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Encyclopedia > Garment District, Manhattan

The Garment District is a neighborhood of the New York City borough of Manhattan, located between Fifth and Ninth Avenues from 34th to 42nd Street. Neighbourhood is also a term in topology. ... Flag Seal Nickname: The Big Apple, The Capital of the World[1], Gotham Location Location in the state of New York Government Counties (Boroughs) Bronx (The Bronx) New York (Manhattan) Queens (Queens) Kings (Brooklyn) Richmond (Staten Island) Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R) Geographical characteristics Area    - City 1,214. ... A borough is an administrative division used in the Canadian province of Quebec, in some states of the United States, and formerly in New Zealand. ... The Borough of Manhattan, highlighted in yellow, lies between the East River and the Hudson River. ...


The Garment District is the fashion center of New York City. Although hardly one square mile, this small district, anchored by the Javits Convention Center at the extreme west, the New York General Post Office, Penn Station, and Madison Square Garden in the center, and the Empire State Building in the east, contains an extraordinary concentration of industry. The neighborhood is home to the warehouses and workshops of the fashion industry. ... Penn Stations underground Long Island Rail Road concourse Pennsylvania Station is one of New York Citys main railway stations, sharing the Pennsylvania Station name with several stations in other cities. ... Madison Square Garden, often abbreviated as MSG, known colloquially simply as The Garden, has been the name of four arenas in New York City, United States. ... The Empire State Building is a 102-story contemporary Art Deco style building in New York City, declared by the ASCE to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. ...

Contents


Role in fashion

New York is the fashion capital of the United States, generating over $14 billion in annual sales, and setting design trends that are mirrored worldwide. The industry sustains tens of thousands of jobs in the city, and brings hundreds of millions of dollars to New York through conferences, expositions, Fashion Week and tourism. The fashion industry is the largest single contributor to the city's manufacturing sector. The Garment District is at the center of this billion dollar clothing industry. One third of all clothing manufactured in the US is designed and produced in this neighborhood. Many of the clothing manufacturers maintain outlet stores open to the public. A Fashion Week is a fashion industry event, typically named after the host city or major commercial sponsor, lasting four to ten days. ...


New York is home to America's world renowned fashion talent. From the industry's most famous designers to its most promising entrepreneurs, fashion makers locate their businesses here, taking advantage of the city's unlimited creative resources. Oscar De La Renta, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Liz Claiborne and Nicole Miller, to name a few, are located in the Garment District. While New York’s days as the textile-manufacturing capital of America may be over, it remains the fashion capital for designers, couture houses and showrooms. Oscar de la Renta was born in the Dominican Republic, son of a Puerto Rican father and a Dominican mother. ... A Calvin Klein advertisement featuring Natalia Vodianova Calvin Klein (born November 19, 1942) is a well-known fashion designer. ... Donna Faske (born October 2, 1948 in Forest Hills, New York), better known as Donna Karan, is an American fashion designer. ... Liz Claiborne (born Elisabeth Claiborne Ortenberg March 31, 1929) is a Belgian-born fashion designer. ... Nicole Miller (born 1952, Lenox, Massachusetts) is an American fashion designer. ...


While most of the clothing manufacturing has left the island, there are still numerous fabric shops in the Garment District. Some only carry bridal fabrics and laces, others specialize in woolens but most have a little bit of everything. Most of the goods in these stores are the leftovers from the manufacturers in the city. Apparel fabric wholesalers also have retail stores or showrooms in or near the Garment District. Wholesalers of trims or buttons and other fasteners are clustered nearby. In fact, the Garment District buildings often house similar kinds of businesses to make it easy for buyers to shop the market on foot.


History

New York first assumed its role as the center of the nation's garment industry by producing clothes for slaves working on Southern plantations. It was more efficient for their masters to buy clothes from producers in New York than to have the slaves spend time and labor making the clothing themselves. In addition to supplying clothing for slaves, tailors produced other ready-made garments for sailors and western prospectors during slack periods in their regular business. A sugarcane plantation at Ribeirão Preto, Brazil, 2005 A plantation is a large tract of monoculture, as a tree plantation, a cotton plantation, a tea plantation or a tobacco plantation. ...


Prior to the mid-nineteenth century, the majority of Americans either made their own clothing, or if they were wealthy, purchased "tailor-made" customized clothing. By the 1820s, however, an increasing number of ready-made garments of a higher quality were being produced for a broader market.


The production of ready-made clothing, which continued to grow, completed its transformation to an "industrialized" profession with the invention of the sewing machine in the 1850s.


The need for thousands of ready-made soldiers' uniforms during the American Civil War helped the garment industry to expand further. By the end of the 1860s, Americans bought most of their clothing rather than making it themselves. Combatants United States of America (Union) Confederate States of America (Confederate) Commanders Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee Strength 2,200,000 1,064,000 Casualties Killed in action: 110,000 Total dead: 360,000 Wounded: 275,200 Killed in action: 93,000 Total dead: 258...


