NYC's Garment Manufacturers Face a Potential Move to Sunset Park, Brooklyn
The garment center in Midtown Manhattan was once the pulse of New York City’s fashion industry, but the once thriving district has been steadily declining for years. A new survey reveals garment factory owners would rather close down than relocate to Sunset Park Brooklyn, a move encouraged by the de Blasio administration.
The Garment Center has struggled to survive for years due to outsourced production and rising rent costs. The Deblasio Administration is offering factory owners cheaper rent if they move across the river to Brooklyn. The city’s says its plan to create an apparel manufacturing hub in Sunset Park will create jobs and save New York’s garment industry. But a survey conducted by the Garment Supplier Association, shows a majority of factory owners would rather shut down their factories than make the move.
Frank Sena is one of them. He owns Sposabella Lace. Sena has been in the garment center for over thirty years. As he looks out his storefront window on 37st street, he tells a tale of a different place.
But despite the districts changing landscape he says a move to Brooklyn is out of the question.
Sena says, "There isn’t a single client that I’ve tested the waters..They don’t want to go to Brooklyn, of course not. They want to go to one area within walking distance where they can find whatever they want".
Joseph Ferrara owns Ferrara Manufacturing, a clothing manufacturer for high end retailers. He says De Blasio’s plan to move manufacturing to Brooklyn is on track in spirit, but ultimately demonstrates a lack of understanding about manufacturing in Manhattan’s fashion district. Ferrara says, "The garment center manufacturing is here for a reason and has had the opportunity to move to Brooklyn many times over the years and somehow it just didn’t move and one has to ask why? "
Ferrara Manufacturing is a scene of ordered chaos. It’s a buzz with the sound of sowing machines and workers communicating in their native languages. Ferrara says a move to Brooklyn would negatively impact his workers, many of whom commute from the Bronx and Queens."So a worker that currently spends 40 minutes each way is now looking at spending an hour more than that, and doing that twice a day. Two hours a day is a big deal. The big move that is being proposed would displace workers in a dramatic way". He thinks the purposed move would mark the end of the garment center.
On 36th street Adam Brand, is the fourth generation of his family to run M& S Shmalberg. It’s the last artificial flower manufacturer left in the garment district. He shares a lot of the same concerns about a move to Brooklyn.
Brand says, "A big part of our business has become walk ups…many of our employees commute and going to Brooklyn would add time to their commute and also over time we have become a destination for designers if we are out in Brooklyn I don’t know if they are going to come see us".
Some garment factories have already made the move to Sunset Park Brooklyn with little complaint, but with so many manufacturers still at odds with the city the future is unlikely to be buttoned up any time soon.
Sign at entrance of M&S Schmalberg