The Special 125th Street District (125) is part of a city initiative to support and enhance 125th Street - Harlem’s “Main Street” - as a major arts/entertainment destination and regional business district. The district includes 24 blocks in East, Central and West Harlem, within an area generally bounded by 124th Street, 126th Street, Broadway and Second Avenue. The aim of the district is to generate new mixed use development while protecting the scale of the 125th Street corridor’s commercial and historic rowhouse areas by establishing street wall and height limits. To ensure active and diverse retail uses, special regulations restrict the amount of ground floor street frontage that may be occupied by banks, office and residential lobbies, and other non-active uses. Moreover, within the Core Subdistrict, the district requires the inclusion of arts and entertainment uses for developments over a certain size. The district establishes an innovative arts bonus — the first in the City — to provide an incentive for the creation of nonprofit visual or performing arts spaces. Opportunities for housing are expanded by increasing residential density in certain areas and offering affordable housing through the Inclusionary Housing designated areas Program.
The Special Battery Park City District (BPC) was created, in accordance with a master plan, to govern extensive residential and commercial development in an area on the Hudson River close to the business core of Lower Manhattan. The central component of the master plan is an office complex flanked by two large residential neighborhoods extending south to The Battery and north to Chambers Street. A continuous esplanade providing public access to the Hudson River waterfront is a major element of the plan. The district regulates permitted uses and bulk within three specified areas and establishes special design controls with respect to front building walls, building heights, waterfront design and parking.
The Special Clinton District (CL), generally between West 41st and West 59th Streets west of Eighth Avenue, was created to preserve and strengthen the residential character of a community bordering Midtown, maintain a broad mix of incomes and ensure that the community is not adversely affected by new development. Special regulations for designated perimeter areas provide appropriate transitions between the lower-scale side streets, and the Special Hudson Yards District to the south and the Special Midtown District to the east. The Inclusionary Housing designated areas Program is applicable within part of the district.
The Special East Harlem Corridors District (EHC) was created as part of the broader East Harlem Neighborhood Initiative to facilitate the development of affordable housing, preserve existing neighborhood character, improve the pedestrian experience, and enable new commercial and manufacturing space to support job creation. The Special District regulations, which aim to facilitate the creation of affordable housing and strengthen the role of East Harlem as a major transit hub and job center, apply only to the area’s major avenues and crosstown streets and include minimum requirements for non-residential uses in certain areas, unique height and setback controls and ground floor requirements to improve walkability.
The purpose of the Special Enhanced Commercial District (EC) is to promote and maintain a lively and engaging pedestrian experience along commercial avenues.
The Special Enhanced Commercial District is mapped in the following areas:
The Special Enhanced Commercial District 2 (EC-2) includes Amsterdam Avenue bounded by 75th Street and 110th Street on the west side, excluding the blocks between 100th – 101st and 102nd-103rd Streets, and bounded by 73rd and 87th Streets, and 105th and 109th Streets on the east side of the Avenue; and Columbus Avenue bounded by 72nd and 87th Streets. EC-2 was created to maintain, over time, the general multi-store character of Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues, while promoting a varied and active retail environment. The special district provisions apply ground floor frontage limitations for most new and expanding retail and commercial establishments and residential lobbies, and retail transparency requirements for new buildings. Overall store sizes are not restricted, and stores can be laid out with any configuration, including the basement, second story, wrapping behind, or along corner frontages. Existing commercial spaces with frontages exceeding what is permitted along Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues in EC-2 are not affected.
The Special Enhanced Commercial District 3 (EC-3) includes Broadway bounded by 72nd Street and 110th Street on the west side, and 74th Street and 110th Street on the east side. EC-3 was created to promote a varied and active retail environment while maintaining the retail continuity found along the Broadway corridor. The special district provisions apply ground floor frontage limitations for new and expanding banks and residential lobbies, and retail transparency requirements for new buildings. Overall store sizes are not restricted, and stores can be laid out with any configuration, including the basement, second story, wrapping behind, or along corner frontages. Existing banks and residential lobbies with frontages exceeding what is permitted along Broadway in EC-3 are not affected.
The Special Garment Center District (GC), encompassing the area bounded by West 35th and West 40th Streets, Broadway and Ninth Avenue, was created in 1987 for this area that has been a central part of the apparel production and fashion industry for more than a century. Special bulk regulations reinforce the existing high street walls of the area. The portion west of Eighth Avenue permit a wider range of uses, including residences, to recognize the mixed-use nature in that area.
