Most development in New York City occurs as-of-right
. Once the Department of Buildings
(DOB) is satisfied that the proposed structure complies with all relevant provisions of the Zoning Resolution and the Building Code, a building permit is issued and construction can begin. No further action is required.1
The Zoning Resolution is comprehensive, but it must be flexible in order to accommodate and guide development. There are a number of discretionary actions
that amend or modify the Zoning Resolution to allow a project to move forward or to implement broad changes in public land use policy. A zoning text amendment (changing the zoning regulations) or zoning map amendment (changing the zoning designation) may be needed to allow a development at a location or in a configuration that is not currently permitted but advances sound policy considerations. A City Planning Commission
(CPC) special permit
or Board of Standards and Appeals
(BSA) special permit ensures site-specific review of projects with potential land use impacts or policy implications. An authorization
to modify zoning for a specific project may be granted by the CPC, provided certain conditions have been satisfied. A property owner may request a variance
from the BSA when compliance with zoning might present an economic hardship or practical difficulties.
Zoning map amendments, commonly known as rezonings
or remappings, and CPC special permits are subject to public review, pursuant to Uniform Land Use Review Procedure
(ULURP), as set forth in the City Charter. ULURP sets time frames for public participation in local and citywide review of land use actions. Zoning text amendments are subject to a similar review, also set forth in the City Charter, but there is no time limit for CPC review. All discretionary actions must be assessed for environmental impacts in accordance with the State Environmental Quality Act (SEQRA) and City Environmental Quality Review
|Illustrative 'sketch map' of zoning map amendment
The Zoning Resolution is amended frequently, both to keep zoning up-to-date in a rapidly changing city and to fulfill the City Planning Commission’s charter-mandated responsibility “for the conduct of planning relating to the orderly growth, improvement and future development of the city.
An amendment to the zoning text or zoning map is a legislative action that is either citywide or affects particular areas or zoning districts. It may implement a citywide policy initiative, such as FRESH food stores
, or address changing land use conditions. It involves introducing new text, amending existing text or changing the zoning designation on the zoning map(s), or any combination of such actions. It is generally unconditional and affects all property equally within the area subject to the change.
Amendments to the zoning text or rezonings are typically proposed by the Department of City Planning. They also can be initiated by a taxpayer, Community or Borough Board, Borough President, the CPC, the City Council or the Mayor. A private applicant may initiate a zoning amendment to facilitate a development proposal.
Zoning map amendments may be adopted only after public review pursuant to ULURP. Zoning text amendments, which are not subject to ULURP, follow a similar review procedure where they must be approved by the CPC and adopted by the City Council.
The NYC Department of Buildings has primary responsibility for enforcing the Zoning Resolution and for interpreting its provisions. Among its responsibilities, the Department of Buildings:
- Issues building permits after review of building plans to determine compliance with the Zoning Resolution and the Building Code
- Reviews and grants applications for certificates of occupancy, allowing legal occupancy of new or altered structures
- Interprets provisions of the Zoning Resolution, subject to appeal to the BSA, and issues procedures and guidelines for its administration
- Orders the remedy of zoning violations and, as appropriate, prosecutes violations
- Maintains public records of all building permits, certificates of occupancy, inspections, violations and other property profile information, available at nyc.gov/buildings.
In some cases, administrative and enforcement responsibilities are delegated to other agencies with special expertise. For example, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection enforces industrial performance standards related to air quality and the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development administers Inclusionary Housing provisions.
1Some as-of-right developments require certification by the CPC or CPC Chairperson to DOB that certain technical zoning regulations have been met. Certifications are not discretionary actions.