NYC Zoning Handbook: Appendix D
Glossary

Accessory Use

An accessory use is a use which is clearly incidental to and customarily found in connection with the principal use. Such accessory use must be conducted on the same zoning lot as the principal use to which it is related, unless modified by the district regulations.

Air Rights (See Development Rights)

Arcade

An arcade is a continuous covered area which opens onto a street or a plaza. It is unobstructed to a height of not less than 12 feet, and must be accessible to the public at all times.

Attached Building

An attached building is a building on a zoning lot that abuts two lot lines other than a street line.

Attic Allowance

In certain lower density contextual districts, there is an increase in the base maximum FAR, of up to 20 percent, for floor area which is beneath a pitched roof and has structural headroom of between five and eight feet.

Authorization

An authorization is a discretionary action taken by the City Planning Commission, usually after a 30-day informal referral to the affected community board. Generally, a resolution authorizing the action is adopted by the Commission at a public meeting.

Base Plane

The base plane is a horizontal plane from which the height of a building is measured in lower density contextual districts. The level of a base plane may be the curb level, the level of the natural grade at the front yard line, or the average elevation of the final grade surrounding a building.

Basement

A basement is a story that has less than one-half of its height below curb level.

Block

A block is a tract of land bounded by streets or by a combination of streets, public parks, railroad rights-of-way, pierhead lines and airport boundaries.

Building

A building is a structure which has one or more floors and a roof and which is permanently affixed to the land.

Building Envelope

The building envelope is the maximum contour of a building permitted by height and setback controls.

Building, Mixed

A mixed building is a building in a commercial district used partly for residential use and partly for community facility or commercial use.

Bulk

Bulk is the term used to describe the size (including height and floor area) of buildings.

Cellar

A cellar is a portion of a building that has more than one-half of its floor-to-ceiling height below curb level.

Certification

Certification is a determination made by the Department of City Planning that an application is complete, complies with specific sections of the Zoning Resolution, and is ready for the formal public review process (ULURP).

It is also a ministerial action taken by the City Planning Commission or its chairperson in accordance with certain provisions of the Zoning Resolution to achieve specific planning objectives.

Commercial Building

Any building occupied only by commercial uses is a commercial building.

Commercial District

A Commercial District is designated by the letter C (C1-2, C3, C4-7, for example).

Commercial Overlay

A commercial overlay is a small portion of a residential district -- usually the first and second floors of buildings fronting on major avenues or wide streets -- which is zoned for retail and service stores. A commercial overlay is shown on the zoning maps as a pattern superimposed on a residential district.

Commercial Use

A commercial use is any use listed in Use Groups 5 through 16.

Community Facility Building

A community facility building is any building occupied only by a community facility use.

Community Facility Use

Any use listed in Use Groups 3 or 4, except open uses, is a community facility use.

Contextual Zoning

Contextual zoning is zoning that regulates the height and bulk of new buildings, their setback from the street line, and their width along the street frontage, to conform with the character of the neighborhood.

Court

A court is any open area other than a yard or portion thereof, which is unobstructed from its lowest level to the sky, and which is bounded by building walls, or building walls and one or more lot lines.

Curb Level

Curb level is the mean level of the curb adjoining a zoning lot. This provides the base from which height and setback computations are made and building stories counted.

Density

Density refers to the maximum number of dwelling units or zoning rooms permitted on a site. It is regulated by the minimum number of square feet of lot area required for each dwelling unit or zoning room.

Detached Building

A detached building is a freestanding building on a zoning lot that does not abut any other building on an adjoining zoning lot and where all sides of the building are surrounded by open areas within the zoning lot or street lines.

Development

A development includes: a) the construction of a new building or other structure on a zoning lot; b) the relocation of an existing building to another lot; or c) the use of a tract of land for a new use.

Development Rights (or Air Rights)

Development rights generally refer to the maximum amount of floor area permissible on a zoning lot.

The difference between the maximum permissible floor area and the built floor area on a zoning lot is called "unused development rights."