The Special Governors Island District (GI), encompassing the entirety of the island in Upper New York Harbor, was created in 2013 and expanded in 2021 to support the reuse and redevelopment of the former military base and further the vision of the island as a mixed use, year-round educational, cultural and recreational destination within a park-like landscape.
The Special Hudson River Park District (HRP), encompassing the St. John’s Terminal Building along West Street/Route 9A and Pier 40 of Hudson River Park, was established in 2016 to allow a transfer of floor area from the pier to the St. John’s site to facilitate its redevelopment with a mix of residential and commercial uses and open areas. Funds generated by the floor area transfer are intended to support the repair and rehabilitation of Pier 40.
The Special Hudson Square District (HSQ) preserves a former warehouse and manufacturing district with a concentration of large, industrial buildings while encouraging residential and retail development in a vibrant mixed use district. Surrounded by the Greenwich Village, Soho and Tribeca neighborhoods, the special district comprises 18 blocks generally bounded by West Houston Street, Canal Street, Greenwich Street and Sixth Avenue. Height limitations prevent out-of-scale development that disrupts the established neighborhood character. In order to maintain the commercial and manufacturing uses once prevalent in the area, the special district establishes a definition of a “qualifying building” with a minimum of 70,000 s.f. of floor area, in which the existing amount of non-residential floor area must be retained on the zoning lot by either keeping the existing building or incorporating the amount of non-residential floor area within new construction, although the same type of use is not required. Residential development and community facilities with sleeping accommodations would require certification by the City Planning Commission if the zoning lot contains a qualifying building but otherwise would be allowed as-of-right. Hotels with more than 100 rooms would be subject to a special permit.
The Special Hudson Yards District (HY) was established to foster a mix of uses and densities, provide new publicly accessible open space, extend the Midtown central business district by providing opportunities for substantial new office and hotel development, reinforce existing residential neighborhoods and encourage new housing on Manhattan’s Far West Side. The special district includes two new corridors for high-density commercial and residential development supported by a subway line extension, new parks and an urban boulevard. New mid-density residential development will form a transition to existing residential neighborhoods and the Special Garment Center District to the east.
The district mandates a variety of use, bulk and urban design controls applicable to six subdistricts. In certain zoning districts, the maximum floor area ratios of the underlying districts may be increased through a District Improvement Bonus mechanism (alone or in tandem with the Inclusionary Housing designated areas Program that would support financing of specific capital improvements in the area. Transfers of floor area are also permitted under certain conditions.
Flexible as-of-right height and setback controls accommodate large floorplate office buildings and allow for creative design within the predominantly commercial areas. Mandated improvements include retail use on major corridors, street wall continuity, pedestrian circulation space, plantings, subway entrance easements, and screened or below-grade parking. The district has unique off-street parking regulations that manage the total amount of parking that can be constructed in the district as it is developed.
The Special Inwood District (I), encompassing the Inwood neighborhood, was established as part of the Inwood NYC Action Plan to promote the development of affordable housing, encourage economic development that benefits the local community, facilitate the development of open space along the Harlem River and preserve community character west of 10th Avenue. The Special District regulations aim to create walkable inviting streets. The Special District also establishes a Waterfront Action Plan to build out public waterfront open space along the Harlem River.
The Special Limited Commercial District (LC) attempts to preserve the character of commercial areas within historic districts by permitting only those commercial uses compatible with the historic district, and by mandating that all commercial uses be in completely enclosed buildings. In addition, limitations are placed on the size and illumination of signs. There is one such special district mapped in Greenwich Village.
The Special Lincoln Square District (L) was established to preserve and enhance the area surrounding Lincoln Center as an international center for the performing arts. In order to encourage desirable urban design, buildings along Broadway must be set at the street line although arcades are permitted. To attract a balanced cluster of activities, the district also regulates the types of street level uses and limits commercial development. Floor area bonuses are available by special permit from the City Planning Commission for developments that include subway improvements or affordable housing as set forth in the Inclusionary Housing R10 Program.
The Special Little Italy District (LI) was established to preserve and enhance the historic and commercial character of this traditional community. Special use regulations protect the retail area along Mulberry Street. Other regulations encourage residential rehabilitation and new development on a scale consistent with existing buildings, discourage the demolition of noteworthy buildings and increase the number of street trees in the area.
