Eric Adams needs a spine of steel to stop Council lunacy scuttling Garment District plan

New York City has a critical housing shortage.

It also has hundreds of obsolete, largely empty, century-old office and manufacturing buildings that have almost no chance of being filled again in the post-Covid world.

So why not use each problem to solve the other — i.e., convert the useless, Jurassic-era properties into apartments?

Ahem — maybe in a galaxy far, far away.

But in the Big Apple, left-of-Lenin City Council, members and ruthless unions will do their worst to scuttle Mayor Eric Adams’ pitch to rezone the Garment District, aka the “Midtown South Neighborhood Plan” — one of three worthy proposals he made for citywide rezoning to alleviate the housing crunch.

New York Mayor Eric Adams
Mayor Adams’ plan to bring life to the depressing, empty streets of the Garment District and other parts of the West 30s and 40s is bold.
James Messerschmidt for NY Post

The shadowy cross-blocks in the West 30s and 40s are post-pandemic Manhattan’s most depressing places to stroll, nearly devoid of activity even at midday.

Creating new homes there could bring them back to life the way conversions have done in the Wall Street area for the past thirty years.

But Council members whose support is needed for meaningful zoning changes dwell in a “Twilight Zone” of woke priorities.

They’ll demand that new homes be “affordable” even to bums on the street. Recall, for example, how Council member Kristen Richardson Jordan, who’s mercifully retiring, torpedoed a big Harlem project because the developer declined to give apartments away almost for free.

New York City Council
The mayor’s first big problem in rejuvenating the Garment District was on full display by the Council Thursday: the twilight zone of “woke priorities” in which its members dwell.
Getty Images

Council lunacy was on infuriating display again at a hearing I attended of its powerful Land Use Committee in March.

City Planning Commissioner Dan Garodnick patiently explained that large-scale rezoning could make 136 million square feet of offices, about one third of the entire inventory, eligible for conversions to apartments.

But Gale Brewer, a water-carrier for unions, warned Garodnick, “Don’t mess with the Garment Center. We need those jobs.”

In fact, there are almost no apparel jobs left in the West 30s and 40s — perhaps 3,000 compared with hundreds of thousands in the early 1960s.

The Garment District: A man pushes a rack of fur coats
Apparel-industry unions blocked rezoning during the Bloomberg years even though just 3,000 jobs depend on the sector now, compared to hundreds of thousands in the past. One of the union’s water-carriers was back at it at the Council meeting.
Getty Images

But apparel-industry unions, just to show who’s boss, blocked a rezoning proposal in the Michael Bloomberg years to allow conversion of mostly vacant “manufacturing” buildings even to offices.

Others at the Council hearing demanded to know whether new housing created through rezoning would, among other goofy things, be required to include “amenities” such as libraries or parking spaces (in a city trying to get rid of cars!).

Nearly all the speakers brought up the dreaded g-word without actually saying “gentrification.”

Would new apartments be rent-stabilized? If they were, would family members have “rights of succession” to below-market leases?  

Adams will need a will of steel to bring new life to the Garment District. More power to him, and “progressive” reactionaries be damned.

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