Under New York City's zoning law, the unused development rights of a lot may be sold and transferred as-of-right to adjacent lots only through a zoning lot merger, except in the case of designated landmarks where such transfer is possible by a special permit without a zoning lot merger. Unused development rights are often described as "air rights."

Dwelling Unit

A dwelling unit consists of one or more rooms which contain lawful cooking and sanitary facilities in a residential building or residential portion of a building.

Enlargement

An enlargement is a built addition to an existing building that increases the floor area of the building.

Extension

An extension is an expansion of the amount of existing floor area occupied by an existing use.

Floor Area

The floor area of a building is the sum of the gross area of each floor of the building, excluding cellar space, floor space in open balconies, elevator or stair-bulkheads and, in most zoning districts, floor space used for accessory parking that is located less than 23 feet above curb level.

Floor Area Ratio

Floor area ratio (FAR) is the total floor area on a zoning lot divided by the area of that zoning lot. Each zoning district classification contains an FAR control which, when multiplied by the lot area of the zoning lot, produces the maximum floor area allowable on such lot.

Group Parking Facility

A group parking facility is a building or lot used for parking more than one motor vehicle.

Height Factor

The height factor of a building is equal to the total floor area of the building divided by its lot coverage.

Joint Living-Work Quarters For Artists

Joint living-work quarters for artists is a space for an artist and the artist's family in a non-residential building used for living quarters and a studio workshop.

Large-Scale Community Facility Development

A large-scale community facility development is a development or enlargement predominantly for community facility uses in residential districts and in C1, C2, C3 and C4-1 districts. The development must be on a tract of land in single ownership that is at least three acres and may include existing buildings.

Large-Scale Development, General

A general large-scale development is a development or enlargement for any uses permitted by the underlying district regulations in commercial districts (except C1, C2, C3 and C4-1 districts) and in all manufacturing districts. The development must be on a tract of land in single ownership that is at least 1.5 acres and may include existing buildings.

Large-Scale Residential Development

A large-scale residential development is a development predominantly for residential uses in residential districts and in C1, C2, C3 and C4-1 districts. The development must be on a tract of land in single ownership that is either at least three acres with a minimum of 500 dwelling units or at least 1.5 acres with a minimum of three principal residential buildings. Existing buildings may not form any part of a large-scale residential development.

Legally Required Window

A legally required window is a window required to light or ventilate a living room under Section 4 of the New York State Multiple Dwelling Law.

Limited Height District

A limited height district is an overlay district superimposed on another district which limits the height of buildings in certain areas designated as historic districts by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Loft

A loft is a type of building generally constructed prior to 1930 for commercial or manufacturing use, and which is now occupied (or has been occupied) by manufacturing tenants.

Lot Area

The lot area is the area of a tract of land (zoning lot) in single ownership located within a block.

Lot Area Per Dwelling Unit

The lot area per dwelling unit is the amount of lot area required for each dwelling unit located on a zoning lot.

Lot Area Per Room

The lot area per room is the amount of lot area required for each room located on a zoning lot.

Lot, Corner

A corner lot is either a zoning lot bounded entirely by streets or a zoning lot which adjoins the point of intersection of two or more streets. The only part of a zoning lot which can qualify as a corner lot is that part of the lot that is within 100 feet of the intersecting street lines.

Lot Depth

Lot depth is the mean horizontal distance between the front lot line and rear lot line of a zoning lot.

Lot, Interior

An interior lot is any zoning lot that is neither a corner lot nor a through-lot (see illustration above).

Lot, Split

A split lot is a zoning lot located in two or more districts in which different use, bulk, parking, or other regulations apply.

Lot Line

A lot line is a boundary of a zoning lot.

Lot Line, Front

A front lot line is a street line.

Lot Line, Rear

A rear lot line is any lot line of a zoning lot which is generally parallel to any street line bounding such zoning lot and which does not intersect with a street line.

Lot Line, Side

A side lot line is any lot line which is not a front lot line or a rear lot line.

Lot, Through

A through lot is any zoning lot that is not a corner lot and that connects two generally parallel streets (see corner lot illustration).

