Elevate Transit: Zoning for Accessibility – Real Estate and Construction


United States: Elevate Transit: Zoning for accessibility

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The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the Department of City Planning have proposed a city-wide zoning text change designed to increase the accessibility of transit stations (Zoning for Accessibility). The text was submitted for public review by the Town Planning Commission (CPC) on April 13. The text provides a framework for coordinating the location and provision of improvements to transit stations with new developments and expansions nearby that involve ground-level construction (Development) in all lower zoning districts. city ​​density except. The centerpiece of the proposal is a system-wide easement requirement that would apply to development on zoning lots of 5,000 square feet or more located within 50 feet of a transit station. These developments would be necessary to determine whether a volume of transit easement is required and, if necessary, provide an easement for that volume. The text also includes an expanded bonus program for public transit improvement and several additional ways to achieve zoning relief when volumes or transportation easement improvements are provided.

  • Required transit easement. Development on zoning lots of 5,000 square feet or more located within 50 feet of a transit station in most zoning districts would be required to obtain joint certification from the MTA and CPC chairperson indicating if a public transport easement is necessary (joint certification) before applying to the Ministry of Buildings for any excavation, foundation, new construction or modification permit. If a transit easement is required, the MTA, in consultation with the owner and the Chairman of the CPC, will determine its size and location (transit volume). A legally enforceable instrument granting an easement for the transit volume is required before the issuance of a building permit. The text provides for targeted zoning relief as of right in order to minimize potential construction and design problems caused by a required transit volume (transit-related zoning changes).
  • Optional transit easement. Developments and conversions on zoning lots of less than 5,000 square feet located within 50 feet of a transit station in most zoning districts may voluntarily offer to provide a volume of transportation easement in common. If an optional transit volume is accepted, the development or conversion is also eligible for transit-related zoning changes.
  • Expanded public transport improvement bonus program. Zoning for accessibility would broaden the scope of the public transit surface bonus program and streamline the process for obtaining a transit bonus. A new CPC (non-ULURP) authorization (ZR 66-51 proposed, public transport bonus authorization) would replace the current special metro bonus permit (ZR 74-634). The public transport premium authorization would still require the review of the community council and the president of the borough before the CPC approves the authorization. Under current zoning controls, the bonus is only available at sites adjacent to subway stations in downtown Brooklyn and high-density shopping districts in Manhattan. The text would extend the bonus to a wider range of zoning districts and to a larger geographic area within those districts. The bonus would be available for sites that provide major transit improvements located up to 500 feet (or 1,500 feet in a central business district) from the outermost extent of a station (which may include buildings that contain a volume of public transport). The transit bonus authorization would allow ground area bonuses of up to 20% of the maximum base FAR. As is the case with transit improvement bonuses today, the amount of the floor area bonus would be determined by CPC according to a standard that takes into account the degree to which the station improvements improve traffic. access for public transport customers and the environment of the station.
  • Additional discretionary approvals. Additional relief (in addition to that authorized as of right by transit-related zoning changes) of designated bulk, parking, streetscape and planting requirements is available by authorization or, if relief even more important is requested, by a special permit, together with an application for a transit premium authorization and for a compulsory or optional transit easement.

In addition to the above, the existing ZR 37-40 subway staircase relocation requirements, which apply in the special neighborhoods of Midtown, Lower Manhattan, Downtown Brooklyn, Long Island City, Union Square and East Harlem Corridors, would be eligible for zoning related to public transit. Amendments.


If accessibility zoning is adopted, 501 transit stations would be located in districts subject to mandatory and optional transit easements, and sites within the designated distances of 157 transit stations would be eligible for the public transport premium authorization. The streamlined process for floor space bonuses and zoning changes could potentially provide additional flexibility and opportunities to improve developments, but the broad scope of the proposed text and its lack of specificity raises significant concerns about its impact on the affected properties.

Even the seemingly simple threshold question of whether a lot is located within 50 feet of a transit station will likely require consultation with the MTA to determine from which part of a station the 50 feet should be. measures. Properties that are subject to the required transit easement must first obtain joint certification before applying for an excavation, foundation, new construction or modification permit, which will lengthen the pre-development process. There is no time limit to finalize a transit volume easement agreement, the signing and registration of which is a prerequisite for the issuance of any foundation, new construction or modification permit. There is also no limitation on the size of a transit volume or prototypes in the text. As proposed, the timing, process and scope of the required transit volume is unpredictable. This will add uncertainty to the valuation and, therefore, the ability to finance and price properties subject to the proposed text, and another layer of complexity to the licensing process for developments near the stations. of public transport throughout the city.

Customers and contacts are encouraged to contact Kramer Levin’s Land Use Planning Department for further information regarding this proposal.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.

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