Susan Chin proposes creative policy solutions to ensure the vibrancy and long-term stability of Midtown’s Garment District.

“The Made in NY Campus at Bush Terminal in that Brooklyn neighborhood, which will allocate a section for garment manufacturing, is anticipated to open in 2020. The city’s efforts to preserve and expand the fashion industry deserve applause. However, the city would remove the manufacturing preservation requirement in Midtown before the Brooklyn campus is fully established. Further analysis, additional stakeholder engagement, and consideration of other strategies should be done before taking a critical step that may exert undue pressure on fashion, one of the city’s major industries…

For example, the city could establish market-based financial incentives for property owners to voluntarily retain manufacturing space over the long term. It could allow them to transfer development rights (that is, to use or sell their air rights elsewhere in the district) if they agree to set aside manufacturing space for 25 years. Property owners could potentially develop office and residential space equivalent to three times the size of deed-restricted manufacturing space, alleviating the market pressure on manufacturing spaces. The New York City Industrial Development Agency would abate the portion of a property owner’s taxes associated with manufacturers space. Property owners and the Garment District Alliance could form an assessment fund to further help retain and maintain manufacturing space…

New York surely needs a new frontier for its fashion industry to expand. The city is throwing a lifeline by offering its state-of-the-art spaces at lower rents in Sunset Park by 2020. Yet, the Garment District remains the heart of New York City fashion, the center of a complex and vulnerable ecosystem. If the Midtown protections are lifted too soon, we stand to lose the fashion ecology similar to the way “urban renewal” policies destroyed communities in the 1970s.”

 

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What to do about the Garment District, Crain’s New York

 

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New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer, Wikimedia Commons