The Department of City Planning proposes to amend the
Special Natural Area
text of the Zoning Resolution to improve preservation
of significant natural features in parts of Staten Island,
the Bronx, and Queens. The purpose of the Special Natural
Area District, created in 1975, is to guide development
to preserve unique natural features by requiring City
Planning Commission review of new developments and site
alteration on primarily vacant land. Significant natural
features include rock outcroppings, trees and forests,
wetlands and water features, and steep slopes. The SNAD
is mapped in Community Districts 1 and 2 of Staten Island,
Community District 8 of the Bronx, and Community District
7 of Queens.
Wetlands and trees in Lighthouse Hill, Staten
Steep Slope in Todt Hill, Staten Island
Rock Outcropping in Riverdale, Bronx
The Department initiated the text amendment upon
request from various civic groups and community
leaders. The Staten Island SNAD Task Force, which
includes many civic associations, the Office of
the Borough President, the Department of Buildings,
Council Member Michael McMahon, and Council Member
James Oddo, has helped guide the process in Staten
Island. Community District 8 in the Bronx (Riverdale)
crafted a 197a community plan adopted in 2003 which
also asked for changes to the SNAD rules.
Current Regulations: Under the current
regulations, all development (new buildings) in the SNAD requires either City
Planning Commission authorization or special permit. Natural features are protected
by limiting modifications in topography, by preserving tree, plant and marine
life and natural water courses, and by encouraging clustered development.
When the Special Natural Area District was adopted and mapped in 1975, any zoning
lot of less than 40,000 square feet containing a residential building was grandfathered
to allow as-of-right site alteration and building enlargement. On grandfathered
lots only development of new buildings requires City Planning Commission review.
Therefore, natural features on grandfathered lots, which represent more than
half of the residential lots and 11% of total land area in the SNAD, are vulnerable
to destruction and alteration.
The City Planning Commission has broad discretion to limit or modify development
in order to protect natural features. Most applications request authorization
to modify topography and remove trees in order to construct a single-family detached
house. City Planning Commission review focuses on compliance with minimum standards
for grading, paving and drainage and tree preservation (1 per 1000 sq. ft of
zoning lot area). In most cases, the City Planning Commission requests changes
to the building footprint, location, and the amount of paving and grading for
driveways, patios and swimming pools in order to save trees or reduce unnatural
The goals of the proposed changes to the Special
Natural Area District are to focus preservation
efforts on significant natural features and to base
review on the presence of natural features rather
than the date of a home’s development, as
is the case with grandfathering. In sum, the changes
- 1) Add stronger steep slope, tree, and vegetation preservation measures,
including lot coverage controls and private road design standards
2) Replace the grandfather provision with regulations that apply equally
to developed and vacant lots to preserve significant natural features
3) Allow as-of-right development guided by performance standards on small
lots with no significant natural features
4) Simplify select actions to focus review on significant natural features
5) Improve the plant list for landscaping
The Department presented the application to the City Planning Commission on September 20, 2004, initiating the public review process. The application was reviewed and approved by Community Boards 1 and 2 in Staten Island and Community Board 8 in the Bronx. Community Board 7 in Queens chose not to comment on the proposed amendments. The Staten Island Borough President, the Staten Island Borough Board, and the Bronx Borough President also approved the application. The City Planning Commission held a public hearing on the application on December 8, 2004. Based on comments received during public review, the Department revised the application. Revisions are described in the CPC Report. The Commission approved the text amendments as revised on January 5, 2005. City Council approved the text amendments on February 2, 2005. ( Read the CPC Report).
the adopted text amendments.
For more information on the Special Natural Area District
zoning text amendment, contact the Staten
Island Office of the Department of City Planning at (718)
556-7379, or the Bronx Office of the
Department of City Planning (718) 220-8500.
accompanied by this symbol require the free
Adobe Acrobat Reader.
Brief explanations of terms in green italics can be viewed by
clicking on the term. Words and phrases followed by an asterisk (*) are defined terms in the Zoning Resolution, primarily in Section 12-10. Consult the Zoning Resolution for the official and legally binding definitions of these words and phrases.