German and Central European immigrants to America around the mid 19th century arrived on the scene with relevant business experience and skills just as garment production was passing from a proto-industrial phase to a more advanced stage of manufacture. In the early twentieth-century a largely Eastern European immigrant workforce powered the garment trades.


Writing in 1917, Abraham Cahan credited these immigrants with the creation of American style:


Foreigners ourselves, and mostly unable to speak English, we had Americanized the system of providing clothes for the American woman of moderate or humble means. The average American woman is the best-dressed woman in the world, and the Russian Jew has had a good deal to do with making her one.


With an ample supply of cheap labor and a well-established distribution network, New York was prepared to meet the demand. During the 1870s the value of garments produced in New York increased six-fold. By 1880 New York produced more garments than its four closest urban competitors combined, and in 1900 the value and output of the clothing trade was three times that of the city's second largest industry, sugar refining. New York's function as America's culture and fashion center also helped the garment industry by providing constantly changing styles and new demand; in 1910, 70% of the nation's women's clothing and 40% of the men's was produced in the City.


In the early 1920s, the United Hebrew Trades union asked Lepke Buchalter and his Jewish and Italian gangster friends from Brooklyn to work as union enforcers. Buchalter deployed 250 enforcers, who threatened owners and threw acid on the merchandise of companies that dared buck the union. Sometimes, his troops squared off with those of another Jewish gangster, Dutch Schultz, who broke strikes for the garment bosses. Occasionally, the two gangsters would work both sides of a strike for mutual benefit. Buchalter allegedly struck up an alliance with Sidney Hillman, legendary founder of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America that represented 50,000 garment industry laborers and a close advisor to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Louis Lepke Buchalter (6 February 1897 - 4 March 1944) was a Jewish American mobster who was the notorious head of Murder, Inc. ... Dutch Schultz (August 6, 1902–October 24, 1935) was a New York City-area gangster of the 1920s and 30s. ... Sidney Hillman (March 23, 1887 - July 10, 1946) was an American labor leader. ... The Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America was a United States labor union known for its support for social unionism and progressive political causes. ... Franklin Delano Roosevelt (January 30, 1882–April 12, 1945), 32nd President of the United States, the longest-serving holder of the office and the only man to be elected President more than twice, was one of the central figures of 20th century history. ...


But the ambitious Buchalter wasn’t content merely with being hired union muscle. Grasping how the industry functioned, he launched a plan to control it. The business, he realized, couldn’t operate without the 1,900 workers who cut the cloth and shipped the goods. If you had the power to withhold their labor at will, you’d have leverage over the entire industry.


By the early 1930s, Buchalter had persuaded the Amalgamated cutters’ local to align with him by offering their officials protection from rival union forces, and he managed to get the drivers behind him, too. In exchange for labor peace - he could now shut down business with a word - Buchalter coerced the garment companies into doling out sweetheart contracts to trucking firms that gave him kickbacks. Buchalter died in the electric chair in 1944 for the murder of a trucker. Before his execution he offered to give information on top figures within the Roosevelt cabinet, such as Hillman, who allegedly had links to the mafia. Thomas E. Dewey, then District Attorney of New York, turned down the offer, sending Buchalter to the chair. Thomas Dewey - Wikipedia /**/ @import /skins/monobook/IE50Fixes. ... A district attorney is, in some U.S. jurisdictions, the title of the local public official who represents the government in the prosecution of criminals. ...


It took Carlo Gambino, who assumed control of the garment district in 1957, to transform what was a mob-influenced industry into a full-fledged organized crime cartel. He and his family used their control of the unions to take over the trucking companies that serviced the Garment District, so that few manufacturers could get a delivery or make a shipment without their say-so. 1934 NYPD mugshot of Carlo Gambino, early into his career within the Gambino crime family. ...


Already in the early 1950s, Carlo had set up his son Joseph as a minor partner in Consolidated Carriers Corporation, in exchange for giving that firm a union-friendly edge on the competition, and son Thomas joined later. As other Consolidated partners retired, the Gambinos became owners of what had become the district’s most important trucking company, and they acquired interests in other trucking firms, sometimes partnering with rival crime families like the Luccheses.


By the mid-1980s, operating 90 percent of the trucks that serviced the garment district, the mob held the industry in a vice-like grip. In the early 1990s, to take just one example, a production manager for fashion designer Nicole Miller testified that once, when he tried to use a small gypsy trucker, trench-coated mob goons showed up and stood around menacingly, hands in pockets, until the frightened independent operator fled. District kingpin Thomas Gambino, honored as the garment industry’s Man of the Year at a 1981 dinner at the Plaza Hotel, grew extremely rich: by 1992, investigators estimated his personal wealth at $75 million. Nicole Miller (born 1952, Lenox, Massachusetts) is an American fashion designer. ...


But the $2.5 billion garment industry suffered. Records from the early 1990s showed that mob trucking companies generated yearly revenues of about $50 million and operating profits of $22 million, a hefty 44 percent profit margin, compared with the 10 to 15 percent margins that typical city truckers averaged. The added costs that mob trucking imposed, in other words, amounted to $15-17 million yearly. The estimated mob tax on the district as a whole - if you include extortion, double billing, and other illegal activities - was a staggering $60 million a year by the early 1990s. Combined with New York’s inflated legitimate taxes, it accelerated the flight of garment jobs from the city. From the mid-1950s, when the Gambinos took over the garment district, until 1992, the business shrank 75 percent, costing New York 225,000 jobs.


