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City Planning Website Survey

We want to hear from you! Please take a few moments to fill out our City Planning website survey. Our goal is to serve the public through an informative and helpful website.

About Building and Land Use

Note:
The Department of City Planning accepts checks, money orders and credit cards for application fees. We accept Visa, Master Card, American Express and Discover. If paying with a check or money order, please make it payable to the City of New York for the total amount of the required fees in order to be considered complete. You can pay either in person at our offices at 120 Broadway, over the phone or by fax.
General
What is zoning?

Zoning is a key tool for carrying out the city’s planning and land use policies. Zoning regulates land use and development, including what can be built, how large it can be built, and where it can be built.

You can learn more about existing zoning tools and terminology by visiting the Zoning Tools chapter and the DCP Glossary in the PDF Document Zoning Handbook. You can also learn about any active land use initiatives.

The Zoning Help Desk is a resource available to the public to answer zoning questions Monday through Friday, 9:00am-12:00pm and 1:30-4:30pm: (212) 720-3291. Please leave a message with your inquiry, and Help Desk staff will return your call.

What can be built in my neighborhood?

DCP’s website provides multiple resources for property owners to understand what they can develop on their property.

  1. ZoLa is DCP’s web-based application that provides the public with up-to-date zoning and related information for every tax lot within New York City. From ZoLa, you can view information on the different types of zoning districts and what development is allowed there.
  2. To find out what is currently being built on your block or in your neighborhood, contact the Department of Buildings.
What does “as-of-right” development mean?

As-of-right development complies with the regulations found in the Zoning Resolution and does not require any review by the Department of City Planning or any approval by the City Planning Commission  and the City Council. The Department of Buildings reviews the building plans to confirm compliance with the Zoning Resolution and the Building Code and issues building permits accordingly.

What does “grandfathered” mean?

“Grandfathered” is the common term for a pre-existing building or use on a property that is exempt from complying with or conforming to a new zoning regulation. 

What is Floor Area Ratio (FAR)?

The FAR is a factor used to calculate how much floor area can be built in a development relative to the size of the lot. You can learn more about FAR here: DCP Glossary.

One of the buildings on my block seems out of character. How can I check what uses are permitted?

First, use ZoLa to determine the specific zoning district of the address you are concerned about. Once you know the specific zoning district, you can find what uses are permitted in Residential, Commercial or Manufacturing districts by looking in our online use groups chart, or in the Use Sections of the Zoning Resolution: Residence Districts in PDF Document Section 22-10, et seq., Commercial Districts in PDF Document Section 32-10, et seq., and Manufacturing Districts in PDF Document Section 42-10, et seq.

The estimated date of construction (found in ZoLa) will help in determining whether the building pre-dates the zoning regulations and may reflect a “grandfathered” building or use.

Additionally, a block or lot could be divided into two or more zoning districts wherein different uses or building forms are permitted.  It is also possible that the building was the subject of a discretionary approval by the City Planning Commission for a waiver of the applicable zoning regulations. You can check whether this is the case by visiting LUCATS (Land Use and CEQR Application Tracking System), which is DCP’s online land use application records.

How can someone change the zoning or the allowable land use of a property?

Some land use changes are not permitted as-of-right and require action by the City Planning Commission and, in some cases, the City Council. These actions are categorized as Special Permits or Authorizations. Some more limited special permits are reviewed by another agency, the Board of Standards and Appeals.

Zoning district changes, or rezonings, can be proposed by private citizens, city agencies, or elected officials. The proposed changes need to have a rational land use basis and make sense in the context of the surrounding uses and the built environment. Zoning changes must follow the Uniform Land Use Review Process Procedure (ULURP). This process includes review by and input from the affected community board(s), the Borough President, and the general public. The City Planning Commission and, ultimately, the City Council decide whether to approve the zoning change. The community boards and the City Planning Commission are required to hold public hearings, and the Borough President and the City Council have the option to do so.

What kinds of signs are allowed on my property?

