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Garment District adds 6,000 jobs in spite of manufacturing decline

The Garment District is going the way of the Meatpacking District, as the industry that gave the neighborhood its name continues to decline, while other retail, office, and residential sectors continue to increase.

Photo by Mike Licht/ Flickr
Photo by Mike Licht/ Flickr

According to the just-released Economic Quarterly Report form the Garment District Alliance, the Garment District has experienced continuous growth in jobs across various industries, including leisure and hospitality, which added 6,000 jobs from 2000 to 2016 in the neighborhood.

Meanwhile, manufacturing jobs, once the beating heart of the district, have been steadily declining in the neighborhood for more than 15 years. Since 2000, apparel manufacturing jobs have decreased by 66 percent, falling to a record low of less than 5,000 jobs in 2017, according to the report.

The trend is not just occurring in New York City but also nationwide. In the last two years alone, the number of apparel manufacturing jobs in New York City shrunk by 19 percent, a loss of 3,000 jobs.

Average starting rents for office space in the Garment District have increased 24 percent since 2014. Three recent new lease signings include clothing store Betsy & Adam at 525 7th Avenue, for 20,611 s/f, fashion retailer Gabriel Brothers at 1400 Broadway, with 11,895 s/f, and Investopedia at 119 West 40th Street, with 15,931 s/f.

While average starting rents have increased in all adjacent Midtown neighborhoods since 2014, the Garment District remains the most affordable, according to the report.

Hotels continue to be added, with 36 within the district’s boundaries as of August and 19 more under construction or in development. The neighborhood has been drawing more visitors, as the annual number of hotel guests grew to 1,206,873, up from 897,040 in 2014. Jobs in the accommodations subsector have risen a staggering 556 percent since 2000, rising from 201 to the current 1,318.

And as retail and hospitality sectors have grown, so has the number of residents. Between 2013 and 2015, the number of residents in the neighborhood increased 31 percent.

New food and dining openings in 2017 in the neighborhood included Bluestone Lane, Luke’s Lobster, Num Pang, Dig Inn, Poke Town, and ‘Wichcraft, among others. The report attributed the growth of the culinary scene to the number of new employees in the area.

The report comes on the heels of the City Council last month delaying voting on rezoning the Garment District, after a steering community released a series of recommendations that sought to ease protections for the fashion industry without harming it.

A vote was set for August 21, but was pushed back following Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and the Garment District Steering Committee release of a report and a set of 13 recommendations.

This is the second time the rezoning vote has been delayed, the first was in April of this year.

Brewer was joined by top fashion designers like Anna Sui and Nicole Miller and community stakeholders at a press conference on the steps of City Hall August 18th, where the group urged lawmakers to phase in the proposed rezoning in order to protect the industry.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) has proposed removing zoning restrictions set in 1987 in the Garment District. Under the rules, owners of side-street properties from 35th to 41st Streets, between Broadway and Ninth Avenues, have restrictions on how they can use their properties.

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