NYC Zoning Handbook:
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
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.