Special Lower Manhattan Zoning District

by | Last updated May 26, 2020 | NYC Zoning


The Special Lower Manhattan Zoning District is one of many special zoning districts in New York City. Special Districts have additional zoning requirements otherwise not stipulated in the Zoning Resolution specific only to those locations.


Lower Manhattan Zoning

The Special Lower Manhattan District encompasses the Southern tip of Manhattan not counting Batter Park City which has its own special district. We have another post on the Battery Park City Special Zoning District if you are interested. The Lower Manhattan District has 2 subdistricts within:

  • Historic and Commercial Core
  • South Street Seaport Subdistrict
  • Water Street Subdistrict


NYC Special Lower Manhattan Zoning District 

Below we will outline some of the special regulations within the Lower Manhattan Special Zoning District or LM.


Quality Housing Program in Lower Manhattan

Properties in Lower Manhattan may be developed according to the Quality Housing Program but the Bulk Regulations are modified according to the Special District Zoning Regulations. Bulk is the size and shape of a building often referred to as the building envelope.

Special Uses in C5 Zoning

There are certain Special Uses allowed in C5 Zoning Districts within the Special Lower Manhattan Zoning District. These uses are in addition to those allowed As of Right by the Underlying Zoning District C5 or allowed by Special Permit.

  • Use Group 7: 7B & 7E
  • Use Group 8: 8A, 8B & 8E
  • Use Group 12: 12A Except 12A Eating and Drinking, 12B, 12C & 12E

We have another post explaining the meaning of an Underlying Zoning District.

Eating and Drinking With Dancing 

In C5 Districts within the Special Lower Manhattan Zoning District Eating and Drinking establishments with dancing are permitted with up to 200 people and a maximum dance floor of 400 square feet.

Designated Retail Streets

On Designated Retail Street there are restrictions on what usage can be on the ground floor of a building development.

Floor Area Ratio

The Floor Area Ratio within the Lower Manhattan Special District is modified.

Certain Underlying Districts have available Bonus for Public Plazas. or Public Recreation Space.

Certain Underlying Districts have available Bonus for Inclusionary Housing.

There are Subway Station Improvement Bonuses in certain areas.

Developments for Landmark Lots for Transfer of Development Rights can increase Floor Area where applicable.

If you are interested in learning more we have another blog post explaining Floor Area Ratio.

Height and Setback Modified Requirements

There are specific Street Wall Regulations that will affect the height of a development and setback requirements. These regulations will supersede the underlying district regulations.

Lot Coverage 

There are additional Lot Coverage Regulations as well that will affect the building footprint. The Building Foot Print will also be limited to a Maximum Horizontal Dimension for buildings over 300 feet tall.

The City Planning Commission may modify some of the restrictions by Special Permit. These will be assessed on a case by case basis.

Special Lower Manhattan District Plan Elements

Designated Retail Street has Special Requirements:

There are requirements for allowable uses based on location for designated retail space.

There are glazing requirements for the amount of glass a storefront must have.

There are some requirements for Pedestrian Circulation Space.

On certain lots adjacent to subway stations the entrance to the subway must be relocated onto the zoning lot. This is for lots 5,000 square feet or more.

Lower Manhattan Designated Retail Streets

Lower Manhattan Designated Retail Streets


South Street Seaport Zoning

The South Street Seaport area has its own subdistrict within the Special Lower Manhattan Subdistrict.

Development rights may be transferred within the  South Street Seaport Subdistrict. There are limitations on the amount of Floor area may be transferred to a give Lot

Granting Lot

Granting Sites are sites where Floor Area can be transferred to another site known as a receiving site.

Receiving Lot

Receiving site is the site to receive Floor Area from a Granting Site.

South Street Seaport Zoning Subdistrict

South Street Seaport Zoning Subdistrict


Special Lower Manhattan District NYC Zoning

As an architect, I study Building Codes and Zoning Codes closely, but these are complicated and quite involved issues. In this article, we reviewed some of the basic concepts with regards to The Special Lower Manhattan Zoning District. This post does not assume to cover every possible issue or condition, but provide a general overview of the topic.


Thank you for reading our blog post on the Special Lower Manhattan Zoning District.

I hope this was helpful. Please leave questions and comments below. If you would like to speak with an architect, you can Contact Fontan Architecture directly.


Jorge Fontan

Jorge Fontan

This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 20 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.