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City Pledges $51M to Garment Industry Amid Controversial Zoning Proposal

By Maya Rajamani | March 27, 2017 2:16pm | Updated on March 28, 2017 5:06pm
 Paron Fabrics at 257 W. 39th St., which closed last year.
Paron Fabrics at 257 W. 39th St., which closed last year.
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DNAinfo/Maya Rajamani

MANHATTAN — The city plans to invest millions of dollars in the garment manufacturing industry as part of a “support package” that will include grants for businesses that relocate to Brooklyn.

The Economic Development Corporation on Friday announced a 10-year, $51.3 million plan that aims to “stabilize and strengthen” the “declining” industry currently centered in Midtown. 

The package — which is backed by the Council of Fashion Designers of America and the Garment District Alliance — is “the largest investment in this iconic sector in New York City history,” EDC said in a release.

The announcement came two days after representatives from the agency officially unveiled a proposal to lift a rule requiring some building owners in the Special Garment Center District to set aside manufacturing space.

The city also laid out plans to lure garment manufacturers to Sunset Park — a neighborhood officials said could offer longer and less expensive leases for firms currently struggling to keep pace in the Garment District.

“Today, there are approximately 1,500 garment manufacturing firms citywide, and about 30 percent of these businesses, or approximately 400 firms, are located in the Garment District,” EDC said in its release.

“These companies face immense global competition and real estate pressures despite preservation attempts, including rising commercial rents and an outdated building stock that fails to meet modern industrial needs."

The 10-year package will provide “relocation and expansion support for companies that are interested in moving from the Garment District,” including grants to cover relocation costs and employee transportation, the city said.

It also includes an initiative that will dole out grants for businesses that want to invest in new machinery and technology, training programs for workers, and inter-business networking support.

Many longtime Garment District employees spoke vehemently against the city’s plans at a public forum last week, arguing the move to Brooklyn wouldn’t be feasible for many companies and workers.

Critics of the zoning proposal, meanwhile, are circulating a Change.org petition addressed to Mayor de Blasio that asks the city to scrap its plans and consider “alternatives” after consulting with Garment District stakeholders. The petition had more than 1,100 signatures of its 1,500 goal as of Monday afternoon.

"If approved, the re-zoning would be devastating to these hundreds of companies and thousands of workers," the petition says. "Our city will lose a piece of what makes it special if we eliminate the Garment Center from midtown Manhattan."