City Council Approves Garment District Rezoning

The body also created a special permit for hotel development in industrial zones

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The City Council today voted to lift zoning restrictions on new office space in the Garment District and passed a citywide rule limiting new hotel development in industrial zones.

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The Garment District rezoning, which passed with a unanimous vote, removes a 1987 requirement that property owners in certain parts of the neighborhood preserve industrial space at a one-to-one ratio with office space when they convert manufacturing buildings to other uses. Landlords will be free to fully convert their buildings to office space as they wish, enabling many owners to get office certificates of occupancy and allowing them to correct existing building and zoning violations.

Even though the council has removed the rule that landlords preserve industrial space, the new zoning is coupled with a number of city subsidy programs designed to keep garment makers in the neighborhood. Those measures include a new Industrial Development Agency program that offers tax abatements to landlords who grant long-term affordable leases to fashion tenants and a $14 million expansion of a program that offers grants to fashion manufacturers to buy new equipment, train employees or renovate their facilities. The city will also use up to $20 million to purchase a building that will permanently house fashion manufacturers at below-market rents.

“We’re preserving the city’s fashion manufacturing capacity both in its traditional home in the Garment Center, and with investments across the city,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “Today’s vote ensures that the Garment Center will continue to thrive as a mixed-use neighborhood—and that New York City will always be the world’s fashion capital.”

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said, “What we’ve negotiated here is a real plan to preserve [the Garment Center]…Now it’s critical that we follow through on every element of the plan.”

The council also voted through a new special permit requirement for new hotels in M1 zones throughout the city, including the Garment District. The measure passed 47 to 1, with Queens Councilmember Paul Vallone as the lone dissenting vote. Developers who hope to build hotels in manufacturing zones will have to get a special permit from the City Planning Commission and the City Council before moving forward with their projects. The move will limit hotel development in industrial zones, and it’s widely viewed as a backdoor way of forcing hotel builders to use union hotel workers.

“As New York City’s population and employment numbers hit record highs, competition for buildable land is rising, particularly in light manufacturing districts,” Marisa Lago, the director of the Department of City Planning, said in a statement. “With the increased attention to these sites comes a higher potential for conflicting uses. To tackle this issue, the targeted, case-by-case, site-specific approach in this text amendment allows for new hotels in manufacturing zones when that is appropriate, while also incentivizing job growth across a variety of business sectors.”