Secretive Ways of District Don't Help
Mexican craftsmen were joined in the 1970s by Armenian jewelers fleeing civil war in Lebanon. Others followed from Iran, joined by Russians when the Soviet Union fractured. Ethnic Chinese manufacturers and wholesalers from Vietnam and Cambodia also came, as did Israeli diamond dealers.
Leon Chant Haytayan, vice president of the Armenian Jewelers Assn., said most of the small manufacturers in the district employ their own family members and would not want to place them in harm's way.
But many lack the proper education on environmental safety issues, he said.
Both landlords and chemical suppliers must do their part to educate manufacturers, he said.
"We're all concerned, and we're all trying to see what it is we can do to make things right and safe so the city is satisfied and the state is satisfied and people can go on with their lives," Haytayan said.
"You don't want to work under pressure and fear that you're going to be shut down.
The secretive atmosphere of the district and Old World ways haven't always helped it, some younger-generation jewelers say.
The industry has had its share of tax and immigration violations, and not all manufacturers take necessary environmental precautions, said Boyadjian, a second-generation Armenian jeweler who is pushing to introduce Internet technology to the industry.
Furthermore, not all building owners are equally conscientious, Boyadjian said.
If one building manager pressures tenants to comply with the letter of environmental law, others may lure them with the promise of a more laissez faire approach, he said.
At the very least, the state's crackdown could compel the less aggressive building managers to take a more active role in monitoring the compliance of their own tenants, Boyadjian said.
"It's not going to happen unless someone gets hit hard," he said. "Unfortunately, I think it has to be done that way. . . . The health hazards and repercussions are immense."