NYC Zoning Handbook:
Loft Zoning

Chapter 8

The term "loft" refers to a type of building that was generally constructed prior to 1930 for commercial or manufacturing use. However, as used in Article I, Chapter 5, of the Zoning Resolution, loft zoning regulations apply to the residential conversion of non-residential buildings in existence prior to December 15, 1961, including loft buildings, community facilities, office buildings, stores, garages and theaters. The regulations affect Manhattan Community Districts 1 to 6, Brooklyn Community Districts 1, 2 and 6, and Queens Community Districts 1 and 2.

In all residential and most commercial zones in the community districts noted above, regulations that impeded the conversion of non-residential buildings to residential use have been removed, making residential conversion easier and more economical. In certain other areas, districts allowing a mix of commercial and manufacturing uses have been designated.

In the C6-2M, C6-4M, M1-5M and M1-6M districts, conversion of non-residential floor area to residential use may take place only if floor area appropriate for certain commercial or manufacturing uses is preserved, either in the same building or elsewhere within the district. The amount of floor area to be preserved depends upon the size of the floors in the building being converted. The preservation of space is achieved by a deed restriction and all conversions must be reported to the City Planning Commission. The Commission may, by special permit, allow reduction of the loft space required to be preserved for industrial or commercial use if market conditions no longer warrant or support the preservation.

Additional commercial districts, C6-1G and C6-2G, have been established; these allow the residential conversion of non-residential floor area only by special permit of the Commission.

In M1-5A and M1-5B districts (SoHo/NoHo) loft floor area cannot be converted to residential use but may be occupied as joint living-work quarters by artists certified by the city's Department of Cultural Affairs. In these districts there are also restrictions on ground floor uses. The Lower Manhattan Mixed Use District (Tribeca) allows conversions to loft dwellings (residential) or to joint living-work quarters. Conversions in larger buildings in SoHo/NoHo and Tribeca require a special permit.

In all of the districts in which loft conversions may occur, the owners of buildings to be converted are required to assist the relocation of any industrial tenants displaced by the conversion. This is done by requiring the payment of a "conversion contribution" either directly to the relocating tenant or to the non-profit Business Relocation Assistance Corporation (BRAC). The amount of the "conversion contribution" is based upon the amount of floor area to be converted. Various exemptions and discounts are available if the floor area being converted was vacant or was used for non-industrial uses.

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