Check ZoLa to see if your property is in a residence, commercial or manufacturing district. To determine if signs are allowed in your zoning district, as well as the permitted location and size of signs and if they can be illuminated or flashing, refer to the following sections of the Zoning Resolution, as applicable:

Residence Districts:              22-30
Commercial Districts:            32-60
Manufacturing Districts:         42-50

How can I see what land use actions were approved by the City Planning Commission?

For information on ULURP approvals (including special permits and rezonings) by the City Planning Commission since 1977, visit our online Land Use and CEQR Application Tracking System (LUCATS). LUCATS will also indicate whether and how the City Council ultimately voted on the action.  You can search by entering known Land Use Application information, or by entering geographical information such as the Tax Block number (which you can find by entering the address in ZoLa).  If a building was constructed prior to 1977 and may have received a special permit prior to this date, contact the Zoning Help Desk at (212) 720-3291. 

A list of City Planning Commission reports from 1938 to the present is also available in a database, searchable by community district, vote date, project name and ULURP number. 

What does an E-designation mean?

An E-designation means that the property was the subject of a zoning action or zoning change and that there are environmental requirements related to possible impacts from air, noise or hazardous materials. These potential environmental conditions would need to be addressed before the property could be redeveloped. The E-designation program exists to safeguard the new users of properties that are near potentially harmful sources of noise or air pollution or that had a history of heavy commercial or industrial use and could potentially contain hazardous materials. For example, the redevelopment of former gas stations would require the removal of the underground gasoline storage tanks and the removal of contaminated soil. Other E-designations may involve requirements to mitigate ambient noise conditions from nearby elevated trains or industrial sources. For more information, visit our E-Designation ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ page.

My bank (or licensing agency) says I need a letter verifying my property’s zoning. How do I get one?
Zoning Verifications are provided by City Planning at a fee of $110. Send a zoning verification letter, with check, by mail to:

NYC Dept. of City Planning
ATTN: Nicole Vargas
120 Broadway, 31st Floor
New York, NY 10271

Requests must also include the address, borough, and tax block and lot numbers (such numbers can be found by entering the address in ZoLa). Please allow 10 business days from the time the fee submission is received for the issuance of the zoning verification letter.

How do I get a certified copy of a zoning map or of the zoning text?

Contact the DCP FOIL officer.

How do I get a certified copy of a proposed zoning map or zoning text amendment?

Contact Yvette Gruel in DCP’s Land Use Review division, at (212) 720-3370.

How can I find out about zoning violations?

Consult the Department of Building’s Buildings Information System webpage .

In what instances can development rights – also called “air rights” – be transferred? 

You can learn more about the transfer of development rights by visiting the DCP Glossary.

What does a non-conforming use and a non-complying building mean?
  • A non-conforming use is any existing use that no longer conforms to one or more of the use regulations of the applicable zoning district, typically due to a zoning district change. Although non-conforming uses may remain (i.e., they are “grandfathered”), a change in the use is regulated to prevent an increase in the degree of non-conformance.
  • A non-complying building is any existing building that no longer complies with one or more of the bulk regulations of the applicable zoning district, typically due to a zoning district change. Although non-complying buildings may remain (i.e., they are “grandfathered”), a change in the bulk of the building (for example height, setback, floor area), is regulated to prevent an increase in the degree of non-compliance.
I am told that the city has made it easier to retrofit my building to become more energy efficient. Where can I learn more? 

Visit the Retrofit Accelerator, a one-stop resource from the City of New York that helps building owners and operators make energy and water efficiency upgrades that can reduce operating costs and increase sustainability.

Residential
Can I enlarge or renovate my home or create another unit?

Renovations that do not involve enlarging your house or adding a dwelling unit can usually proceed by consulting an architect or a contractor, who may need to file plans for extensive renovations with the Department of Buildings.