Lot Width

Lot width is the mean horizontal distance between the side lot lines of a zoning lot.

Manhattan Core

The Manhattan Core extends from Battery Park on the south to West 110th Street on the Upper West Side and East 96th Street on the Upper East Side. It is the area covered by Manhattan Community Districts 1 through 8.

Manufacturing District

A Manufacturing District is designated by the letter M (M1-1, M2-2, for example).

Manufacturing Use

A manufacturing use is any use listed in Use Group 17 or 18.

Non-Complying, Or Non-Compliance

A legal non-complying building is any building that was legal when it was built which no longer complies with one or more of the present district bulk regulations.

Non-compliance results when a building does not comply with any one of such applicable bulk regulations.

Non-Conforming, or Non-Conformity

A legal non-conforming use is any use legal at its inception (whether of a building or tract of land) which no longer conforms to any one or more of the present use regulations of the district

Non-conformity results when a use does not conform to any one of such applicable use regulations.

Non-Profit Hospital Staff Dwelling

A non-profit hospital staff dwelling is a dwelling owned by a non-profit institution or subsidiary non-profit housing corporation which contains dwelling units reserved exclusively for occupancy by staff members of such institutions.

Open Space

Open space is the part of a zoning lot including courts or yards, which is open and unobstructed from its lowest level to the sky, except for specifically enumerated obstructions, and is accessible to and usable by all persons occupying dwelling units on the zoning lot.

Perimeter Wall

A perimeter wall is the outermost wall of a building that encloses floor area and rises from the base plane to a setback or the roofline.

Plaza

A plaza is an open area accessible to the public at all times. It shall not at any point be more than five feet above nor more than 12 feet below the curb level of the nearest adjoining street. It must be unobstructed from its lowest level to the sky except for certain permitted obstructions such as arbors. awnings, ornamental fountains and flag poles.

Public Parking Garage

A public parking garage is a building or part of a building in which:

  • (a) Parking space is provided, except for commercial or public utility vehicles or dead storage; and
  • (b) Some or all of the parking spaces are non-accessory. A public parking garage may include accessory off-street parking spaces limited to such spaces which are accessory to other uses on the same zoning lot.

Public Parking Lot

A public parking lot is any tract of land which:

  • (a) Is used for parking, except for commercial or public utility vehicles or dead storage; and
  • (b) Is not accessory to a use on the same or another zoning lot.

Railroad Or Transit Air Space

Railroad or transit air space is space directly over a railroad or transit right-of-way or yard. After special review and under appropriate conditions and safeguards, development may be permitted in such space.

Residence or Residential

A residence is a building or part of a building containing dwelling units or rooming units, including one-family or two-family houses, multiple dwellings, boarding or rooming houses or apartment hotels.

Residence District

A Residence District is a district identified by the letter R (R5, R3-2, R10H, for example).

Residence, Single-Family

A single-family residence is a building containing one dwelling unit occupied by one family.

Residence, Two-Family

A two-family residence is a building containing two dwelling units occupied by two families.

Residential Use

A residential use is any use listed in Use Group 1 or 2.

Rooms

For zoning computations, a room is a space such as a living room or bedroom. The basic living space in a dwelling unit (a living room, dining area, and kitchen and bath) counts as 2 1/2 zoning rooms. Each additional room in a dwelling unit, as defined in Section 4 of the Multiple Dwelling Law, counts as another zoning room.

Semi-Detached Building

A semi-detached building is a building on a zoning lot that abuts or shares one side lot wall with another building on an adjoining zoning lot and where the remaining sides of the building are surrounded by open areas or street lines.

Side Lot Ribbon

A side lot ribbon is that portion of the zoning lot that is contiguous to, and extends along the entire length of, a side lot line from the street line to an intersecting lot line.

Sign (Advertising)

An advertising sign directs attention to a business, profession, commodity, service or entertainment conducted, sold or offered elsewhere than upon the same zoning lot.

