The Real Deal New York

Garment District landlords say preservation requirements are damaging growth and property values

Business improvement coalition pushes for rezoning of the area
September 25, 2017 09:10AM

Joe Ferrara and Barbara Blair

More and more people are working in the Garment District, just not in apparel-production jobs, according to a business group pushing to have the neighborhood rezoned.

Between 2000 and 2016, employment in the Garment District jumped 50 percent to 134,159 jobs, according to a new study by the Garment District Alliance, a business-improvement group backed by property owners and businesses.

The group’s study shows that apparel-related production jobs fell to 4 percent of the area’s private-sector employment last year, down from 5 percent in 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Apparel-wholesale employment has remained relatively steady over the past 16 years, dipping slightly to 14,285 jobs, the group’s study shows. But apparel-manufacturing employment has fallen by 68 percent during that time to just 5,538 jobs.

Professional service jobs like advertising, architecture, engineering and technology firms make up about a third of the neighborhood’s private-sector employment, a fact the group points to as it pushes the city to lift restrictions that require landlords to rent a certain amount of space to tenants in the fashion business.

“You have a Midtown Manhattan location, the best regional transportation anywhere in the city of New York, and class B and class C office stock that is highly desired by the business services sector and is technically held off the market,” Garment District Alliance president Barbara Blair said. “We want the restrictions lifted, period.”

Between 2014 and 2017, average rents for office space in the Garment District rose 24 percent to $53 a square foot, but still well below Hudson Yards or Times Square.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration had originally planned to start the process of rezoning the Midtown neighborhood earlier this year in April, but has pushed the timeline back amid concerns from community groups and lawmakers that it would harm the fashion industry, which relies on the centralized location.

“This is an incubator for small brands and launch brands,” said Joe Ferrara, president of Ferrara Manufacturing and chairman of the New York Garment Center Supplier Association. “This is an area to test new products. This is an area where product development, innovation and specialized quick-turn applications take the lead.” [WSJ]Rich Bockmann