R6B Zoning NYC

R6B Zoning NYC

(Last Updated On: January 21, 2018)

R6 is one of the most common residential zoning districts in New York City. It is in fact the only residential district found in all 5 boroughs. This article will focus on a case study in an R6B zoning district which is a subcategory of R6. To see an analysis of a regular R6 project please look at another post we wrote on R6 Zoning.

R6B is mostly found in Brooklyn in neighborhoods like Gowanus, Bed Stuy, and Park Slope. R6B is a contextual zoning district this means that the goal is to “maintain the character of the neighborhood.” These districts are a bit more limited than the regular R6 district. R6B would most commonly have townhouses / brownstones but you can build small multifamily residential buildings of up to 4 or 5 stories.

R6B Zoning

Lets look at a specific zoning case study for a project in Gowanus, Brooklyn. This case study is for a multi family apartment building. We will be looking to determine how many square feet the final building can be and how many apartments we can put in the building as per the zoning regulations. There is a great deal of nuance in zoning we are only looking at a few major points here.

R6B Zoning NYC Analysis Case Study

The first thing we want to do is determine the allowable floor area. This requires us to know the FAR or Floor Area Ratio. FAR is a proportion between the property size and the allowable building square footage as per zoning. In R6B Zoning the FAR is 2. If you do inclusionary housing it is 2.2. Inclusionary housing means you reserve a percentage of your apartments for affordable housing. On this project the client was not interested in having affordable units. Lets review the math.

R6B Zoning Lot Example

The Zoning Lot is 85′ x 100′ and located on the Corner.

Zoning Lot Area = 85 x 100

Zoning Lot Area = 8,500 square feet

FAR = 2

Allowable Zoning Square Footage = Zoning Lot Area X FAR

Allowable Zoning Floor Area = 8,500 x 2

Allowable Zoning Floor Area = 17,000 square feet


We can develop this property with a building that can have what we call 17,000 zoning square feet. this means the actual building will be a little larger than 17,000 square feet. There are certain things you can deduct from the zoning square footage, we won’t go into those deductions in this article but realize buildings are often a little larger than the allowable zoning square footage. A cellar is one example of something that does not count for zoning square footage. A cellar cannot have any apartments in it.

The next thing we are going to want to do is determine how many apartments are allowed on this property. That is simple enough. All zoning districts have a density factor. This is a formula to determine the number of units.

R6B has a density factor of 680 which means you can have 1 apartment of every 680 square feet of residential zoning floor area.

Number Of Dwelling Units = Zoning Floor Area  / Dwelling Unit Factor

Number Of Dwelling Units = 17,000 square feet / 680

Number Of Dwelling Units = 25

You can have 25 apartments in this building, of course you can have less if you like but 25 would be the maximum.

R6B Building Design

A building in an R6B zone cannot be taller than 50 feet. This does not count the elevator and stair bulkhead or roof parapet / handrails. We also are required in the front of the building to have a 15′ setback at a height between 30 and 40 feet. This means the front wall of the building will be a minimum of 30 feet high and a maximum of 40 feet high. Setbacks are very common in New York and we like to see them as opportunities. We took advantage and actually designed this scheme with multiple setbacks in the front and back in order to allow the apartments to have terraces. This is one of many options.

R6B Building Envelope

R6B zoning massing study

 R6B Building Conceptual Design


R6B and the Quality Housing Program

In R6B the Quality Housing Program is required. Do not confuse the quality housing program with the inclusionary housing program they are two completely different things. The quality housing program is optional in certain districts and mandatory in others. It is a separate set of rules that govern the size, shape, and quality of the building. It offers several zoning deductions in exchange for amenities provided to the apartments.


I hope this was helpful. Please feel free to post questions or comments below. If you want to discuss a specific project with an architect please feel free to Contact Fontan Architecture. We will be happy to help.

Author Jorge Fontan AIA

This post was written by Jorge Fontan, a Registered Architect and owner of Fontan Architecture.


  • Clint Okayama

    February 21, 2018 3:33 pm

    Thank you for this clear, stylish guide on zoning.

    I have one question: do zoning laws require a minimum amount of square footage per unit, and if so, how can I calculate that?

    For an example, using the restrictions listed above, would it be legal for me to build a number of very small units around a larger common area?

    Or even separate “pods”?

    Thanks again,

  • ken

    April 17, 2018 8:03 pm

    isn’t there a minimum base height? are you allowed to have setback before reaching the minimum base height??? from your design, you have multiple setbacks before reaching 40 ft.

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