Maloney, Brewer, Industry Experts, Tout Importance of Manhattan Garment District During NYFW

Sep 9, 2017
Press Release

New York—Today, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) and Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer joined New York City fashion industry professionals to highlight the vital importance of the Garment District to New York’s fashion industry. The group discussed the outsized economic impact of the fashion industry, which generates nearly $2 billion in tax revenue for the city per year, and the annual New York Fashion Weeks, which generate over $900 million in revenue per year, producing a greater economic stimulus than the US Open or the Super Bowl. They also highlighted the unique and crucial role that the Garment District’s manufacturers play in New York’s fashion industry economic ecosystem.

At the event, Maloney and Brewer also released a joint letter to Mayor de Blasio following up on a previous letter sent on August 18. The letter asks that the Department of City planning take into account the concerns and recommendations set forth in the Report and Recommendations issued by the Garment Center Steering Committee. Full text of the letter is below.

The Manhattan-based Garment District is the linchpin of New York’s fashion industry. Its success is in part due to the synergy of interrelated businesses in close proximity to each other. A 2015 report by the Joint Economic Committee (JEC), The Economic Impact of the Fashion Industry, commissioned by Rep. Maloney, found there are significant economic benefits when businesses in a particular industry cluster together. Some have called it the “Miracle Mile” effect. It allows businesses to take advantage of a skilled pool of labor and to build a network of relationships among suppliers and producers swiftly and nimbly.

The Garment Center works because designers, manufacturers, suppliers, merchandisers, and showrooms are located near one another. This enables collaboration and accelerates design innovation, prototyping, and garment production. Earlier this year, the de Blasio Administration proposed relocating the Garment District by removing protections for manufacturing currently in place in Manhattan and encouraging manufacturing businesses to relocate to Sunset Park in Brooklyn. The effect of this would be a major shock to the city’s fashion industry ecosystem, which has evolved over the course of a century into the $15 billion industry it is today. This would break up fashion industry’s clustered ecosystem and remove manufacturers to an industrial space in Sunset Park that offers only a fraction of the Garment District’s one million square feet, and is remote from midtown, with poor access to transportation. Many manufacturers rely on being more accessible to their clients, collaborators, and employees than would be possible under this arrangement.

“It would not be possible to replicate the Garment District ecosystem, a complex, market driven aggregation of small businesses that has grown organically over nearly a century,” said Congresswoman Maloney. “The balance of designers, manufacturers, and retail stores is critical to the success of New York City’s fashion industry, and NYFW. Part of why this city is preeminent in the fashion industry is because of the proximity designers and factories enjoy right here in this district. Fashion is one of this city’s biggest industries, employing 180,000 New Yorkers in good-paying jobs, and generating billions in revenue for the city. Our biannual fashion weeks alone generate more than $900 million in revenue for the city. We must preserve the Garment District to protect our status as the Fashion Capital of the world and ensure that these businesses, the tens of thousands of jobs they offer, and the billions in economic activity and tax revenue they create do not leave the city. ” 

“The Garment District is crucial for the success of this entire multi-billion dollar industry,” said Borough President Brewer. “I’m pleased to support efforts to grow manufacturing citywide, but we must act to ensure manufacturing in the Garment District remains healthy, strong, and continues to be the foundation for the towering role New York City plays in the fashion world.”

“I started my business in the New York City Garment District over twenty years ago with a five thousand dollar loan," said Nanette Lepore, Designer. "The local factories and suppliers helped me turn my fledgling brand into the international business that it is today. The Garment District is an irreplaceable hub for creativity and manufacturing. We need to preserve this legacy; American fashion would not be the same without it." 

“With the support of Local, State and Federal officials, the Fashion Industry can be the centerpiece of American Industry in the Made in USA initiative," said Yeohlee Teng, Designer. "Thank you to Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and MBP Gale Brewer for taking the first steps in the right direction."

"New York should invest in social and economic diversity; keep manufacturing zoning the way it is," said Karolina Zmarlak, Designer. "Thousands of creative, skilled partners support the technical manufacturing of craftsmanship in designed apparel. Real estate profits are not our societal goal."

"Let's preserve the precious gem known as the Garment District and support manufacturing and economic growth in the heart of Manhattan," said Michele Benjamin, Designer.

"The City of New York should be carefully and methodically approaching reorganization of the Garment Center's resources in close collaboration with industry leaders and innovators before removing any protections," said Charles Beckwith, Spokesperson for Save the Garment Center. "We also need federal resources to connect and strengthen this industry across the whole country. Major roadblocks to moving forward like automation-driven job losses and the industry's long standing sustainability issues need to be resolved sooner rather than later. Saving the Garment Center is about preserving more than a few buildings with old machines in them. It is about updating, and growing a massive business and technology nexus which can generate many more jobs here and across the country, and cement New York City's keystone presence in the multi-trillion dollar global fashion business." 

