NYC Zoning Handbook:
Community Facilities

Chapter 6

The Zoning Resolution recognizes certain types of uses which serve the general welfare as community facilities. There are three broad categories of community facility uses:

Local Community Facilities

Local community facilities-elementary and secondary schools, branch libraries, houses of worship, community centers and settlement houses-provide essential services for the neighborhoods in which they are located. While some of these facilities may serve an area larger than the surrounding community, it is generally agreed that they exist primarily to enrich the residential community.

Regional Community Facilities

Regional community facilities serve the population at large. Some uses in this category, such as colleges, central libraries, museums and hospitals, could locate almost anywhere. Other community facilities in this category are residential facilities such as orphanages, nursing homes, and homes for retarded children.

Auxiliary Community Facilities

Auxiliary community facilities include uses which support local or regional community services. For example, monasteries, convents, college dormitories, hospital staff housing, parish houses or rectories do not usually provide a direct service to the public but some colleges, hospitals, schools, churches and community centers could not function effectively without them. Virtually all of the uses in this category are places of residence.

Community facilities are listed in either Use Group 3 or Use Group 4. As a rule, facilities found in Use Group 3 are deemed to be incompatible with Use Groups 1618 uses and, therefore, are not allowed in C8 and M1 districts. Facilities listed in Use Group 4 are allowed as-of-right in C8 districts and are permitted by special permit in M1 districts. No community facilities are allowed in M2 and M3 districts. The Zoning Resolution has generally encouraged the location of community facilities in residential areas.

The 1961 Zoning Resolution allowed a community facility to be larger than a residential structure built on a zoning lot of equal size in the same zone. If the same residential bulk controls were imposed on most community facilities as on residential buildings in the district, many community facilities would not be able to locate in most residential districts. A school, house of worship, hospital or college must be a certain size to operate efficiently, even in low-density, low-bulk zones. Applying the same residential floor area ratio to community facilities would require community facilities to occupy significantly larger sites in most zoning districts. Assembling large sites in New York City is complicated, difficult and expensive, creating problems for institutions the city needs and wants and for the neighborhoods in which they locate. Also, by allowing community facilities, which are often tax-exempt, to fit more floor area on smaller sites, more land remains on the tax rolls. However, in some districts, the City Planning Commission has determined that community facility buildings should not be significantly larger than neighboring residential buildings.

In 1973 the Zoning Resolution was amended to require that community facilities in R1 and R2 districts be limited to the same FAR as residential developments. Another amendment of that year provided that several types of community facilities with sleeping accommodations could no longer exceed the residential floor area ratio except by special permit Medium and higher density contextual districts generally allow community facilities either the same (or only slightly higher) floor area ratios than the other uses in the district.

The Department of City Planning is currently reviewing land use needs and the regulations that affect community facility uses in New York City.


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