Zoning Ordinance Laws in NYC

NYC is divided into zones that regulate how the property inside them can legally be used. Zoning is not visible to most people — but if you’re involved in real estate development, improvement, sales or purchases, you’ll almost certainly have to think about zoning issues. Zoning can also be an issue for tenants in lofts or other non-traditional housing arrangements, who may have their zoning changed underneath them as their neighborhoods change. In either case, you may need help from an attorney understanding your options; pursuing or objecting to a change with municipal authorities; or even suing to stop a zoning change.Zoning issues can often be simple to solve. On the other hand some cases will require litigation before the Supreme Court of New York.Zoning laws in the five boroughs of NYC divide land into manufacturing, residential or commercial zones. Zoning also specifies low, medium or high density and may be overlaid by special zoning districts encouraging mixed-use buildings, affordable housing or other public-policy goals. Zoning dictates:


  • Which of 18 “use groups” the building is in, which affects how it may be used
  • How big the building can be (floor area ratio, lot lines and lot coverage)
  • How many units are allowed, in residential buildings
  • Open-space and parking requirements
  • Anything specific to the area

Before you can make significant changes to a property, you need a permit from the city showing your plan conforms to existing zoning. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to ask for a discretionary action, a special permit or other authorization by the City Planning Commission, the Board of Standards and Appeals or the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. In some cases, you may be able to get a variance allowing you to depart from zoning requirements.

Only a qualified zoning attorney can advise you on how best to meet your project’s needs and represent you throughout the process, including in administrative or legal appeals to an initial decision. If necessary, we can also represent clients accused of zoning violations before the Environmental Control Board or a court. And we’re available to help clients whose zoning has changed in a way that adversely affects them.

Robert Aronov & Associates, PC 88-02 136th St, Jamaica, NY 11418 (718) 206-1555 https://realestatelawyernys.com