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Shark Bites: Views to a Kill, Part II

[Apropos of nothing, it's a special Thursday bonus installment of Shark Bites. As on Tuesdays, our friends from PropertyShark drop by to offer analysis from their trove of NYC maps. N.B. this is a follow-up to a previous installment concerning views—and the potential loss thereof. Caveat, caveat.]

Last weekend I went out shopping for an loft apartment in the East Village and ran across two tragic examples of beautiful, sun-filled lofts that will almost certainly lose their views and become dark caves staring directly into the backside of another building. The apartments were both lofts in the rear of 718 Broadway (units 6B and 8B, see arrow #1 for approximate position). They both overlooked a parking lot (arrow #2), giving them wide open sunny eastern exposures.

On the elevator on the way up someone mentioned that the views would never be blocked because "they could only build five stories in the parking lot." With the units being on the sixth and eighth floors, the implication was that the view would never be blocked. I asked the broker about this:

Me: I heard someone say that they can't build more than five stories on the parking lot. Why is that?
Broker: It's in the zoning.
Me: What zoning rule limits them to five stories?
Broker: It's an F-A-R of 5.
Me: And that means they can't build more than five stories?
Broker: Yes, I've talked to lawyers and architects about it many times.

First off, let me point out that there is nothing in the standard legal or architectural curriculum that trains or qualifies one to read the New York City zoning code. It's written in plain English and a patient person will be able to locate and read the relevant parts in a few hours. (It's available online.)

FAR, or Floor Area Ratio, is merely a limit on the square footage that can be built and is unrelated to height limits. To determine the height limit I first look on PropertyShark and see that the parking lot is zoned M1-5B (manufacturing). Then I look in Article IV of the zoning code, "Manufacturing District Regulations" under the section titled "Height and Setback Regulations" (see, plain English!). I find a simple chart (helpfully titled "Maximum Height of Front Wall and Required Front Setbacks") that sets out the limits: a setback of 15' to 20' from the curb (depending on the width of the street), a front facade soaring to 85 feet, and then a setback of 1 foot for each additional 2.7 or 5.6 feet of height (again depending on street width). In other words, it can be much higher than six or eight stories.
· PropertyShark Maps [PropertyShark]
· Shark Bites: View to a Kill [Curbed]