If you are considering enlarging your house or adding a dwelling unit, first visit ZoLa to determine what the zoning district is for your property. Then, check the Zoning Handbook for the permitted floor area ratio of your relevant zoning district and compare that with the floor area ratio of your building to check if there is any room for an enlargement. You should consult a licensed professional, such as an architect, engineer, land use attorney or contractor to develop plans for the renovation or the enlargement of your house. A licensed professional will need to submit plans to the Department of Buildings on your behalf before any necessary construction permits could be issued.

How can I remove a tree from my property or sidewalk?

Generally, you do not need permission from the City to remove a tree on your property. However, if your property is in the Special Hillsides Preservation District (Staten Island), the Special Natural Area District (portions of Staten Island and the Bronx), or the Special South Richmond Development District (Staten Island) then removing trees and other natural features may require discretionary approval. Call the City Planning Borough Office in Staten Island or the Bronx to find out. You can also visit the Department of Parks and Recreation for information on street trees and plantings on sidewalks.

How tall can my fence be? And where can it be located?

In residence districts, the maximum height of a fence constructed along a front lot line is four feet above ground level. The maximum height of a fence along the side or rear lot line is six feet. In most instances, fences are considered permitted obstructions within yards.

How do I know if I am in a historic district?

This information is available on ZoLa under the “Landmark” option in “Show Zoning & Related Data on Map.” Any further information regarding landmarks and historic districts can be obtained from the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission at (212) 669-7700.

Commercial
How can I get a sidewalk café permit for my restaurant?

To determine if you are eligible to apply for a sidewalk café permit, visit ZoLa and click on “Show Zoning & Related Data on Map.” Select the option “Sidewalk Café Zoning Regulations” under “Other Zoning Designations.”

If you need further assistance, call the Zoning Help Desk at (212) 720-3291. To obtain an actual permit, contact the Department of Consumer Affairs at (212) 504-4115.

Community Facilities
How can someone open a community facility on my block?

Community facilities are allowed as-of-right in most residence and commercial districts and by special permit in others.  Learn the specific zoning district of your block by visiting ZoLa. Once you know the zoning district, you can find the use regulations for Residence Districts in Section 22-10, Commercial Districts in Section 32-10, and Manufacturing Districts in Section  42-10.

I have a complicated question, or my question isn’t answered here. How can I get help?
Call the Zoning Help Desk

About Affordable Housing

Where can I find information on affordable housing for rent or for purchase in New York City?
Visit the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
If I am a developer, where can I find more information on affordable housing?
Visit the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s webpage.
I am a homebuyer, where can I find more information on affordable housing?
Visit the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s webpage.
I have a complicated question, or my question isn’t answered here. How can I get help?
Call the Zoning Help Desk

About New York City

Is there a comprehensive, online tool that can tell me about the zoning for my property, new proposals for my neighborhood and where DCP initiatives apply throughout New York City?

ZoLa is a useful online application, developed in collaboration by DCP and the NYC Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT), that provides various property information, including the basic zoning district designation as well as special district designation, lot dimensions and area, building dimensions and floor area, community district, city council district, state assembly and state senate districts, as well as links to census data, and additional information from the Department of Buildings and Department of Finance.

More specifically, ZoLa can provide you with more information on the following:

  • Zoning District
  • Special Purpose District
  • Business Improvement District
  • Inclusionary Housing areas
  • FRESH (Food Retail Expansion to Support Health) areas
  • POPS (Privately Owned Open Space)
  • IBZs (Industrial Business Zones)
  • Sidewalk Cafes
  • Tax Block
  • Tax Lot
  • ZIP Code
  • Community District
  • City Council District
  • School District
  • Census Tract
  • Election District
  • Congressional District
  • State Assembly District
  • State Senate District
  • Police Precinct
  • Fire Company/Battalion
  • Sanitation District – coterminous with the subject Community District
  • Hurricane Evacuation Zone
  • Flood Zone
  • Environmental Designation
Where can I find New York City population data?

To find out more information on New York City demographic, social, economic and housing data, visit the New York City Census FactFinder (NYC CFF). This online tool, developed by DCP and DoITT, provides easy access to U. S. Census Bureau population information for New York City.

What are Community Boards?

Community boards are local representative bodies in New York City. There are 59 community boards throughout the City, and each one consists of up to 50 unsalaried members, half of whom are nominated by their district's City Council members. Board members are selected and appointed by the Borough Presidents from among active, involved people of each community and must reside, work, or have some other significant interest in the community.

Each community board is led by a District Manager who establishes an office, hires staff, and implements procedures to improve the delivery of City services to the district. While the main responsibility of the board office is to receive complaints from community residents, they also maintain other duties, such as processing permits for block parties and street fairs. Many boards choose to provide additional services and manage special projects that cater to specific community needs, including organizing tenants associations, coordinating neighborhood cleanup programs, and more.

Community boards have a variety of responsibilities, including but not limited to:

  • Dealing with land use and zoning issues. CBs have an important advisory role and must be consulted on the placement of most municipal facilities in the community. Applications for a change in or variance from the zoning resolution must come before the board for review, and the board's position is considered in the final determination.
  • Assessing the needs of their own neighborhoods. CBs assess the needs of their community members and meet with City agencies to make recommendations in the City's budget process.
  • Addressing other community concerns. Any issue that affects part or all of a community, from a traffic problem to deteriorating housing, is a proper concern of community boards.

It is important to note that while community boards serve as advocates for their neighborhood, they do not have the ability to order any City agency or official to perform any task. Despite this limitation, boards are usually successful in resolving the problems they address.

DCP has offices in all five boroughs of New York City, with a planner covering each community district and working closely with the community board on various land use issues.  Borough offices formulate borough-wide and local area plans, review and process land use applications, and provide technical assistance and planning data to community boards and civic and business groups.

I have a complicated question, or my question isn’t answered here. How can I get help?
Call the Zoning Help Desk

About Flood Zones and the Waterfront

What is my flood elevation?

Flood elevations are established on the Flood Insurance Rate Maps maintained by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA). FEMA provides an online tool for finding the flood elevation of your property. Another useful website is floodhelpny.org.

What type of development can be built on waterfront property?

If a property is located within the Coastal Zone (which is the boundary encompassing all land and water of direct and significant impact on coastal waters) and is subject to a discretionary action, such as a rezoning, environmental permit, or city, state or federal capital project, it must be assessed for consistency with the NYC Waterfront Revitalization Program (WRP). To learn more about WRP consistency review, please visit www.nyc.gov/wrp.

What approvals, if any, are needed to develop waterfront property?

The Zoning Resolution contains regulations governing development on and near the waterfront, including the provision of visual corridors and public access, under certain circumstances.  Such developments may, at minimum, require a certification by the Chairperson of the City Planning Commission for verification of compliance with the applicable regulations.  You can learn more about the application requirements for waterfront certifications from DCP’s Applicant Portal, and you may contact the relevant Borough Office to schedule an informational meeting to obtain specific guidance.

What do I do if I live near a Waterfront Public Access Area that is closed/damaged/dirty and I want to file a complaint?

Waterfront public access areas are required to be maintained by the property owner pursuant to an agreement with the Department of Parks and Recreation.  You may call 311 to file a complaint with the Parks Department, or you may contact the Parks Department, directly, at the appropriate borough office. 

What do I do if I want to make my building more resilient?

Consult DCP’s Retrofitting for Flood Risk report for help in identifying feasible retrofitting measures. Information is also available from NYC Emergency Management and FEMA.

I want to rebuild my home after storm damage. What options do I have? What funds are available? What restrictions apply?

For information on the Build it Back program, visit nyc.gov/recovery or contact the Housing Recovery Office at (212) 615-8329 or housing@recovery.nyc.gov.

Rebuilt homes within the FEMA 1% annual chance floodplain must comply with new standards for flood resistant construction to reduce risks to future storms. See this PDF Document overview from NYC Building Department of applicable building code and zoning requirements. If you are located in certain neighborhoods that were highly impacted by Sandy, additional zoning provisions to accelerate rebuilding may apply. For more info, visit DCP’s website.

