Small Zoning Lots in NYC

by | Last updated Jun 4, 2020 | Published on Dec 6, 2017 | NYC Zoning

Small Zoning Lots in NYC are residential zoning lots where the area of the lot is less then the minimum required by code or where the width of the property is less then that required by code. If a residential property is a small zoning lot any new development will be restricted to a maximum of 1 or 2 families. A Multi family building will not be allowed as of right on a small zoning lot in New York City.


Small Zoning Lots

Small zoning lots are only an issue for residential developments. If you have a commercial overlay or you are developing a mixed use building, the commercial development can proceed as it normally would. The residential portion can have one or two families as of right. The number of families will be determined by one of two issues. First whether or not the zoning district allows two families and second the Density Factor.

Small Lots in Single Family Zoning Districts

Some Zoning districts only allow single family homes. If that is the case then obviously you can only build a single family home provided you qualify on the Density Factor. The minimum lot size to build a house will be the area that would result with a density factor of 1. this will vary depending on your zoning district.

Small Lots in Two Family or Multifamily Zoning Districts

If you are in a zoning district that allows two families or multi family buildings then you can build up to two families on a small zoning lot, as of right. Multi family will not be allowed without a variance in a multi family Residential Zoning District. Variances are special authorization to develop a property in a manner that is not as of right. A variance is not easy to get.

Density Factor Calculations

Density Factor is a zoning formula that determines how many residential units you can develop on a property.


Small Zoning Lots

Zoning DistrictDescriptionMinimum Lot AreaMinimum Lot Width
R1-1Single Family Detached Only9,500 square feet100 Feet
R1-2Single Family Detached Only5,700 square feet60 feet
R2Single Family Detached Only3,800 square feet40 feet
R2ASingle Family Detached Only3,800 square feet40 feet
R2XSingle Family Detached Only2,850 square feet30 feet
R3-1Single or Two family detached or Zero Lot Line3,800 square feet40 feet
R3-2Single or Two family detached or Zero Lot Line3,800 square feet40 feet
R3ASingle or Two family detached or Zero Lot Line2,375 square feet25 feet
R3XSingle or Two family detached or Zero Lot Line3,325 square feet35 feet
R4-1Single or Two family detached or Zero Lot Line2,375 square feet25 feet
R4BSingle or Two family detached or Zero Lot Line2,375 square feet25 feet
R5BSingle or Two family detached or Zero Lot Line2,375 square feet25 feet
R5DSingle or Two family detached or Zero Lot Line2,375 square feet25 feet
R4 through R10Single or Two family detached or Zero Lot Line only3,800 square feet40 feet
R3-R10All Other Conditions1,700 square feet18 feet
Small Zoning Lots in NYC lot width and lot area


Small Lots In Lower Density Growth Management Areas

Zoning DistrictDescriptionMinimum Lot AreaMinimum Lot Width
detached and two-family zero lot line residences
3,135 Square feet33 feet
detached and two-family zero lot line residences
3,135 Square feet33 feet
detached and two-family zero lot line residences
3,135 Square feet33 feet
R3-1two family semi detached residences3,135 Square feet33 feet
R3-2two family semi detached residences3,135 Square feet33 feet
R4-1two family semi detached residences3,135 Square feet33 feet
Small Lots In Lower Density Growth Management Areas, Lot Width and Lot Area Chart


How to Develop a Small Zoning Lot in NYC

  • Build 1 or 2 Families
  • Merge Zoning Lots
  • Enlarge The Lot
  • Get A Variance
  • Develop Mixed Use or Non Residential


Build 1 or 2 Family Homes on a Small Zoning Lot

When developing your small zoning lot the easiest thing to do is to build a 1 or 2 family home. We did a project where the client had a small zoning lot in R6 Zoning. We designed a townhouse 4 stories with 2 duplex units. It was a 2 family 4 story house. The first 2 stories were one family and the top 2 stories were another family. You can learn more about the project if you are looking to build a townhouse in NYC.


Merge Zoning Lots

You can make an air rights deal with your neighbors and merge the zoning lots. This could bring you over the minimum requirements even though your property doesn’t physically change. This is done through a zoning lot merger. If the neighbor has a small zoning lot it could benefit them too.


Enlarge The Lot

You can purchase your neighbors lot or a portion of their property enough to bring you over the limit. You need to make sure you do not leave their lot with less then the minimum required.


Get a Variance

Getting an NYC Zoning variance is complicated but it is possible. This is a very time consuming process to receive special approvals to build something that is not “as of right.” Nobody can guarantee you that the variance will actually be approved.


