Theater Subdistrict Fund Text Amendment
Application Withdrawn - February 27, 2017

Over the last 50 years, NYC has pioneered the use of Transferable Development Rights (TDRs) to achieve certain planning and urban design goals. For example, in this case TDRs can disincentivize the demolition of theaters by enabling Theater owners to sell unused development rights and transfer them to a site within the Subdistrict. The Theater Subdistrict Fund was established in 1998 as part of a larger effort to help protect and preserve theaters in Midtown Manhattan and create a framework for development in the area It is intended to promote the production of new theater work, develop new audiences, and showcase the importance of Broadway and its contribution to American Theater.  This amendment would update the way we calculate how much a developer must contribute to the Fund when a listed theater in the Subdistrict transfers its development rights. The calculation would be based on the actual value of the development rights, rather than assessed property values, which are not based on actual fair market value or sales price. This update would more closely reflect the original intent of the 1998 legislation.  The text amendment would also streamline proposed transfers pursuant to ZR Section 81-744(a) and make them Chairperson Certifications instead of the current Commission Certifications.

PDF Document View the March 28th, 2016 presentation.
PDF Document View the Market Study of TDR Values in the Theater Subdistrict.

Visit the Theater Subdistrict Council for information on the transfers that have taken place to date thanks to the 1998 zoning text.

Broadway Theater and the theatrical arts in New York City are major draws for tourists to the region and a significant economic generator. In 2015, the 40 Broadway theaters had 12.9 million in attendance and a total gross ticket sales of $1.3 billion. Historically, the midtown area has been important to the development of the theater, culture and the performance arts in the United States.

The City has taken numerous steps to support and strengthen the long-term viability of the theaters. The original Special Theater District was created in 1967 as the first special district established pursuant to the New York City Zoning Resolution.  It was created to preserve and protect the unique character of the area as a cultural, theatrical and entertainment mecca and to protect theaters from the westward expansion of Midtown office development.  The zoning regulations also included a floor area bonus for new theaters to be created within new developments.

The Special Midtown District (MiD), created in 1982, established a framework for development within the central business district. The framework identified areas for growth and preservation, an as-of-right mechanism for development, and pedestrian circulation space requirements. At the same time, the Special Theater District became a subdistrict within the MiD and new zoning provisions were introduced to further enhance the Theater Subdistrict through the transfer of development rights to nearby lots.

In 1998, a zoning text amendment (June 3, 1998; N980271ZRM) established a new mechanism for theaters listed in the Zoning Resolution to transfer their available development rights throughout the subdistrict in exchange for retaining, preserving and maintaining a legitimate theater use, and for a contribution to a newly created Theater Subdistrict Fund. This provided more opportunities for theaters to transfer development rights while strengthening requirements for the continuation of legitimate theater use.

The proposed text amendment would promote a more rational methodology for determining the contribution rate to the Theater Subdistrict Fund. The rate would be based on the actual value of the transferred development rights and not based on assessed property values, which do not necessarily reflect actual fair market value or sales price. The proposal is also closer to the original intent of the 1998 text amendment, which based the contribution rate on approximately 20 percent of the sales price of land value in the subdistrict (CPC Report N980271ZRM).

Since the Commission’s purview is limited to approving numbers and legal documents that have already been vetted, the Department is proposing to streamline proposals pursuant to ZR Section 81-744(a) and make them Chairperson Certifications instead of Commission Certifications.  All filed applications pursuant to Section 81-744 will still be sent to the appropriate Community Board.

PDF Document View the proposed zoning text.

On March 24, 2016, the proposed Theater Subdistrict Fund zoning text amendment (N 160254 ZRM) was referred to Community Board 5, Community Board 4, and the Manhattan Borough President. 

In response to comments and recommendations made during the public review process, the Department of City Planning filed an “A” text application on August 16, 2016.  The proposed changes in this new application are to clarify the goals of the of the Theater Subdistrict Council, the administration of the Fund, allow flexibility in the floor price adjustment period, and to make minor edits to the text.  The proposed changes in the “A” text application expand the scope of the original application while allowing the public review process for the overall proposal to continue. PDF Document View the proposed “A” zoning text.

On September 7, 2016, the City Planning Commission held a public hearing on both proposals.

Land Use Review MilestoneDates
Department of City Planning Referral March 28, 2016
Community Board Approval May 13, 2016
Borough President Approval August 16, 2016
Department of City Planning “A” text Referral Sepember 6, 2016
City Planning Commission Public Hearing September 7, 2016
City Planning Commission Approval with modifications*
PDF Document View the CPC Report.
November 16, 2016
Application Withdrawn February 27, 2017

*CPC modifications:

On November 16, 2016, the Commission approved the proposed text amendment with the following modification:

  • Establish a phase-in process to the 20 percent contribution rate to the Theater Subdistrict Fund.
PDF Document View the approved modified zoning text.