The Garment Center in Manhattan has been a central part of the apparel production and fashion industry in the United States and internationally for more than a century. In the mid-1980s, due to concerns about increasing conversion of industrial loft buildings to office uses and the potential loss of apparel manufacturing jobs, the city studied potential impacts of the Times Square Redevelopment Project on the Garment Center. At the time, nearly 5,000 businesses in the apparel industry existed in the Garment Center, employing almost 61,000 people and occupying 20 million square feet of space related to manufacturing, showrooms, suppliers, service firms, and contractors. Manufacturing comprised 41% of total employment in this area. This research led to the conclusion that impending lease expirations and the projected demand for office space in the Garment Center would place a significant amount of apparel manufacturing operations at risk of conversion to office uses if the zoning remained unchanged.
To address concerns about this potential decline in manufacturing jobs, the Special Garment Center District was created in 1987. The district allowed the underlying M1-6 zoning regulations to apply on the Avenues, but created a Preservation Area that restricted existing buildings on side street blocks to retail, wholesale showroom and industrial uses. Office conversions were permitted on the restricted side streets only with a Chair Certification from the City Planning Commission and a restrictive declaration whereby property owners agreed to preserve an equal amount of space for manufacturing uses in perpetuity.
In 2005, in conjunction with the Hudson Yards rezoning, the Special Garment Center District was amended in several ways. These changes included dividing the Preservation Area into two new areas, P-1 and P-2. While the rules were unchanged in P-1, in P-2 the zoning now permitted new residential buildings, and allowed for the as-of-right conversion of smaller, existing buildings to any use allowed by the underlying zoning district. For existing buildings larger than 70,000 square feet of floor area, the conversion to office, hotel or residential uses was only permitted with a guarantee to provide equivalent manufacturing preservation. Alternatively, buildings were permitted to change their use to office, hotel or residential by City Planning Commission authorization if the space remained vacant for 3 years.
Despite these efforts to bolster the apparel industry in the Garment Center, apparel manufacturing – in the Garment Center, within New York City, and across the country – continued to decline in the three decades since the original rezoning, largely a result of global economic trends. The fashion industry as a whole, however, which includes showrooms, designers, and corporate headquarters, continues to thrive in the Garment Center. As a result, much of the district has shifted from a center of fashion manufacturing to an active B and C office district that includes many fashion-related businesses, as well as many restaurants and hotels.
At present, many existing uses within the Preservation Area of the Garment Center are not able to receive property certificates of occupancy and have outstanding violations because of manufacturing preservation requirements. The Department of City Planning is proposing a zoning text amendment to remove manufacturing preservation requirements and promote a healthy mix of uses within the Special Garment Center District.
The proposed zoning text amendment for the Special Garment Center District would reinstate the underlying M1-6 zoning in area P-1. Reinstating the underlying M1-6 zoning would eliminate manufacturing preservation requirements and allow many existing property owners to receive proper certificates of occupancy and cure outstanding use violations.
In area P-2, located on side streets in the west portion of the district, the underlying C6-4M Hudson Yards regulations would continue to apply. However, in the P-2 area, existing regulations that restrict office and residential conversions of buildings greater than 70,000 square feet would be modified so that these larger buildings could be converted to office uses. Residential conversion of these existing large buildings would continue to be restricted.
The existing Special Garment Center District has no unique provisions for buildings fronting avenues except for sign regulations. The proposed amendment includes the following changes to sign regulations:
The proposed text amendment would also create a City Planning Commission special permit for hotels within the District to ensure that remaining sites in M1-6 and C6-4M would be developed with a diverse mix of uses. Transient facilities for homeless individuals would continue to be permitted within the district as-of-right. The special permit would allow the City Planning Commission to evaluate the appropriateness of a hotel use in relation to the surrounding area according to the following findings:
On June 11, 2018, the Department of City Planning certified the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) application (N180373 ZRM) for the Special Garment Center District to begin the formal review process. The proposal was referred for public review to Manhattan CB 4 and CB 5, the Manhattan Borough Board, the Manhattan Borough President, the City Planning Commission, and the City Council.
|Department of City Planning Certification||June 11, 2018 – View the presentation|
|Manhattan Community Board 4 and 5 Review|
|Borough Board and Borough President Review|
|City Planning Commission Hearing||September 24, 2018 – View the City Planning Commission presentation|
|City Planning Commission Approval – View the CPC Report||October 31, 2018|
|City Council Hearing||November 15, 2018 – View the City Council presentation|
|City Council Approval with modifications*||December 20, 2018|
On December 20, 2018, the City Council approved the proposed text amendment (N180373 ZRM) with the following modification: