Commercial activities in the city are permitted in eight commercial districts based on their functional similarities and locational requirements. Small retail and service shops in C1 and C2 districts serve the immediate needs of surrounding residential communities. Larger stores with more goods and services are found in C4 districts, borough-wide regional retail centers like Main Street in Flushing and Fordham Road in the Bronx. C5 and C6 districts, central business districts that serve the city, the region and the nation, are mapped in Midtown, Lower Manhattan, Downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City. Three districts serve specific purposes: C3 for waterfront recreation, C7 for amusement parks and C8 for heavy repair shops and automotive uses.
All of the commercial uses permitted in the eight basic commercial districts are included in Use Groups 5 through 16. Use groups are assigned to specific commercial districts according to the purpose of the district, the impacts of the use and its compatibility with other uses. Residential uses (Use Groups 1 and 2) and community facilities (Use Groups 3 and 4) are allowed in all C1 through C6 districts but are prohibited in C7 districts. Residential uses and Use Group 3 community facilities are prohibited in C8 districts.
The eight commercial districts are subdivided (as indicated by a numerical suffix) to reflect variations in bulk and parking and loading requirements. The floor area ratio (FAR) for a C4-1 district, for example, is 1.0 while the FAR for a C4-7 district is 10.0. (In medium- and high- density commercial districts, plazas, pedestrian amenities and, by special permit, subway improvements can generate an increase in the maximum commercial FAR.) Front and side yards are not required in commercial districts.
In addition to the floor area rules, height and setback requirements ensure that adequate light, air and open space are provided. In non-contextual districts, the height of a building is controlled by a sky exposure plane or, in the highest density districts, by tower regulations. In contextual districts, specific limits are set for both the height of a building and its base height before setback.
In the high-density C5 and C6 commercial districts, the floor area ratio is the principal bulk control. In other commercial districts that are not as centrally located, high off-street parking requirements are frequently as important as the FAR in controlling the intensity of development.
Contextual commercial districts are designated in areas that are substantially residential in character. In these districts, indicated by an A, D or X suffix, such as C4-4D, supplementary bulk regulations mandate that all developments maintain street wall continuity and a harmonious relationship with other buildings in the area.
Some C1 and C2 districts are mapped as overlays, usually within low- and medium-density residential neighborhoods. In these districts, residential bulk is governed by the residence district within which the overlay is mapped, whereas all other commercial districts that permit residential use are assigned a specific residential district equivalent. In all mixed buildings, commercial uses must be located below any residential use.
Parking requirements vary depending upon the use and access to mass transit. Generally, the lower the numerical suffix, the more off-street parking is required. Parking is not required in the Manhattan Core (except within the Hudson Yards Special District) or in Long Island City.
For detailed information, and a comparison of district requirements, open the Commercial Districts Zoning Data Tables.