Develop Mixed Use or Non residential

If you have a commercial overlay you may consider building a commercial space or a mixed use building with 1 or 2 family residential and commercial below. Also you can do a community facility or mixed use community facility with 1 or 2 family residential.


Thank You for reading our post on Small Zoning Lots in NYC.

If you have questions or comments please feel free to leave them below. If you would like to speak with an architect please feel free to contact us directly. We are happy to hear about your upcoming projects.


Contact Fontan Architecture


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 15 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.

  • Barbara U says:

    I own a vacant lot in Staten Island that is 25’x100′. Next to it is a city owned corner lot same size. There is a 30′ red line (proposed street widening since 1943) which goes 5′ into the 25′ of my property, on the map which would technically makes my lot the corner. I’ve heard you may build on 20′ wide on a corner lot. Zoning is R3A. Is that correct?
    Thank you

  • Michelle says:

    If a lot is only 20×100 can it be zoned R3x? What kind of home plan could you put on a lot that narrow? Do you create plans for lots that narrow?

  • Linda Rizzotto says:

    Hi Jorge, I have been trying to find answers to my questions vis a vis researching websites for the NYC Finance Department, NYC Department of Buildings and reading through some NYC Zoning Resolutions. I believe my property which is three tax lots on one deed, in Gerritsen Beach Brooklyn, NY falls under ZR 23-33 and is located in an R4 zone. Reading your articles and responses to others has been quite helpful in that you very clearly state the the points you make. And I very clearly see now that I need help in knowing where to start to get specific answers to my questions. I have two undersized interior vacant lots each 40 x 45 which are on a street back to back to the undersized interior double lot 40x 90 that my home sits on. I would love to sell all the property to one buyer. But so far potential buyers are either interested in buying the double lot with the house or buying the two vacant lots. I was informed by the NYC Tax Map Unit that the 3 lots are already apportioned. So I guess I can do a deed transfer if I decide to split the sale. But I don’t know if each vacant lot can stand on its own and be built on and whether the house encroaches on one of the vacant lots and if the house can stand alone on it’s own double lot. What’s the best way to get answers my questions and cost. And Is a boundary survey a good place to start? Help if you can! Oh and how do I know if I meet the rules outlined in ZR 23-33 Thanks Linda

  • Jason Xu says:

    Hi Jorge,

    R4A lot in Queens, with lot size of 25×100. Would it be possible to build a two family house?

  • Gerry Dantone says:

    We are selling Vacant Land in Long Island City near the Courthouse and we want to be sure that the property is NOT a small zoning lot. The Oasis NYC web site says the FAR for residential is 10 and for commercial it’s 15. The property is 25’x90′. My understanding may be incorrect but a small lot would be 18′ wide or smaller and 1700sf or smaller. Is that correct?:
    Property Characteristics:
    Lot Area: 2,250 sq ft (25′ x 90′)
    Primary zoning: C5-3 Commercial Overlay: None
    Max. Allowable Residential FAR: 10
    Max. Allowable Commercial FAR: 15
    Max. Allowable Facility FAR: 15

  • George Papataros says:

    Hi Jorge , we have a 7575 sq ft property in Whitestone in an R2a zoning area .
    We’re looking to sell the property ,we’re 25 Sq Ft short of creating two properties.
    Is there any solution to this ,possibly a variance?

  • Linda says:

    Hello, Very helpful and interesting website.

    I could not find this case so I ask here. What about a split zone. The building front is around halfway in R6 and the rear is C2-6. Can a commercial establishment operate in the C2-6 footprint with entrance to the establishment only through the R6 side?

    Could it be grandfathered in or a BSA ruling allow it?

    Thank you for any leads.

  • John says:

    In a two family townhouse do both units not need access to the Open Space (Rear Yard)? I am having trouble verifying this when the zoning code…

  • Maria says:

    Hi Jorge,
    I have a corner house in R2a zone in queens with detached garage. I am looking to add a rear or vertical extension but getting different options from architects, some say only 6×10 rear extension is allowed, some say 25×20 is allowed. Some say full 2nd story is ok while other say 2nd story can be built only on half of the structure. Any advise or options?

  • Kevin Ruan says:

    Would wood beam work? a steel beam and concrete decking house seems expensive for 1 family townhouse in brooklyn

    • Kevin,
      If you want to discuss your project contact my office 212 321 0194. I am not giving professional advice in the comments section of my blog. This is meant for simple general questions. If you want professional consultation contact my office directly.

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