“New York City shouldn’t be pulling the rug out from underneath the garment industry in Manhattan,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler. “The administration should not remove any of the zoning protections until a sufficient core amount of space is permanently preserved in the Garment Center in Manhattan, as recommended by the Steering Committee report. This industry is fragile; they want and need to stay here as part of the fashion ecosystem, which relies on manufacturers and designers’ close proximity to each other. Breaking up the garment district will only serve to place New York City’s status as the fashion capital of the world at risk.”

"The Garment Center is a cornerstone of the cultural and economic engine of our city," said State Senator Brad Hoylman. "Eliminating existing zoning without consideration for garment manufacturing would risk the elimination of this industry. I'm proud to join Representative Maloney, Borough President Gale Brewer, and the members of the Steering Committee to call on City Hall to protect this legacy industry."

"The garment industry has a long and important history in the development of the city of New York, the borough of Manhattan, and the national labor movement," said State Senator Marisol Alcantara. "Today, the industry still provides solid middle-class jobs and is deeply intertwined with our world-class fashion industry. Moving the garment industry to Sunset Park would be highly disruptive to the designers who choose to locate their studios in Manhattan. I strongly urge the city to follow all recommendations from the steering committee, and to preserve this important industry in the borough of Manhattan."

“The economic health of New York City’s garment industry is at risk," said Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried. "We must make sure that it continues to operate in a stable, dependable real estate environment.  Without guarantees either through zoning or the availability of ample affordable space for garment design and manufacturing businesses, New York City’s role as a fashion capital of the world could be at stake.”

"Without a doubt, the Garment Center is a unique economic ecosystem and a linchpin of the fashion industry in New York City," said Council Member Dan Garodnick. "I applaud the work of Congresswoman Maloney and Borough President Brewer in highlighting these facts and working to ensure the de Blasio administration heeds the recommendations set forth by the Garment Center Steering Committee." 


Letter text


September 9, 2017

Mayor Bill de Blasio

City Hall

New York, NY 10007


Dear Mayor de Blasio,

                We are writing to follow up on our letter of August 18, 2017.  Before the Department of City Planning makes any decisions that could endanger the economic ecosystem of the Garment Center, we ask that the concerns and recommendations set forth in the Report and Recommendations issued by the Garment Center Steering Committee be taken into account.  The Garment Center represents a significant portion of the city’s revenue and employment base.

                Fashion is a $98 billion annual industry in New York City, generating nearly $11 billion in wages and $2 billion in tax revenue.  Each year, the industry has $72 billion in wholesale sales, $18 billion in retail sales and $8 billion in manufacturing sales. More than 900 businesses are headquartered in New York City, generating 180,000 jobs, more than 6% of the city workforce, with average wages of $73,000 per year.  The two fashion weeks attract more than 230,000 visitors and generate over $865 million in economic impact, more than the US Open or the Super Bowl.

                The Garment District offers a highly efficient and effective cluster of firms. A 2014 Harvard Business Review study of the fashion industry (“New York’s Fashion Industry Reveals a New Truth About Economic Clusters,” by Elizabeth Currid-Halkett and Sarah Williams, February 10, 2014) found that 77% of the trips designers made during the study period were to the Garment District and 80% of the businesses they visited were located there. They concluded that the Garment District’s ‘agglomeration economies foster the freedom necessary for creativity to thrive.’ Lift the zoning restrictions without securing adequate space for manufacturers who need to remain nearby, and you risk removing a critical pillar supporting this $98 billion industry.

                People in the fashion industry are concerned that the Administration’s reliance on a plan that moves manufacturers to Sunset Park will harm the industry.  They point out that manufacturing alone occupies roughly one million square feet in the Garment District.  The planned industrial space in Sunset Park, when it eventually comes online, will offer only a fraction of the space.  Further, the site has poor access to transportation, and is remote both from midtown and from the many neighborhoods where manufacturers report their workers live. While we support the growth of garment manufacturing in Brooklyn, this is not a substitute for the successful Garment District ecosystem. The synergies that make the Garment District work for many manufacturing businesses which are vital to New York’s fashion industry as a whole are greatly diminished in Sunset Park.

                The Garment Center Steering Committee came up with a series of recommendations to ensure the Administration’s plans are successful and do not harm New York’s fashion industry.  We have yet to hear a response to those recommendations.  We urge the Administration to work with us to secure sufficient manufacturing space in the Garment District while strengthening garment manufacturing and the fashion industry citywide.  It makes no sense to threaten an economic ecosystem that works.


Very truly yours,

Carolyn B. Maloney                         Gale A. Brewer                                                 Jerrold Nadler

Member of Congress                     Manhattan Borough President                  Member of Congress


Brad Hoylman                                    Marisol Alcantara                                             Richard N. Gottfried

State Senator                                    State Senator                                                    Assembly Member


Daniel Garodnick                              Corey Johnson

City Council Member                      City Council Member