The “Sliver Law” is a reference to a zoning code in New York City that aims to prevent very tall narrow buildings in a set of specific zoning districts. It applies height restrictions to buildings on certain properties under 45 feet wide.
I am Jorge Fontan an architect in New York and owner of a NYC bases architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Here is an example of a development that was prevented by the “sliver law”. We looked into possibly developing a property for a client on an R10 lot in Manhattan. As per R10 rules we could enlarge the building based on its existing size and allowable floor area, or demolish and build new. The “sliver law” prevented this from being possible due to a height restriction. See bellow a breakdown of the basic rules in the sliver law. Here is what we encountered:
The property was under 45 feet wide therefore it fell under the jurisdiction of the sliver law. The street width was 70 feet which means it is a “narrow street.” We had one building on either side of us. A shorter one and a taller one. Unfortunately, because we only had one taller building on a narrow street we did not have the option to enlarge the building as per the sliver law restrictions. The building height cannot exceed 70 feet in this case and the existing building was already that tall.
Sliver Building New York
In New York a Sliver Building is any tall building that is less than 45 feet wide and subject to the sliver law regulations. Some Special Purpose Zoning Districts allow for Sliver Buildings.
What Is The Sliver Law?
The “Sliver Law” is a reference to a zoning code in New York City that aims to prevent very tall narrow buildings in certain zoning districts. It applies height restrictions to buildings on certain properties under 45 feet wide.
The following is a paraphrase of the code please see the zoning text for exact language used.
Sliver law sets restriction on the height of a building to be either equal to the width of the street or to 100 feet whichever is less. There are also some exceptions to the sliver law.
Zoning Section 23-692 Height limitations for narrow buildings or enlargements
The “Sliver Law” is an unofficial name to the New York City Zoning Code sections 23-692 & 33-492, here is the basic idea of what the code requires.
Things you need to know:
This section is only applicable to certain zoning districts, see list bellow. The code only applies to properties or portions of buildings that are less than 45 feet wide where you wish to enlarge the property or build a new development.
Street width can be determined by a land surveyor.
A “wide street” is 75 feet or more.
A “narrow street” is under 75 feet.
“Abuts” means the building is touching another on the property line.
Sliver Law Height Exceptions:
You can exceed the above mentioned restrictions in the following cases:
- On a Wide Street (75 or more)
- If the building “abuts” another building that is taller than the height restriction above than your building can be built up to the same height as the abutting building. If there are 2 buildings (one on either side) taller than the height restriction stated above than the new building can be as tall as the tallest of the 2.
- On a Narrow Street (less than 75 feet)
- If you abut 2 buildings both over the height restriction stated above, than you can build as tall as the shorter of the 2 buildings
Zoning Districts for Sliver Law:
These rules apply to the following zoning districts
Certain areas are exempt from the sliver law and it does not apply in all instances. For example in the Special Purpose District – Special Lower Manhattan Zoning District (LM District) the sliver law may not apply.
Some special zoning districts have modifications to the sliver law or additional requirements to supplement it. For example the TMU Special Tribeca Mixed Use District has a modification to the sliver Law.
In cases of residential use in a commercial district Sliver Law May apply to the following commercial districts as well:
For Mixed Use Buildings with Residential in the following districts: C4-2F, C4-4, C4-5, C4-6, C4-7, C5 or C6 Sliver Law may apply to Quality Housing Buildings.
I often refer to the Sliver Law as a project killer. I have another blog post with what I consider the Worst Zoning Laws in NYC with Sliver ranking number 2 on the list.
Thank You for reading our blog post on the NYC Sliver Law and Sliver Building restrictions.
If you are interested in speaking with an architect about your project please contact us directly.
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.