The Special Lower Manhattan District (LM) was established to enhance the vitality of Lower Manhattan, home of the city’s oldest central business district and a growing residential community. The district regulations allow for the conversion of older commercial buildings to residential use and encourage a dynamic mix of uses in the area while protecting its distinctive skyline and old street patterns. The built character of the area is enhanced by height and setback regulations and limitations on the dimensions of tall buildings. The pedestrian environment is enriched by requirements for retail continuity, pedestrian circulation space and subway station improvements.
The Special Lower Manhattan District covers the area south of Murray Street, City Hall Park and the approaches to the Brooklyn Bridge, excluding Battery Park City. Two subareas are located within the special district: the South Street Seaport Subdistrict and the Historic and Commercial Core. The South Street Seaport Subdistrict protects the scale and character of 18th and 19th century mercantile buildings by allowing the transfer of development rights to designated receiving lots. The Historic and Commercial Core seeks to ensure that new development in the area bounded by Wall Street, Broadway, Water Street and Whitehall Street will be compatible with existing buildings that line the streets mapped in the Streetplan of New Amsterdam and Colonial New York, a street layout accorded landmark status by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission.
The Special Madison Avenue Preservation District (MP) preserves and reinforces the unique retail and residential character of Madison Avenue and the surrounding area from East 61st to East 96th Streets. Retail continuity is ensured for the famed specialty shops by mandating that the ground floor of buildings on Madison Avenue must be occupied by selected uses. Bulk and street wall provisions limit the height of new development to the scale of existing buildings but allow for greater lot coverage. The maximum floor area ratio is 10.0. The location and setback requirements for street walls of buildings fronting on side streets provide a smooth transition to the lower buildings typically found on the midblocks.
The Manhattanville Mixed Use Special District (MMU) in West Harlem allows greater density and a wider variety of land uses to facilitate commercial and residential development, as well as Columbia University’s planned expansion into a new campus with state-of-the-art educational and research facilities that will incorporate extensive below-grade development. Active ground floor uses are encouraged along Broadway, West 125th Street and 12th Avenue to promote the vitality of the neighborhood streets. Design regulations require publicly accessible open spaces, sidewalk amenities, sidewalk widening and landscaping. The district provides east-west visual and pedestrian connections to encourage the use of the community oriented waterfront, emphasizing the West Harlem Piers Park. The bulk regulations for buildings to be developed alongside the railroad viaducts accommodate each of these historic elevated structures.
The Special Midtown District (MiD), established to guide development within the Midtown central business district, has three goals: growth, stabilization and preservation. The district was enacted in 1982 to shift future development further to the west and south in response to an over-concentration of development on the east side of Midtown.
The district establishes differing bulk and density limits for avenue frontages and midblocks, and for each of the subdistricts—Fifth Avenue, East Midtown, Penn Center, Preservation and Theater. A floor area bonus for public plazas, subway station improvements or theater rehabilitation is available in some subdistricts. The Preservation Subdistrict is not eligible for any floor area bonuses and its base floor area ratio (FAR) is lower than elsewhere in the special district in order to limit development on certain side streets. Certain urban design features, such as continuity of street wall and retail uses, off-street relocation of subway stairs and provision of on-site pedestrian circulation spaces, are mandated within the district.
The Theatre Subdistrict requires a City Planning Commission special permit for demolition of legitimate theaters that are not designated landmarks. In addition, a floor area bonus is available by special permit for rehabilitation of legitimate theaters. A flexible program for the transfer of development rights preserves landmarked and legitimate theaters and new buildings above a certain size must reserve at least five percent of floor space for entertainment and theater-related uses.
Special use and signage requirements in keeping with the character of the area are applicable in the Fifth Avenue, Penn Center and Theater Subdistricts. Large illuminated signs, for example, must be incorporated into the facades of new buildings to ensure the continued brilliance of the celebrated Great White Way in Times Square. In the East Midtown Subdistrict, special regulations govern transfers of development rights and seek to improve the area’s public realm. Special use restrictions in the Fifth Avenue Subdistrict reinforce its character as a showcase tourist and shopping destination. Signage regulations enhance the retail uses and transit connections of the Penn Center Subdistrict.
The Special Mixed Use District (MX) was established in 1997 to encourage investment in, and enhance the vitality of, existing neighborhoods with mixed residential and industrial uses in close proximity and create expanded opportunities for new mixed use communities. New residential and non-residential uses (commercial, community facility and light industrial) can be developed as-of-right and be located side-by-side or within the same building. Pairing an M1 district with an R3 through R10 district (e.g. M1-2/R6) ensures a balanced variety of uses.