I have a complicated question, or my question isn’t answered here. How can I get help?
Call the Zoning Help Desk

About Enforcement

How is zoning enforced?

The NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) has primary responsibility for enforcing the Zoning Resolution and for interpreting its provisions so as to ensure the safe and lawful use of buildings and properties. Consult the Department of Building’s Buildings Information System webpage

Parking
What are the rules about parking on the sidewalk?

Cars are not permitted to park on the sidewalk at any time. Contact the Department of Transportation if you’d like to make a complaint.

Use of Property
I think a business may be operating illegally. Who should I call?

Contact the Department of Buildings.

My neighbor is doing work on his or her home. How do I find out if this is legal?

Contact the appropriate borough office in the Department of Buildings.

Signage, Zoning and Property Maintenance
I know of a sidewalk café where there’s almost no room to walk down the block. What is the minimum required open path for a sidewalk and who can I call? 

A clear path of at least eight (8) feet must be maintained between the outer edge of the sidewalk café and any obstructions such as fire hydrants on the sidewalk near the curb that would prevent your ability to walk. However, the clear path may include traffic signs, parking meters, and trees with flat gratings protecting the tree pit. Sidewalk cafés must maintain a nine (9) foot clear path to an intersection, with no exceptions. When a sidewalk is wider than 16 feet, the amount of clear path must be 50 percent of the distance from the building to the curb line. Contact 311 for enforcement-related concerns.

My neighbor put up a fence in my driveway, is that allowed?

Frequently, this is not a zoning issue. The common situation is that two neighbors entered an informal agreement to share a driveway between their two properties. Unless this agreement was recorded in the deed to your property by designating an easement, your neighbor has a right to erect a fence on their property line. You can contact an attorney to review the deed, or, if you still suspect the fence is illegal, you can contact the Department of Buildings to request an inspector’s visit.

I have a complicated question, or my question isn’t answered here. How can I get help?
Call the Zoning Help Desk

About Business

Property Use
What zoning do I need to open a business?

Generally, a commercial or manufacturing district supports business use. However, there are many exceptions. Contact the Zoning Help Desk to find out specifics.

What is needed to open a restaurant?

Contact the New York City Business Express.

What is needed to open a bar or club?

Contact the New York City Business Express.

What regulations apply to business signs?

Check ZoLa to see if your property is in a residence, commercial or manufacturing district. To determine what signs are allowed in your zoning district, and the proper location and size of signs and if they can be illuminated or flashing, refer to the following sections of the Zoning Resolution in:

Residence Districts:               22-30
Commercial Districts:            32-60
Manufacturing Districts:         42-50

Parking and Loading
What are the parking and loading regulations for a business?

Parking and Loading requirements generally apply to new buildings or enlargements.  A business renting existing commercial space would not generate any new parking requirements and, in most cases, any new loading requirements. You can find the applicable parking and loading regulations for Commercial and Manufacturing zoning districts in PDF Document Section 36-00 and PDF Document Section 44-00 of the Zoning Resolution, respectively.

Do I have to provide parking?

Parking requirements vary depending on the use and zoning district.  Off-street parking is generally required for new developments in lower- and medium-density residential and commercial areas that are more auto dependent.  Parking is not generally required in higher-density commercial districts or commercial overlay districts that are usually well served by mass transit.

Business Support
I want to open a business, but I don’t know what kind.  How can I learn more about a neighborhood’s market?

Contact the New York City Business Express.

What current incentives exist for businesses in New York City?

NYCEDC offers information about a variety of New York City equity, financing, and incentives programs designed to help businesses thrive.

Additional information is available at NYC Small Business Services website.

I have a complicated question, or my question isn’t answered here. How can I get help?

Please call

Zoning Help Desk 
Tel. 212-720-3291 
Call during business hours and leave a detailed message,

Business Hours: 
8:30 am - 5:30 pm Monday through Friday