Zoning is a key component of municipal planning. New York City has been a leader in zoning since 1916, when it passed the nation's first comprehensive land use zoning law. Zoning laws regulate how land can be used, the size of buildings, and the density -- the maximum permitted number of residential units -- of neighborhoods.
New York's current Zoning Resolution consists of zoning maps and zoning text. The maps set out the boundaries of zoning districts. The text sets out rules regarding building size and the use and development of land within the districts.
New York City has three basic zoning districts: Commercial, Residential and Manufacturing. These three basic districts are each subdivided into high, medium and low density districts. These are in turn overlaid by a variety of special purpose zoning districts which are designed to address the special characteristics of specific neighborhoods. For example, a commercial overlay district may exist within a residential district to serve the retail needs of local residents. A limited height district may overlay a commercial, manufacturing or residential district and impose height requirements on new construction.
Each district has regulations governing a number of land use issues. Land use is regulated on the basis of 18 permissible use groups. Building size is regulated on the basis of the ratio of the building's area to the area of the zoning lot. In residential districts the amount of open space and the maximum number of dwelling units are addressed. The space between the building and the lot lines, and the amount of parking that is permitted or required are also governed by zoning regulations.
Zoning issues can be complex and challenging a zoning requirement requires a thorough understanding of zoning law and regulations. Working with an experienced New York real estate law firm can significantly improve the odds of a favorable outcome.
Source: NYC.gov, "Zoning Districts," accessed on Feb. 8, 2014