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New York's Garment District may be moving to Brooklyn

Written by
Clayton Guse

Since 1987, the New York City government has protected Midtown's Garment District from rising rents by way of a zoning resolution dubbed the Special Garment Center District. Despite an industry that's constantly in flux, designers and manufacturers have been able to operate in the iconic neighborhood, which is widely regarded as the epicenter of New York's fashion industry. 

The area occupies less than 20 blocks in the heart of Manhattan, and business owners there enjoy a level of protection that's hard to come by in New York—especially in such a highly-coveted part of the city. After 30 years, all of that may be coming to an end.

A plan put forth by local officials and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) would move a large portion of fashion industry across the East River and into Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighborhood. It's backed by the Garment District Alliance, a group founded by the district's hundreds of property owners and thousands of businesses, but has drawn criticism from designers who rely on the Midtown location.

"he proposal to lift the 1987 zoning regulations would not change the underlying zoning for the area, which is currently zoned for manufacturing," says Stephanie Baez of the NYCEDC. "Meaning, all manufacturers can stay in the Garment Center if they so choose. The 1987 zoning regulations required a one-to-one ratio in the special preservation areas of the district, not the entire district."

The city isn't simply booting some of the world's best designers to Brooklyn without incentive, though. The NYCED, the Garment District Alliance and the Council of Fashion Designers of America have collaborated on a $51.3 million package to help incentivize manufacturers to make the move. The money will go towards grants for investments in new machinery and technology, training programs and relocation costs. 

It's unclear what will become of the Garment District if the business that, you know, make garments vacate the neighborhood. The NYCEDC notes that the zoning regulations would limit new residential and hotel developments in the area. 

The article has been updated to accurately reflect the zoning regulations in the Garment District.

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