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Today’s manufacturing uses and the zoning districts in which they are located encompass far more than factories engaged in the manufacture of goods. The range of industrial and manufacturing activities important to New York City’s economy is enormous—from catering suppliers, lighting fabricators, and warehouse and distribution centers to film production studios, ferry and ship terminals, and essential municipal facilities like sewage treatment plants, train yards and sanitation garages. In addition to these traditional and emerging industrial uses, manufacturing districts permit many commercial uses and, with limitations, some community facility uses.
Industrial uses are permitted in the three manufacturing districts—M1, M2 and M3—according to the characteristics of their operations. Each of the three districts incorporate differing performance standards that limit the amount and type of industrial nuisances permitted. Light manufacturing uses (Use Group 17) are permitted in all manufacturing districts. In general, the more potentially noxious uses (Use Group 18) are limited to M3 districts, but may also locate in M1 and M2 districts if they comply with the higher performance standards of those districts. All industrial uses must also comply with applicable city, state and federal environmental regulations.
With some exceptions, commercial uses, including hotels and business, professional and government offices, are permitted in manufacturing districts. Certain large retail uses are permitted in M1 districts only by a City Planning Commission special permit. However, many retail and service uses, as well as hotels and motels, are prohibited in M2 and M3 districts. Community facilities are excluded entirely from M2 and M3 districts and restricted to a few uses in M1 districts. Certain community facilities, such as schools, are allowed in M1 districts only by special permit.
The 1961 Zoning Resolution separated industrial and residential areas to ensure safety and insulate residential communities from industrial traffic and other irritants, and to shield industry from nuisance-generated complaints. No new residences were permitted in manufacturing districts, although many existing residences remained as non-conforming uses because of historic land use patterns.
Today, new residential developments and conversions are permitted in selected M1 districts that have a significant number of existing residences. Paired districts, mapped in Mixed Use Districts (MX) and the Special Long Island City Mixed Use District, combine an M1 district with a residential district, allowing a fine-tuned mixture of appropriate uses. Other older industrial areas, like SoHo and NoHo in Manhattan, have changed significantly as obsolete industrial buildings within M1-5A, M1-5B, M1-5M and M1-6M districts are converted to residential use by special permit. New residences are prohibited in all M2 and M3 districts.
The floor area ratio (FAR) is the primary instrument for controlling building size in manufacturing districts. Four different floor area ratios (1.0, 2.0, 5.0 and 10.0) regulate the intensity of land use in the city’s manufacturing districts. In some instances, high parking and loading berth requirements also act to control building size. Height and setback regulations are similar to those for residence and commercial districts. Yard regulations, which are generally the same for all manufacturing districts, are designed to provide open space and buffer areas—primarily at the boundaries of residence districts. As a further protection for adjacent residential areas, there are special regulations for industries located on district boundaries. These include requirements for adequate enclosure and screening of industrial activities and limitations on the location of business entrances, display windows and signs.
For detailed information, and a comparison of district requirements, open the Manufacturing Districts Zoning Data Tables.
Manufacturing Districts: an overview of changes to manufacturing districts from January 1, 2002 to January 1, 2012 that includes maps and tables.