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11 cool things you can learn using NYC's interactive zoning maps

There's a lot of info and data in there! 

NYC Planning

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2019
BRICK UNDERGROUND’S
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City planning wonks, rejoice! The NYC Department of City Planning just made its 1,570-page Zoning Resolution available online. The hefty document, which was first adopted in 1916 (and has continually evolved) regulates and establishes limits on "the use of land and building size, shape, height, and setback."

Prior to its posting online, the resolution could only be viewed as a static PDF. (You could also purchased a hard copy for $750.) The new online interface features a search function, and is part of the the city's ongoing efforts in sustainable practices and transparency. 

For the zoning-obsessed, it's exciting: Users can easily lookup the specifics of different regulations, view recent changes in zoning, and even subscribe to get updates from the department as zoning changes are made. For those not so interested in zoning specifics, there's the city's online resource "ZoLa," or Zoning and Land Use Map, which is an interactive tool that incorporates zoning laws. With these, the city says, you can find out the zoning for your property, learn about new proposals for your neighborhood as well as City Planning initiatives.

But that description is selling ZoLa's abilities short. Brick Underground spent some time exploring the municipal portal and came up with this list of what you can find out using the city's online zoning and land use map. 

The nitty gritty

Punch in an address and you get a ton of information about a building: the owner, when it was built, the square footage, what it is zoned for (residential, mixed-used, etc.) and even a date-stamped photo. Plus: the community district, council district, school district, police precinct, fire company, and sanitation borough, district, and subsection. You can even look at old zoning maps to see if and how things have changed. 

ZoLa features lots of "filters" you can select or deselect from a menu on the far left margin of the site. Below, some nifty options:

Historical districts

Looking at a place that a real estate listing says is located in an historic district? Now you can check it. 

Boundaries

See the outline of your neighborhood, your New York Senate District, and your New York Assembly District. 

Pending zoning map amendments

Find out if an area is up for rezoning. 

Flood insurance rate maps

For both 2007, and redrawn ones (yet to be approved) "pending" from 2015

Commercial, manufacturing, or residential?

See how an area of the city is zoned.

Limited Heights Districts

See where a 100-story building probably won't be able to be built. 

Sidewalk cafe quotient

Absolutely need to dine al fresco? Find out where sidewalk cafes are permitted, as well as what kind. 

Landmarks

Individual landmarks, interior landmarks, and scenic landmarks. 

3D view

We had trouble with this one, but you can manipulate the map and see buildings in 3D.

Aerial view

Not only can you see overhead photos of the city, but you can also see them from different years, including 1951 and 1924.

Look out for other DCP tools

In an effort to make it easier for New Yorkers to prepare the documents needed for public review of zoning changes, The Department of City Planning has also released a new digital land use mapping tool. The city agency claims this new free digitized system will level the playing field, allowing people to more easily prepare these maps which in the past relied on specialized skills and software.

Applicants will still need to prepare the rest of their application and conduct any required environmental review. Comprehensive environmental impact statements are extensive and can run to thousands of pages and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.