Study: Diamond District Faces Critical Moment

Diamond District is now the second largest wholesale and manufacturing sector
in New York City, according to a new study released by the 47th Street Business
Improvement District, in collaboration with the New York State Empire State
Development Corporation.

is up from a 1992 study conducted by then-Manhattan borough president Ruth
Messinger, which ranked the industry as the city’s third wholesale and
manufacturing sector.

Street BID executive director Michael Grumet tells JCK the survey was done because his group “wanted to show elected
officials and government how much of an impact this industry has, just how
important we are, and what jobs we have.”

notes that the industry accounts for $24 billion in economic impact, outranking
the city’s famous cultural institutions, which account for only $18 billion.

while a significant income generator, the New York trade faces significant
challenges, the study notes, including competition from abroad, an aging workforce, a declining
physical environment, and the high cost of doing business in New York.

is a critically important moment for New York City’s diamond and jewelry
industries,” the study says. “The industry has received little acknowledgement
and support from government. [It] is at a crossroads, in which both decisions and
investments need to be made.”

report makes the following recommendations:

• Update the street’s physical appearance.

“The street’s appearance ought to reflect the
quality of the goods sold there,” Grumet says. “The way it is now the sidewalk
changes from building to building. I have a proposal to totally replace the concrete
on the street with concrete that is photocatalytic, meaning it reacts with
sunlight. It would make the streetscape much nicer.”

Other suggestions include adding a shimmer to the
sidewalk, or creating the district’s own version of Hollywood’s Walk of Stars.

• Promote the Diamond District as a tourism
destination, by working with local tourism agencies, and making it a stop for
tour buses.

• Explore new business models, including secondary markets that
resell finished jewelry.

• Collaborate with area universities and training programs.

“The workers are aging out,” Grumet says. “The only
way we can retain this industry is by getting a new generation of cutters and

• Deal with street “hawkers” who many feel hurt
the street’s image. But the study notes that despite many efforts to eliminate
the street salesmen, they present
a “complex legal issue, given the constitutional protections afforded to commercial

• Expand the capacity of the 47th Street Business
Improvement District, which the study says is “understaffed in comparison to
others of its size.”

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