Accidental Skyline : Air Rights

Initiative: Accidental Skyline

The map below shows where new development could occur, click on any property to learn how many unused development rights might be available.

Disclaimer: The information presented in these maps are based on datasets provided by NYC Department of City Planning and are intended to be used for general planning purposes only. The Municipal Art Society of New York makes no guarantee about the accuracy of City data. For more information read the full methodology and disclaimers on page 50 of our Accidental Skyline report.

Density and Growth

This map reveals 3.7 billion square feet of unused development rights citywide, air rights equivalent to the built area of more than 1,300 Empire State Buildings! There is 1.8 billion square feet of unused development rights in residential zones alone. Built to their maximum envelope, these properties could accommodate more than a million units of housing. Although some of these developments rights might be “landlocked” or unsuitable for redevelopment, the numbers still show that the city has ample room to grow under the current zoning.

How Transferrable Air Rights Work

Transferable development rights, TDRs or air rights, allow for the transfer of unused development rights to another development site. The transfer of these air rights allows buildings to become taller and bigger than the city zoning code allows.

These maps concern the primary way transferring unused development rights in New York City: zoning lot mergers. Adjacent lots in the city can be assembled and treated as a single zoning lot, or “merged” into one lot to allow development rights to transfer from one site to another. Development on the site is then allowed “as-of-right,” meaning it does not require public or environmental review.

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