According to NYC’s very own website, “zoning is the language of the physical city.”
Essentially, zoning is a way to organize the balance and variety of property types in a given area – with the idea of creating the most pleasant real estate environment possible.
Zoning regulations apply to both land and building specs, building clear distinctions between different property use types and where they’re allowed to exist.
NYC Zoning determines regulations for building use, building height, location, parking regulations, and other aspects of properties.
The NYC Zoning Map is split into three main zoning districts: Commercial (C), Residential (R), and Manufacturing (M). Within each of these districts, low, medium, and high-density districts are mapped out.
Commercial zoning refers to areas within the city where commercial activity takes place. Commercial activities throughout New York are permitted within C-1 / C-2 / C-3 zoning, C-4 / C-5 zoning, and C-6 / C-7 / C-8 zoning.
Commercial zoning requirements lay out a variety of regulations, including building use, the distance between properties and their lot lines, and parking requirements. Commercial zoning commonly covers most commercial property, including entertainment venues, offices, and restaurants.
The eight commercial districts are also categorized based on bulk, loading, and parking requirements. These categorizations are observable by a hyphen and added digit within the text (such as C4-2). Further regulations can be distinguished by a letter suffix that follows the second digit (such as C4-7A).
A higher maximum floor area ratio is given to high-density commercial districts and demands off-street parking requirements, in order to control development intensity. Public amenities, such as open plazas and subway systems, in medium and high-density areas also generate a higher FAR. Height, setback, and yard regulations are also in force to ensure that sufficient light, space, and air are available.
Many commercial zones overlap with residential areas, as commercial outlets and services serve many residents across the city. However, certain commercial zoning districts are for commercial activities only.
Read on, for our condensed guide on the complex NYC zoning text and a detailed exploration of commercial zoning in New York.
The NYC Zoning Text
The NYC Zoning Text refers to the sizeable 1,300-page text that covers the city’s zoning rules in their entirety. The NYC zoning text contains 14 different articles, covering city regulations on land use. Three key articles make up the bulk of the text: Article II explores residential zoning regulations, Article III covers commercial zoning regulations, and Article IV covers manufacturing zoning regulations. In addition, zoning regulations for the Special Purpose District are covered in Articles VIII through XIV. Articles I-VII cover use, parking requirements, bulk, building height, and other regulations.
Each article is made up of several different chapters. These chapters are split up into different sections, which have been given either a four, five, or six-digit number. Both the article number (found before the hyphen) and the section number (found after the hyphen) are reflected in this number. Each section contains a list of the zoning districts subject to its regulations. Every section is dated, according to when the section was added or revised by the City Planning Commission.
In addition, the Zoning Resolution contains ten appendices that provide a condensed version of the information contained within each of the 14 articles that make up the text.
Appendix A, ‘An Index of Uses’, lays out the Use Group (assigned based on district purpose, impacts of use, and use compatibility) the zoning districts which can be used, the parking requirement category, and if a special permit is needed.
‘An Index of Special Purpose Districts’ provides a list of letters appointed to each district on the NYC zoning map, CP/ULURP numbers, and the relevant maps and chapters.
Table 1 – ‘City Environmental Quality Review Environmental Requirements’ refers to physical regulations, such as double-glazed windows and ventilation requirements.
Table 2 – ‘City Environmental Quality Review Restrictive Declarations’ covers the environmental requirements in relation to noise, air quality, and hazardous materials.
‘Zoning Map Amendment D Restrictive Declarations’ covers regulations laid out for identified tax lots connected to an adopted zoning map amendment.
‘Design Requirements for Plazas, Residential Plazas and Urban Plazas Developed Prior to October 17, 2007’ contains design requirements on the city’s plazas developed before the 17th of October, 2007.
‘Inclusionary Housing Designated Areas and Mandatory Inclusionary Housing Areas’ covers areas containing Inclusionary Housing designated areas and Mandatory Inclusionary Housing areas.
‘Quantities of Radioactive Material’ refers to regulations on the quantities of unsealed radioactive material that may be produced, used, or stored in the M districts.
‘Designation of Arterial Highways’ maps the principal routes of the arterial highways on the city’s map.
‘Transit Zone’ highlights the boundaries of the transit zone on the NYC zoning map.
‘Designated Areas Within Manufacturing Districts’ outlines the boundaries of the designated areas of the city’s Manufacturing Districts.
NYC Zoning Map
ZoLa, the NYC zoning map and land use tool, can be used to find a property’s zoning and research the city’s zoning regulations. The application can also be used to explore the various districts and commercial overlays. You can also search based on NYC zoning map amendments, pending NYC zoning map amendments, and special purpose districts.
