Nadel & Ciarlo, P.C.

Amendments and variances provide zoning flexibility in New York

In New York City, zoning laws are used to control and guide real estate development. But the city is constantly evolving, and authorities will sometimes allow a landowner to apply for a zoning change in order to develop a site. There are several ways a property owner can seek zoning changes in New York.

If a proposed development is inconsistent with existing zoning rules, the owner can apply for an amendment to the text of the Zoning Resolution. Zoning text amendments must be approved by the City Planning Commission and the City Council. Alternatively, a landowner can apply for an amendment to the zoning map to change the zoning designation for the site. Zoning map amendments can only be adopted after a public review process conducted in accordance with the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure in the City Charter.

When complying with the zoning ordinance would create undue hardship or practical problems, a developer may apply for a zoning variance from the Board of Standards and Appeals. A variance will only be granted after a public hearing, and will generally be granted only to the extent necessary to allow reasonable use of the site.

The Board will generally not allow the variance if the hardship or impracticality was caused by the current or predecessor landowners, as opposed to being a product of the innate physical characteristics of the site. The Board may allow the variance if it is essential to generate a reasonable economic return on the site, and will not impair the neighborhood's essential character.

Resolving zoning issues requires knowledge of the relevant laws and procedures, as well as creativity in crafting a solution. Navigating the process can be a lot easier with the help of experienced real estate and land use attorneys.

Source:, "About Zoning: How Zoning Is Amended and Enforced," accessed Jan. 25, 2016

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