New Proposal Could Create Secondary Garment District In Sunset Park, Brooklyn

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Fashionistas may no longer be able to descend on one central location to satisfy their sartorial palettes.

City leaders are proposing lifting zoning regulations in the Garment District.

Through decades of changing film and styles, one thing has stayed the same — the 20 block stretch in Midtown Manhattan known as the Garment District has served as the epicenter of New York City fashion.

As the daughter of a clothing manufacturer, Vice President of Ferarra Manufacturing Gabrielle Ferarra’s idea of recess was watching the fashion machine run.

“If you need a button that means you’re sprinting down the street to get that button from the trim store that’s two blocks away,” she told CBS2’s Jessica Moore. “Every other city in the world wants to create what we have here.”

“What we have,” could soon change. The city wants to lift zoning restrictions from 1987, designed to prevent jobs from going overseas.

The restrictions kept rent prices affordable and preserved building space for garment manufacturers.

“We’ve seen job loss in production in the Garment District at the same rate after the zoning restrictions were put in place as before the zoning restrictions were put in place,” Garment District Alliance President Barbara Blair said. “It’s made absolutely no difference.” 

City leaders are proposing a secondary Garment District, featuring a “Made in New York Fashion Campus” in Sunset Park, Brooklyn — set to open in 2020.

“Moving the Garment District out to Brooklyn is basically the same as moving it to Italy,” Ferarra said.

“Nobody is getting moved,” Blair said. “What EDC did is create a greater breadth of options. If you feel like there are real estate pressures here or if you’re not getting the orders that you need to be in a Midtown Manhattan location, there are options for you that are viable options being invested in by the city of New York in Brooklyn.”

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer showed up at City Hall, with a measuring tape draped over her shoulders, WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported.

“We cannot get rid of the current zoning protections from the Garment District until we are sure that enough space is preserved for the manufacturers who need to stay in Manhattan,” she said.

While some people think the proposal could be beneficial long term, many employees say a move to Brooklyn would change their way of life and make getting to work virtually impossible.

“What’s going to happen if people have to move from Queens to Brooklyn? It’s going to take them half a day,” Helen Spiewak from Ferarra Manufacturing said.

“We’re okay with de Blasio doing a test out in Brooklyn as long as he doesn’t decimate what Manhattan has, which is so special and has taken over a century to make,” Ferarra said.

“The costumes that Bett Midler wears in ‘Hello Dolly’ are produced in the Garment Center with fabrics and trims that are sourced in the Garmet Center,” Stephen Epstein, of Local 764 of the Theatrical Wardrobe Union, said.

The zoning proposal will be certified on Monday, paving the way for city leaders to vote on the future of the Garment District. The Brooklyn Army Terminal will also be available for manufacturers to set up shop in over the next couple of months.

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