well as strategic investments in real property to support the fashion industry. This will allow this vital hub and unique ecosystem to grow and thrive and improve its public realm, as we identified in our Made in Midtown and Making Midtown studies, and in the pivotal work of the Steering Committee."

“We are encouraged by the City's commitment to apparel manufacturing in the Garment District through a tax abatement and business development programs. We look forward to continuing to work together on the final, and most critical, element of this three-pronged strategy: the acquisition of a building to create a permanently affordable space for the Garment District businesses that are vital to the economy and culture of New York,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, President of the Municipal Art Society.

"This plan represents a win-win opportunity for all New Yorkers. It will result in long term stability for the garment manufacturing industry, while generating new revenue to fund vital city services. We thank City Council Speaker Johnson and Manhattan Borough President Brewer for their thoughtful leadership. We commend Deputy Mayor Glen and NYC Economic Development Corporation President and CEO James Patchett for their tireless dedication in making this plan a reality," said John H. Banks, President, The Real Estate Board of New York.

“Broadway, film and television costumers have a daily dependence on the continuing presence of the Garment Center in its current location," said Steve Epstein, Member of TWU Local 764, IATSE. "We support all efforts to keep the Garment Center in its historic location."

Future of Fashion Manufacturing Support Initiatives

In addition to the IDA program and $20M capital commitment, the City has worked with the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and the Garment District Alliance to develop a comprehensive suite of support initiatives for fashion manufacturers. This unprecedented package is supported by a $25 million financial commitment by the Garment District Alliance. Comprised of interventions that include investing in technology through the successful Fashion Manufacturing Initiative (FMI) and additional services to support garment manufacturers, the program will be available to factories across the five boroughs.

This robust package was developed by the City following outreach to garment manufacturers, designers, suppliers and industry leaders to better understand the challenges that are hurting the industry today. Developed through one-on-one interviews, focus groups, and feedback from the Garment Industry Steering Committee, which was convened last year by Borough President Brewer, the package is a holistic response to the industry’s wide-ranging needs and will stabilize and strengthen this critical and historic NYC sector through a decade’s worth of investments.

This initiative builds upon the de Blasio Administration's commitment to garment manufacturing across the city, including the $136 million investment in the Made in NY Campus in Sunset Park, the second-largest cluster of garment manufacturing in the City. The investment will create a 200,000-square-foot garment manufacturing hub at Bush Terminal. The hub will provide small white-box spaces ranging from 2,000 to 20,000 square feet to companies working in pattern making, marking and grading, cutting and sewing, and sample making. The hub will also include shared services and related uses to support the success of these garment firms and the larger Sunset Park garment cluster.

History of Garment Manufacturing in NYC

New York City’s garment manufacturing industry has lost 95% of its workforce since the industry’s peak in 1950. In the Garment Center alone, garment manufacturing jobs have declined by 85% since 1987, when the City put in place special zoning regulations to attempt to preserve garment manufacturing in the District.

The fashion industry is a significant contributor to the city’s economy, employing over 5% of the city’s total workforce. Local garment manufacturing is integral to the success of the fashion industry and can be competitive with respect to quality, time and convenience, and local production is equally important to both emerging and established designers.

Today, there are approximately 1,600 garment manufacturing firms citywide, and about 25% of these businesses, or approximately 400 firms, are in the Garment District. These companies face immense global competition and real estate pressures despite preservation attempts.

New York City Economic Development Corporation creates shared prosperity across New York City’s five boroughs by strengthening neighborhoods and creating good jobs. NYCEDC works with and for communities to provide them with the resources they need to thrive, and we invest in projects that increase sustainability, support job growth, develop talent, and spark innovation to strengthen the City’s competitive advantage. To learn more about our work and initiatives, please visit us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.