NYC Zoning Districts
C1 districts refer to districts home to retail outlets and services required in residential areas. Examples of commercial property in this area include cafes, beauty salons, and grocery stores. Local service and repair services are not permitted in these districts.
C1 districts often overlay with residential zones, as retail services are needed to serve residents living in residential areas. C1-1 to C1-5 districts are mapped as overlays. In comparison, C1-6 to C1-9 districts are not. C1 buildings are only allowed to reach two floors. Parking requirements are dependent on area. The C1 district has a maximum FAR of 2.0. In addition, residential uses are regulated by certain residential district equivalents.
New contextual commercial district buildings are subject to similar regulations as their corresponding residential district counterparts (street wall height, permissible residential bulk and density).
There are currently 2,650 C-1 delegated properties currently in NYC:
C2 districts cover a more extensive range of services and retail outlets than C1 districts. These districts also include services such as small businesses and small entertainment venues. The maximum commercial FAR ranges from 1.0 to 2.0, while the residential FAR is determined by the R district. New contextual commercial district buildings are subject to similar regulations to their contextual R district counterparts (street wall height, permissible residential bulk and density).
As is the case with C1 buildings, C2 buildings are only allowed to span two floors. In addition, C2-5 districts are mapped as an overlay. Parking requirements are dependent on area.
There are currently 927 C-2 delegated properties currently in NYC:
C3 districts are designated waterfront recreation areas. These districts allow waterfront recreation, as well as fishing and the use of boats. Public beaches and fishing shops are two examples of the kinds of establishments found here. The maximum FAR allowed is 0.5. Requirements for parking are also high in these areas.
There are currently 557 C-3 delegated properties currently in NYC:
C4 districts are large commercial centers, which sit outside the main business districts. Large shopping malls and theatre complexes are two examples of the commercial property found in these districts. These districts are not mapped as an overlay. Repair and home maintenance outlets are not allowed in these areas. Commercial and residential FAR, as well as parking requirements, vary from area to area.
There are currently 9,267 C-4 delegated properties currently in NYC:
C5 is a restricted central commercial district, providing retail services for the metropolitan area. The district covers Mid and Lower Manhattan, Long Island City, and the Downtown area of Brooklyn. These areas typically include department stores, smaller outlets, and larger offices. Car rental services, home maintenance services, and certain entertainment venues are not allowed in this area.
Parking requirements are not in force in these districts. Commercial and residential FAR are dependent on area.
C5-2A, situated in Midtown Manhattan, is a contextual commercial district subject to special regulations on street wall height, allowable lot coverage, and business use on the ground floor of a property.
There are currently 2,060 C-5 delegated properties currently in NYC:
The districts in this area allow for a rich variety of high-bulk commercial uses in need of a central location. Hotels, department stores, central corporate offices, and entertainment venues in high-rise mixed buildings find their homes here. The majority of these districts are in Downtown Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Downtown Jamaica.
In addition, some C6 districts (C6-2A, C6-3A, C6-3X and C6-4A) are contextual districts, in which buildings are subject to height regulations. In comparison, other C6 districts (C6-1A) are not regulated in the same manner, buildings can penetrate a sky exposure plane, without the need for a contextual base. The FAR of these districts varies.
There are currently 6,412 C-6 delegated properties currently in NYC:
C7 districts are areas designated for commercial amusement parks. Beyond traditional amusement parks, C7 districts also allow for other entertainment facilities – such as ice rinks. Residential use is not permitted in these areas.
The Maximum FAR is 2.0. Furthermore, parking requirements in these areas are low and vary depending on use.
There are currently 76 C-7 delegated properties currently in NYC:
C8 districts cover both manufacturing and commercial uses. These areas are used for automotive and heavy commercial uses that require a large amount of land, but don’t require a substantial amount of labor. These areas are strictly commercial.
Parking requirements vary in these areas, with C8-1 to C8-3 districts requiring extensive parking for automotive use. In addition, the commercial FAR varies from district to district.
There are currently 3, 313 C-8 delegated properties currently in NYC:
Dense Zoning for a Dense City
All in all, there is quite a bit to know about commercial zoning in New York City. From neighborhood to neighborhood, and borough to borough, these layers of zoning allow an incredibly dense city to still have variety and versatility in its real estate.
The NYC Zoning text, zoning map, many districts and classifications can sometimes seem overwhelming, but with Reonomy, searching properties based on their zoning, even in NYC, becomes quick and easy.
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