Residential uses are generally subject to the bulk controls of the governing residence district; commercial, industrial and community facility uses are subject to the M1 district bulk controls, except that community facilities are subject to residential FAR limits. Most light industrial uses are permitted in each MX district as-of-right, others are subject to restrictions and Use Group 18 uses are excluded altogether, except for small breweries.
Special Mixed Use Districts in Manhattan:
The Special Park Improvement District (PI) was created to preserve the residential character and architectural quality of Fifth and Park Avenues from East 59th to East 111th Streets. It limits the height of new buildings to 210 feet or 19 stories, whichever is less, and mandates street wall continuity. No bonus is allowed.
The Special Planned Community Preservation District (PC) designation protects the unique character of communities that have been planned and developed as a unit. Those communities characteristically have large landscaped open spaces and a superior relationship of buildings, open spaces, commercial uses, and pedestrian and vehicular circulation. No demolition, new development, enlargement or alteration of landscaping or topography is permitted within the district except by special permit of the City Planning Commission. Preservation districts have been mapped in Sunnyside Gardens and Fresh Meadows in Queens, Parkchester in the Bronx and Harlem River Houses in Manhattan.
The Special SoHo-NoHo Mixed Use District (SNX), encompassing the majority of the neighborhoods of SoHo and NoHo, was established in 2021 to create opportunities for housing growth, including affordable housing units, while continuing to acknowledge its mixed-use character. The district builds on the rich architectural and creative legacy of these neighborhoods, introducing special bulk rules that respond to existing built character and vibrant streetscape. It also includes a set of rules that looks to sustain the area’s unique arts and culture.
The Special Southern Roosevelt Island District (SRI) will facilitate a new applied sciences and engineering Cornell NYCTech campus to be built in two phases over 20 years. There will be a mix of residential, retail and other commercial uses to support the academic, research and development facilities. The campus will include teaching and research space, residential units for Cornell staff and students, partner research and development space, a conference facility and hotel, and commercial office space for local businesses and start ups. The special district will allow for flexible bulk zoning envelopes for the campus buildings that will also assure adequate access of light and air to the street and surrounding waterfront open areas. A network of publicly-accessible open areas will be established and the entire campus will be bounded by a loop road.
The Special Transit Land Use District (TA) relates development along Second Avenue to the future subway line. In place of sidewalk obstructions that impede pedestrian circulation, the special district requires builders of developments adjoining planned subway stations to reserve space in their projects, by providing an easement, for public access to the subway or other subway-related uses. The district is mapped at locations along Second Avenue between Chatham Square in Chinatown and East 126th Street in Harlem.
The Special Tribeca Mixed Use District (TMU) was originally enacted in 1976 as the Lower Manhattan Mixed Use District to permit limited residential development in an otherwise industrial 62-block area in Manhattan within the triangle below Canal Street, west of Broadway. Revised in 1995 and in 2010, the underlying zoning throughout the district is now commercial but unique provisions limit the size of ground floor retail uses and hotels. New contextual mixed buildings house a growing residential community while special rules encourage a mix of uses by allowing light industries. Part of northern Tribeca has been mapped as an Inclusionary Housing designated area.
The Special Union Square District (US) was established to revitalize the area around Union Square by encouraging mixed use development. To enhance the compatibility of new development with existing buildings and Union Square Park, the district’s urban design provisions mandate ground floor retail uses, off-street relocation of subway stairs and continuity of street walls. Special streetscape and signage controls enhance the physical appearance of the district. A floor area bonus for subway improvements is available by special permit of the City Planning Commission.
The Special United Nations Development District (U) implements a development plan for the area adjacent to the United Nations, consisting primarily of the United Nations Plaza buildings. A unified design concept is a major feature of the district regulations.
The Special West Chelsea District (WCh) provides a regulatory framework for the continued development of a dynamic mixed residential and commercial area centered around the public open space created by reuse of the High Line, a former elevated rail line running north-south through the length of the district. Bounded generally by Tenth and Eleventh Avenues between West 16th and West 30th Streets, the district contains regulations to facilitate enjoyment of the High Line including a floor area transfer mechanism to preserve light, air and views as well as floor area bonuses related to access and open space development. Special bulk regulations respond to unique conditions along the High Line and the areas surrounding West Chelsea, including the Hudson River to the west, the higher-density Special Hudson Yards District to the north, and the lower-scale Chelsea Historic District to the east. The Inclusionary Housing designated area Program facilitates development of affordable housing to ensure an economically diverse neighborhood.