Sign (Business)

A business sign directs attention to a profession, business, commodity, service or entertainment conducted, sold or offered upon the same zoning lot.

Sign (Flashing)

A flashing sign is any illuminated sign, whether stationary, revolving or rotating, which changes light or color.

Sign (Illuminated)

An illuminated sign uses artificial light or reflected light from an artificial source.

Sky Exposure Plane

A sky exposure plane is a theoretical inclined plane, through which the height of a building may not penetrate, that is designed to provide light and air at street level in medium and higher density districts. It rises over the zoning lot at a ratio of vertical distance to horizontal distance set forth in district regulations.

A front sky exposure plane begins above the street line (or where so indicated, above the front yard line) at a specified height.

H=maximum height of front wall and starting point of sky exposure plane.
In the illustration, the building shown in the dashed line makes it initial setback below the maximum front wall height (h). The height of the front wall may not penetrate the sky exposure plane. The roof of the building, however, sets back at the point dictated by the sky exposure plane.

A rear sky exposure plane begins above a line at a distance from and parallel to the street line and at a height set forth in district regulations. The rear sky exposure plane is mandated in R6A to R9A and R10A districts (narrow streets) but not in R10 districts (wide streets).

H=height at which the rear sky exposure plane begins measured 100 feet from the street
In the illustration, the height of the rear wall of the building shown in the dashed line may not penetrate the rear sky exposure plane.

Story

A story is that part of a building between the surface of one floor and the ceiling immediately above. However, a cellar does not count as a story.

Street

Any road, street, highway, expressway, boulevard, parkway, avenue, alley or other public way, as shown on the City Map, or a way which is intended for public use and provides a principal means of approach for vehicles or pedestrians from a way shown on the City Map to a building or structure. Street refers to the entire public right-of-way (including public sidewalks).

Street Line

A street line is a lot line separating the street from a lot.

Street, Narrow

A narrow street is a street that is less than 75 feet wide.

Street Wall

A street wall is a wall or portion of a wall of a building facing a street.

Street, Wide

A wide street is a street that is 75 feet or more in width.

Through Block Arcade

A through block arcade is a continuous area within a building connecting one street with another street or plaza or arcade adjacent to the street.

Use

A use is any activity, occupation, business or operation carried on, or intended to be carried on, in a building or on a tract of land.

Use Groups

Uses that have similar functional characteristics and/or nuisance impacts are listed in one or more of 18 use groups that are ranked from residential to industrial uses.

Yard

A yard is the required open area on a zoning lot along the lot lines. A yard must be unobstructed from the lowest level to the sky, except for certain permitted obstructions.

Yard Equivalent, Rear

A rear yard equivalent is an open area which may be required on a through lot as an alternative to a required rear yard.

Yard, Front

A front yard is a yard extending along the full length of a front lot line. In the case of a comer lot, any yard extending along the full length of a street line is considered a front yard.

Yard, Rear

A rear yard is a yard extending for the full length of a rear lot line.

Yard, Side

A side yard is a yard extending along a side lot line from the required front yard (or from the front lot line, if no front yard is required) to the required yard (or to the rear lot line, if no rear yard is required). In the case of a comer lot, any yard that is not a front yard shall be considered a side yard.

Zero Lot Line Building

A zero lot line building is a freestanding building on a zoning lot that abuts only one side lot line and does not abut any other building on an adjoining zoning lot.

Zoning Lot

A zoning lot is a tract of land, either unsubdivided or consisting of two or more contiguous lots of record, located within a block, which, at the time of filing for a building permit, is designated as a tract to be used, developed or built upon under single ownership. The ownership of a zoning lot may be either single fee ownership or alternative ownership arrangements as set forth in the definition of a zoning lot in Section 12-10 of the Zoning Resolution.

A zoning lot may be subdivided into two or more zoning lots, provided that all resulting zoning lots and all buildings thereon shall comply with all of the applicable provisions of the Zoning Resolution.

Zoning Maps

Zoning maps are maps that are included in the provisions of the Zoning Resolution to indicate the location and boundaries of zoning districts.

 

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