Special Harlem River Waterfront Zoning District

by | Last updated Feb 6, 2021 | NYC Zoning

The Special Harlem River Waterfront 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.

The Special Harlem River Waterfront Zoning district is broken into 3 subdistricts:

  • Core Subdistrict
  • North Subdistrict
  • South Subdistrict

These subdistricts are broken into parcels that are made up of individual lots and sometimes a few lots.


Special District Zoning

New York City has many special zoning districts. These districts have additional rules and regulations beyond the typical zoning codes. The Harlem River Waterfront has its own special district known as the Special Harlem River Waterfront District or the HRW. Below we will outline some of the special regulations within the HRW.

Quality Housing Program 

Residential buildings or mixed use buildings with residential portions must be developed according to the Quality Housing Program. We have another post you can rear to learn more about the Quality Housing Program.

Waterfront Areas

The New York City Zoning Resolution has specific codes applicable to Waterfront Areas. These Zoning Codes apply to the Harlem River Waterfront but there are additional regulations and modifications that will apply. Certain Parcels within the HRW are considered Waterfront Lots and will comply with these regulations.

Flood Zones

Inclusionary Housing Program

Certain areas within the Special Harlem River Waterfront District are indicated as Inclusionary Housing Designated Areas or Mandatory Inclusionary Housing Areas. We have another post if you want to read more about Inclusionary Housing.

Mapped Streets

Within certain parcels of the HRW district the lot area of certain mapped streets can still be counted as part of the Zoning Lot for Floor Area regulations.


The Zoning Resolution typical prohibits commercial uses and residential uses on the same floor within a mixed use building. In this special district, there are some instances where this is possible, specifically, where there is no access between the two different uses. Commercial uses are not allowed above residential uses without authorization by the City Planning Commission.

Floor Area Ratio

The Floor Area Ratio of the Underlying District is superseded in certain instances by the Special District FAR regulations.

Width of Establishments and Entrance Location

Certain Parcels have limitations on the width of the building based on orientation the building is facing. There are also requirements in certain areas for location of entrances.

Each subdistrict within the special district have their own special height and setback requirements. These regulations will supersede the underlying district codes.

Street Wall Locations

There are special regulations for the Street Wall Location. these codes require the front wall or a portion of the front wall to be within a certain distance of the street in specified areas. This is a regulation that will completely affect the zoning code.


There are requirements for Ground Floor Use.

The Special District has Transparency regulations that dictate how much glass a building should have.

Certain buildings will require mitigating elements at the Streetscape such as:

  • Planting
  • Benches
  • Bicycle racks
  • Tables and chairs
  • Wall treatment

These were just a few examples of special zoning regulations within the Special Harlem River Waterfront District.


Special Harlem River Waterfront Zoning District

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 Harlem River 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 Harlem River Waterfront Zoning District Requirements.

I hope this was helpful. If you would like to speak with an architect, you can contact us at Fontan Architecture directly.


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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.