Take a Whack at the Garment District

The Sun reports that a business improvement district called the Fashion Center wants to get rid of the fashion in its center–namely, the garment industries that were once the bulwark of industrial Manhattan. The idea would be to rezone areas that are now reserved for manufacturing for apartments and hotels. Arguably the space, set aside in 1987 in a bid to preserve blue-collar jobs from the impending Disneyfication of Times Square, could be better utilized.

This is an old problem in New York: if you let people rezone manufacturing areas for condos, the industrial firms are priced out; but if the industrial jobs are leaving anyway, what’s the point of preserving space for them?

Our handy-dandy Zoning Handbook says that there already is some flexibility in the special district: landlords in one section can get authorization from the City Planning Commission to go residential, while in the other section, conversion to offices is possible if one sets aside an equal amount of manufacturing space. All of which makes it seem as if the Fashion Center wants to grease the wheels, not acquire “flexibility.” Fine. We know how slowly bureaucracy works.

But then a consultant tries to make us believe that “a zoning change would not necessarily lead to the development of exclusively luxury residential units to replace factories.”

Just like Williamsburg and Dumbo, right?

Matthew Schuerman

Take a Whack at the Garment District