MIDTOWN — The Garment District’s steady evolution from manufacturing hub to residential enclave has pitted residents against businesses in a battle over who could claim authority in an area long known for fashion, not raising families.
This week, residents scored a small but significant victory, gaining the support of Community Board 5’s transportation committee for their request to change the allowable hours for commercial parking.
Currently, delivery trucks and vans are only allowed to park on West 38th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues between the hours of 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. Earlier this year, residents asked the community board to shave an hour off each end of that to provide more public access to the parking along the street.
On Monday night, the committee members agreed, casting a vote in favor of the proposal.
“This would allow for the surrounding residential tenants who raised this issue with us a little more time to move their cars in the morning and allows businesses in the evening to have parking out front,” said Raju Mann, chair of the committee, at the meeting.
“It’s a pretty modest change in terms of the hours of parking,” he added.
Aviva Werner, a 15-year resident of the block, first proposed the idea of a parking change to the community board back in January, claiming that residents are often towed or ticketed for illegal parking while commercial vehicles do not take advantage of their full parking allowance.
“We are really, I think, empowered to say that we are becoming a more residential street. Not Greenwich Village residential, but residential enough,” Werner said at the time.
“[The current parking restrictions are] a hardship that’s really not necessary,” she added. “We want this place to be a little more user-friendly.”
Several other area residents at the meeting agreed.
Susan MacKenzie, an accountant who owns a commercial condo on the block, said she rarely sees the block full of commercial vehicles early in the morning.
“I walk to work every morning, and I walk down 38th Street between 6 and 8 o’clock in the morning,” MacKenzie said at the meeting. “That street is half empty most of the time.”
But at least one person has expressed concerns about labeling the block residential.
Mark Sarraf, who has owned a clothing manufacturing company on West 38th Street since 1987, said the neighborhood has changed “dramatically,” but noted it is still a business district.
“There is business going on. It’s fashion, millinery,” he said back in January. “These buildings still need commercial vehicles to come to this block.”
Sarraf did not attend Monday’s meeting, and neither did any other business owners on that block. Mann said the Fashion Center Business Improvement District had been notified about the potential parking change, but as of Monday night he had not heard any complaints or concerns.
The Fashion Center BID did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Still, members of Community Board 5 worried about the potential for problems among businesses and agreed to revisit the parking situation should any complaints arise.
Werner argued that the parking change was really a plus for businesses, allowing them to park their cars on the street in front of their offices or stores after 6 p.m.
And the impact on residents would be substantial, he added.
“We have two big buildings on either side of our block, so it really affects a lot of residents,” Werner said Monday. “It’s just a total quality-of-life issue.”