Zoning Lots

A lot or a zoning lot is a tract of land comprised of a single tax lot or two or more adjacent tax lots within a given block. A single zoning lot can contain many separate units that each occupy its own tax lot, however a single tax lot cannot contain many separate zoning lots.

Categories of zoning lots include corner lots, through lots and interior lots. A corner lot occurs where two or more streets meet. A through lot refers to any zoning lot that connects two parallel streets, while an interior lot is only bound by one street.

Lots may be either subdivided or merged. Subdividing a lot means breaking it into smaller pieces. Tax lots are most commonly subdivided to allow for multiple owners and tax lots within one zoning lot, while zoning lots are normally subdivided in accordance with zoning laws and bulk regulations. Furthermore, the subdivision of a zoning lot cannot create any new non-compliance issues when it comes to lot width/area, distance between buildings and other factors. (NYC Glossary)

Recent controversy has emerged regarding how certain zoning lots are being ‘gerrymandered’ (reshape the borders of districts) by developers in order to exploit certain loopholes in zoning laws: resulting in tiny, nearly useless slivers of land to be set aside so developers can build higher. These small plots usually serve as buffers between a building’s lot and an adjacent street, which frees up ground space requirements that can then be applied to extend the height. An example of this practice occurred in 2014 in Manhattan, where developers cut off a four-foot area that touched 88th Street so they could avoid building a bigger base and add an additional six stories to an apartment complex. (New York Times, 2016) The Department of City Planning (DCP) is thus considering applying the same lot restrictions that are already in place for residential properties to all zoning districts. (ny.curbed.com, 2019)

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