The mob helped bump off a once vibrant industry.


Decline of the Industry

Manufacturing in New York - and in New York City in particular - has been fading in recent years. This has been exemplified by the decline of the Garment District. The district has been losing well over a thousand jobs per year. Factories and showrooms are increasingly becoming condos and Starbucks. A number of factors have contributed to the decline, from excessive rents to low overseas wages.


Some organizations have been working to protect the industry, such as "The Fashion Center Business Improvement District" [1], a not-for-profit corporation established in 1993 to promote the city's apparel industry and to improve the quality of life and economic vitality of the Garment District. The Center is funded by the district's property owners and businesses.


Some politicians have also taken up the cause. Manhattan Borough President Brian Ellner wrote the following in his blog in August 2004:


We should support a limited development of the Garment District, protecting companies and the jobs struggling to survive - from button makers to fabric cutters to designers - creating new affordable residential and commercial space and pursuing preservation for the area's rich history. And we need to find new industries for the thousands of workers who have already lost their jobs. Fashion manufacturing is one of the main pathways to the middle class for immigrant workers, and we must ensure that other pathways exist.


Landmarks

  • The Fashion Walk of Fame - the only permanent landmark dedicated to American fashion
  • Needle threading a button - at the Fashion Center Business Improvement District's Information Kiosk at Seventh Avenue and 39th Street
  • Statue of Ralph Kramden in his bus driver's uniform - outside the Port Authority building
  • Greenwich Bank Building
  • General Post Office

References

v·d·e
Neighborhoods in the New York City Borough of Manhattan

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Looking south from 6th Street down Second Avenue, one of the main thoroughfares through the East Village. ... A view up Broad Street in the Financial District in Manhattan The Financial District is the neighborhood in New York City on the southernmost section of the island of Manhattan which comprises the offices and headquarters of many of the citys major financial institutions, including the New York Stock... The famous Flatiron building from which the district is named. ... Gramercy, also called Gramercy Park, is a neighborhood in Manhattan, New York City, focused around Gramercy Park, a private park between East 20th and 21st Streets. ... The Washington Square Arch Greenwich Village (pronounced Grennich Village; also called simply the Village) is a largely residential area on the west side of downtown (southern) Manhattan in New York City. ... Hamilton Heights is a neighborhood in Harlem in New York City. ... Harlem is a neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City, long known as a major African-American cultural and business center. ... Ninth Avenue looking north toward Time Warner Center and Hearst Tower (New York City) Hells Kitchen (also known as Clinton and Midtown West) is a neighborhood of New York City that includes roughly the area between 34th Street and 57th Street, from 8th Avenue to the Hudson River. ... Hudson Heights is a Manhattan neighborhood located within the larger area known as Washington Heights in New York City. ... Inwood is the northernmost neighborhood on Manhattan Island in the New York City borough of Manhattan. ... The Kips Bay neighborhood of Manhattan is the area between 23rd and 34th streets to the east of 3rd Avenue. ... Koreatown, or K-town as it is colloquially known, is generally bordered by 31st and 36th Sts. ... Food vendors line the streets of Little Italy. ... The corner of Orchard and Rivington Streets, Lower East Side (2005) The Lower East Side is a neighborhood of the New York City borough of Manhattan. ... Lower Manhattan skyline as viewed from the Staten Island Ferry Woolworth Building, looking south along Broadway Lower Manhattan, from the Brooklyn Bridge, 2005 Lower Manhattan is the southernmost part of the island of Manhattan, the main island and center of business and government of the City of New York. ... Manhattanville is the part of Manhattan in New York City bordered on the south by Morningside Heights on the west by the Hudson river, on the east by Harlem and on the north by Washington Heights. ... Marble Hill is the northernmost section of the borough of Manhattan in New York, New York. ... View of Midtown from Empire State Building. ... The Meatpacking District, also known as Gansevoort Market, is a neighborhood in Manhattan, New York City. ... Morningside Heights is a neighborhood of the borough of Manhattan in New York City and is bound by the Upper West Side, Morningside Park, Harlem, and Riverside Park (some now consider it part of the Upper West Side). ... The Murray Hill neighborhood of Manhattan extends south from 42nd street to meet the neighborhood of Gramercy (or Rose Hill/Curry Hill as the northern half of Grammercy is often referred to) at 29th street. ... NoHo can also refer to North Hollywood in Los Angeles, California. ... Nolita, sometimes written as NoLIta (North of Little Italy), is a neighborhood in the borough of Manhattan in New York City. ... Main Street on Roosevelt Island Roosevelt Island, pop. ... SoHo is a neighborhood in Manhattan that is bounded roughly by Houston Street on the north, Lafayette Street on the east, Canal Street on the south, and Sixth Avenue on the west. ... This article or section is in need of attention from an expert on the subject. ... 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