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Garment District Factories Would 'Rather Shut Down' Than Move, Survey Says

By Maya Rajamani | July 28, 2017 1:46pm | Updated on August 1, 2017 10:40am
 Inside H.M. Fabrics at 257 W. 39th St.
Inside H.M. Fabrics at 257 W. 39th St.
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DNAinfo/Maya Rajamani

GARMENT DISTRICT — A majority of manufacturers with factories in the Garment District would “rather shut down” than move out of the area, a new survey found.

The nonprofit arm of the Garment Center Supplier Association — a trade organization focused on protecting manufacturing in the city — surveyed 413 Garment District-based factory owners and conducted in-depth interviews with 157 of those, in light of the city’s plan to rezone the district and encourage businesses to relocate to Brooklyn.

Of the 157 owners surveyed, a whopping 88 percent said leaving the district and moving elsewhere was “not an option.”

“Most said they would rather shut down than move their businesses away from customers and workers,” the survey said.

Many of the owners surveyed are on short-term leases, the survey found.

Ninety-six percent of survey respondents said their factories had less than five years remaining on their leases, while 67 percent said they had less than two years remaining. Only 4 percent said they had five or more years remaining on their leases.

The results showed the need for “real estate stability” in the district, GCSA Foundation board member Gabrielle Ferrara explained.

“There’s a really vibrant ecosystem here, and it’s prime for innovation and growth, but without real estate security, these factories aren’t going to be able to invest in that innovation and growth,” she said.

When the city presented its tentative plans to Garment District stakeholders at a meeting in March, many attendees said they felt the changes would “devastate” the industry.

Several maintained that moving to Sunset Park in Brooklyn would “significantly” increase workers’ commute times and leave companies too far from their customers to survive.

GCSA’s survey found that 84 percent of the 157 factory owners surveyed employ workers from Queens, with 27 percent reporting all of their workers hailed from Queens.

Seventeen percent of the firms surveyed said they employed some Bronx residents, while 41 percent said they employed some Brooklyn residents and 27 percent said they employed some New Jersey workers.

Only 2.5 percent of respondents said that all of their employees hail from Brooklyn.

GCSA felt the results of the survey “speak to… most of the manufacturing in the area,” Ferrara said.

“After 100 survey results, the data kept on… resulting in the same responses,” she said. “It really strengthens our belief that there needs to be manufacturing in the Garment Center.”

A spokeswoman for the city's Economic Development Corporation on Monday said the agency "receive[s] inquiries on a daily basis from manufacturers interested in moving to our assets in Sunset Park."

"As we continue our dialogue with industry leaders, we are committed to bolstering garment manufacturing both in the Garment Center and throughout the City," she added.