NYC Zoning Handbook:
The commercial districts reflect the full range of commercial
activity in the city, from local retail and service
establishments, to medium density regional shopping and
office centers, to high density shopping, entertainment and
office uses. Of the eight basic commercial districts, two (C1
and C2 districts) are designed to serve local needs, one (C4)
is for shopping centers outside the central business
district, two (CS and C6 districts ) are for the central
business districts which embrace the office, retail and
commercial functions that serve the city and region, and
three (C3, C7 and C8 districts) are designed for special
purposes (waterfront activity, large commercial amusement
parks and heavy repair services).
All commercial uses permitted in the eight basic commercial
districts are classified in Use Groups 5 to 16. Residential
and community facility uses are allowed anywhere in C1 to C6
commercial areas, but not in C7 districts. Use Group 4
community facilities are allowed in C8 districts, but
residential and Use Group 3 community facility uses are not
permitted. Commercial use groups and commercial use districts
vary according to (1) the functions of the various types of
commercial districts, (2) the compatibility of commercial
uses with each other, and (3) compatibility with adjacent
The Zoning Resolution contains a set of commercial contextual
zones which have been designed for mapping in commercial
districts that are substantially residential in character.
All developments within these zones are required to maintain
the continuity of the existing street walls and a harmonious
relationship with the existing buildings in the area. With
one exception (C6-1A) all commercial zones identified on the
zoning maps with the suffix A, E, or X are contextual. In
addition to the contextual districts themselves, C1 and C2
commercial districts that are mapped as overlays in
contextual residential districts also fall under the
C6-1G, C6-2G, C6-2M and C6-4M are loft district designations.
They are discussed in detail in Chapter 8. (C4-2F is a
special commercial district mapped in Rego Park.)
The eight basic commercial districts are further subdivided
to reflect variations in bulk and parking and loading
requirements. These variations are indicated by a hyphen and
second digit. For example, a C4-1 district permits a
commercial FAR of 1, whereas a C4-7 district permits a
commercial FAR of 10. Additional regulations are indicated by
a letter suffix after the second digit (for example, C4-7A
indicates a contextual C4-7 district).
In the high density commercial districts (central Manhattan
and Downtown Brooklyn), the floor area ratio is the principal
bulk control. In those commercial districts where there is a
high off-street parking requirement, the parking requirements
are frequently as important as the floor area ratio in
controlling the intensity of development.
In medium and high density commercial districts, arcades,
open plazas, covered pedestrian spaces, subway improvements
and other public amenities generate an increase in the
maximum floor area ratio.
In addition to controls on the floor area of buildings, there
are yard, height, and setback regulations to ensure that
adequate light, air and open space are provided.
In commercial districts, the size or bulk of residential
buildings or the residential portion of "mixed"
buildings—buildings used partly for residential and partly
for commercial or community facility uses -- is governed by
the bulk, density, and open space provisions of a specified
Zoning Analysis of a Typical Building in a C5-3 District
C5-3 districts are found in the Wall Street area of Lower
Manhattan. C5-3 districts permit a basic commercial floor
area ratio of 15.0 which can be increased to 18.0 if such
amenities as plazas are provided.
The typical building on a corner lot of 20,000 square feet
(100 by 200 feet) would be a commercial office building
ranging from 25 stories to 40 stories.
An office building in this district would have stores,
restaurants, banks or other commercial services on the first
floor and offices on the upper floors. These C5-3 districts
are located only in central business district areas;
therefore, no parking is required.
The size and height of an office building in a C5-3 district
depends on the maximum floor area ratio and the sky exposure
plane and tower provisions.
This floor area may be distributed anywhere on the lot,
subject to the limitations of the yard and height and setback
regulations. No rear yards are required on corner lots (those
within 100 feet of a street intersection). Therefore, the
building in this example could cover 100 percent of the lot.
The height of front walls is governed by the height and
setback regulations which limit the height of the front wall
of a building. Any portion of a building rising above the
maximum permitted height of the front walls (85 feet in this
district) would be required to set back a specific distance
(20 feet on a narrow street, 15 feet on a wide street).
The designer of an office building has some flexibility in
meeting zoning requirements. The architect may design
pedestrian amenities at the ground floor level to obtain a
building with more floor area than the basic maximum for the
district and a slender tower covering 40 percent or less of
the lot (and rising to 40 stories) may then be built.
Alternatively, a low-rise building lacking pedestrian
amenities may be developed in accord with the height, setback
and sky exposure plane regulations, resulting in a high
coverage 25-story building. Or, the developer may choose the
high coverage maximum bulk option with covered pedestrian
amenities and build up to the required initial setback level
of 85 feet with a tower, reaching a total height of 33
In zoning terminology, a typical office building in this
district would be described in the following manner:
|Lot area:||20,000 square feet
|Basic floor area ratio:||15.0
|Maximum FAR with bonuses:||18.0
|Total floor area:||360,000 square feet
|Tower lot coverage:||40 percent
|Use:||Commercial uses such as stores, banks and other business or service uses on the ground floor
with offices on the upper floors.