Joe Lhota pledged his support for the local industry to Fashionista via email. “As we work to diversify our city’s economy, we have to ensure that New York City is the best place in the world to start a business,” he writes. “New York City is one of the world’s top fashion capitals and this industry must be an important piece of that equation.”
As the Republican (but moderate Republican, as he likes to remind voters) candidate, Lhota is running on a platform to grow the city’s economy by providing and creating jobs, helping small businesses, and attracting more tech and manufacturing jobs to the city.
As for continuing Bloomberg’s legacy, Lhota will continue to make Fashion.NYC.2020 a “top priority” as it “exemplifies the sort of public-private partnerships that are critical to growing and diversifying our economy,” he writes.
He’s also big on tax incentives that are meant to help accelerate small businesses. “As mayor, I’ll create new tax incentives to keep growing businesses from leaving New York City, while lowering startup costs through affordable new incubator space and reforms to regulations and fee structures,” he writes, citing the CFDA Incubator as an example of “how the incubator model can be successful as an engine for industry growth.” He adds, “Incubators will be a major component of job creation in my administration, as these spaces help small businesses develop synergies while also keeping costs down. I would support the creation of new incubators in every borough, while also forging creative public-private partnerships and tax abatements that will help us create the next generation of manufacturers.”
Frontrunner candidate Bill de Blasio’s office was a bit more general in his support statement to Fashionista: “Bill de Blasio is firmly committed to help the fashion industry grow and thrive in New York, and expand opportunities available in this industry to more New Yorkers.”
In terms of keeping the official mayoral support of the CFDA Fashion Incubator, Fashion.NYC.2020, etc. alive, “Bill de Blasio would keep expanding Bloomberg programs designed to help the fashion industry that have proven successful.”
The CFDA and NYCEDC are playing it safe during this pre-election lead up, both declining to comment on current or incoming administrations’ plans.
However, NYCEDC executive vice president Eric Gertler did want to pledge his organization’s support for and commitment to the fashion industry, no matter who gets elected. “NYCEDC’s initiatives to support the local fashion industry are designed to ensure that New York City remains the fashion capital of the world,” he writes. “Our projects, such as the Fashion Manufacturing Initiative, NYC Fashion Fellows, Design Entrepreneurs NYC, and many more, help retail and fashion businesses innovate to promote success both now and in the future.”
Another big issue for fashion companies—and really everyone living in New York City—is real estate. In order to stay in business, small retailers and local factories must face the constantly–and rapidly–increasing rents. Plus, there’s always the threat of new housing or office space developments moving into the Garment Center and pushing out existing businesses.
Under Bloomberg’s administration, real estate boomed, largely due to real estate tax incentives. According to Newyork.com, 40,000 new buildings were built and 40% of the city rezoned under his tenure. How the next administration takes real estate development even further is of concern to the factories in the Garment Center and boutiques owned by designers or small biz owners all over the city.
Di Blasio’s office writes that small businesses are the “ultimate grassroots job creation engine” and also “incredibly important to the character and strength of our neighborhoods.” If elected mayor, he promises to “end policies that hurt mom and pop stores like the constant and arbitrary fines the city government has levied, and explore the use of zoning laws and tax policy over time to support family-owned businesses.”
Lhota acknowledges the issue, too. “New York City real estate is expensive, especially for new businesses and startups,” he writes. “One recent study found that we have the highest business rents in the nation. This is part of what makes incubators and co-working spaces so important, giving small businesses a flexible, affordable working headquarters.”
In terms of keeping manufacturing local, de Blasio’s office offered support, but through the “tightening of zoning restrictions in the City’s Industrial Business Zones, and the loosening of other zoning restrictions to meet the demand for live-work spaces.” While tightening zone restrictions would limit certain real estate development in specific areas, we should point out that there are 19 International Business Zones in New York City (including the Brooklyn Navy Yard and parts of Williamsburg), but the Garment Center is not one of them. On the other side of the campaign, Lhota’s responses didn’t specifically address local fashion manufacturing.
So, we’ve heard their arguments. But who will the fashion industry vote for?