With the Department of City Planning looking at rezoning the Garment District so that the long-protected area will be open to have industry swapped out for other real estate interests, garment manufactures are expressing concerns that the change could be disastrous for the industry.
Increasing Worker Commute Time
Under the current proposal, the Garment District would be rezoned with the industry relocated to Sunset Park. A survey distributed by the Municipal Arts Society (MAS) to nearly 2,000 businesses throughout the Garment District found that relocating the industry could result in a number of issues. Among these is the fact that it would significantly distance employees from their place of work. In fact, less than one percent of those who responded to the survey live in Brooklyn while 35 percent live outside of the five boroughs. An astounding 80 percent of those surveyed said that relocating the main hub of the Garment District to Sunset Park would increase their commute time by anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes.
A Loss of Employees and Customers
The increase in commute time may be why 80 percent of those surveyed said they would be unlikely to follow their job if it is moved to Sunset Park. Furthermore, 65 percent of the customers who were surveyed said they would be unlikely to travel to Sunset Park to seek out product. Both customers and owners seemed to agree that one of the biggest strengths of the Garment District as it currently stands is the fact that businesses are clustered together. In fact, 85 percent of buyers indicated that they visit more than one manufacturer each time they travel to the Garment District and 71 percent of owners said they work in daily collaboration with the neighboring businesses.
Some are concerned that moving the Garment District will put the future of the city’s fashion industry at stake. Furthermore, many of the workers are immigrants and women, putting them at risk of unemployment.
Maintaining the Garment District
84 percent of owners who participated in the survey said that rent stabilization measures would be the most helpful way to help them maintain their businesses in the neighborhood. Furthermore, 80 percent of owners said they would remain in the neighborhood even if they had to consolidate into a smaller area of buildings offering long-term lease protections. Nearly all of those surveyed said they felt it was beneficial for their business to be located in the Garment District.
Plans for rezoning the Garment District traces back to a Bloomberg-era proposal, which made the argument that preserving production space for garment companies and their employees no longer made sense because those jobs are drying up. Through the rezoning initiatives, landlords will find it easier to spruce up their buildings while also converting manufacturing space to office space. Without these changes, property owners would continue to be required to maintain an equal amount of space in the district for the garment industry as they do for other commercial space.