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Volume XII, Number 148

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NY Governor Announces Policies to Increase Residential Density in New York City

Would increase residential density in new buildings and allow increased conversion opportunities.

In New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s State of the State address on Jan. 5, 2022, she announced a policy to “fix outdated land use laws that hold back our housing supply.” Further details of the proposed legislation are expected when the governor releases her budget proposal Jan. 18, but the State of the State 2022 policy book released in connection with the governor’s address specifies that one component of this policy is a proposal to repeal the New York state law (Section 26(3) of the Multiple Dwelling Law, or MDL) that limits maximum residential density to a floor area ratio (FAR) of 12, in order to give New York City autonomy to permit greater residential density where it sees fit. One can assume that the governor’s staff has consulted with City Hall on this aspect of the policy proposal.

New Buildings with More Than 12 FAR Residential

Under the current New York City Zoning Resolution, no zoning district in the city permits new developments or enlargements that exceed 12 FAR for residential use. Accordingly, even if the MDL’s 12 FAR cap on residential density is repealed in accordance with Gov. Hochul’s proposal, text amendments to the Zoning Resolution would have to be sought, either by private applicants or by the Department of City Planning, to allow new developments and enlargements to exceed 12 FAR. Text amendments to the Zoning Resolution are subject to a public review process similar to the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), so the City Planning Commission and the City Council would retain discretion to determine the areas of the city in which a residential density of greater than 12 FAR may be appropriate.

Office to Residential Conversion for Buildings Built Before 1980

Currently, the provisions of the Zoning Resolution and MDL collectively allow existing non-residential buildings to be converted in their entirety to residential use, regardless of FAR, provided they meet the relaxed light and air standards for conversions contained in Article 7-B of the MDL, and so long as they were: built prior to Dec. 15, 1961 (the date the current ZR was enacted), and located south of 60th Street in Manhattan, in Brooklyn Community Districts 1, 2, 6 and 8, or in Queens Community Districts 1 and 2; or built prior to Jan. 1, 1977, and located south of Murray Street/Brooklyn Bridge in lower Manhattan.

The governor’s policy book proposes that, until December 2027, eligibility for such conversions would be expanded to all pre-1980 office buildings located south of 60th Street in Manhattan (and potentially to other eligible buildings). For such expanded eligibility to apply in New York City, the city itself would have to make a parallel amendment to the Zoning Resolution; alternately, the governor could implement this component of her proposal by overriding the Zoning Resolution for the limited time period proposed of approximately six years. We will stay up to date and expect that additional details regarding the proposed conversion legislation will be provided in the governor’s budget proposal to be released Jan. 18.

©2022 Greenberg Traurig, LLP. All rights reserved. National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 11
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About this Author

Jay A. Segal Real Estate Attorney Greenberg Traurig
Shareholder

As a practicing New York land use lawyer since 1984 and Co-Chair of the Firm’s Land Use Practice, Jay Segal has wide-ranging knowledge of all aspects of New York City land use law.  He frequently appears before the City Council, City Planning Commission, Landmarks Preservation Commission, Board of Standards & Appeals and Buildings Department.

Concentrations

  • Counsels many of New York City's leading developers, institutions and non-profit organizations
  • Seeks changes of zoning districts, amendments to the Zoning Resolution, variances, special permits,...
212-801-9200
Deidre A Carson GTLaw Shareholder Land Use, Land Development, Environmental,Real Estate ,Operations Retail
Shareholder

Deirdre Carson has more than 25 years of experience as a New York land use and co-op/condo lawyer. She has represented developers, real estate investors and educational institutions in land use and zoning matters, with associated environmental quality reviews, as well as in cooperative and condominium legal matters, before the City’s Department of Buildings, City Planning Commission, Board of Standards and Appeals, City Council Landmarks Preservation Commission and the State Attorney General’s office. Recently, Deirdre was the lead zoning lawyer representing a New York City university in...

212-801-6855
Nick Hockens Land Use Attorney Greenberg Traurig Law Firm New York, NY
Shareholder

Nick Hockens concentrates his practice on the representation of developers, institutions and non-profit organizations before the New York City Planning Commission, Board of Standards and Appeals, and Landmarks Preservation Commission. He represents clients in a variety of New York land use and zoning matters, including re-zonings, special permits, variances, designations and alterations of landmarked buildings, and air rights transactions.

Concentrations

  • Land use and zoning

212-801-3088
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