In NYC developing a public plaza can result in a zoning bonus allowing additional floor area for a building in certain zoning districts. The Zoning District will determine if this option is available and what extend of bonus will be allowed.
What Is a Plaza?
Public Plaza Definition
A Public Plaza is an open area accessible to the public.
Requirements for a Public Plaza
A public Plaza should be a safe place with “maximum visibility from the street and adjacent buildings” and with multiple points of entry and egress.
A Public Plaza must be at least 2,000 square feet.
Existing spaces on a Zoning Lot between Existing Buildings do not qualify. We have another blog post that explains what a Zoning Lot is.
Areas that do not qualify for the Floor Area Bonus cannot be between two Plazas on the Same Zoning Lot nor between a plaza and a building or arcade. You can look at another post we wrote on The arcade Zoning Bonus.
An area adjacent to a public plaza must be:
- either on a street and used for pedestrian access
- or must be separated by a wall, plantings 6 feet tall or more, or a decorative fence.
- And meet the requirements of “minor portions of public plazas”
A Public Plaza cannot be within 175 feet of an existing “publicly accessible open area” or a public park measured along the street. There are situations where this requirement can be waived.
Certain Special Zoning Districts will have specific requirements for Public Plazas:
- Special Midtown District
- Special Lower Manhattan District
- Special Downtown Brooklyn District
If the Plaza “major portion” only fronts one street line it cannot be North Facing.
No “major portion” can front a west or east facing street line if it also has 40 feet or more facing a south street line.
For a corner plaza the “major portion” should face a south street line. If it has less than 40 feet facing south or is facing north and east or west then the “major portion” should face east or west.
The City Planning Commission can modify the orientation requirements on a case by case basis.
Hours Of Operation
A Public Plaza must be open to the public at all hours with the exception of Nighttime Closing when authorized by the Department of City Planning.
Plazas must be accessible to people with disabilities.
Floor Area Bonus for Public Plazas in NYC
The Plaza bonus is not available in every zoning district and the amount of bonus will vary based on the specific district regulations.
NYC Zoning Bonus for Public Plazas
As an architect, I study Building 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 NYC Zoning Bonus for a Plaza. 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 Plaza Zoning Bonus.
I hope this was helpful. If you would like to speak with an architect, you can contact us at Fontan Architecture 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 15 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.