Citywide Air Rights Map Update
Informs the Debate about Lifting New York City's Residential FAR Cap
MAS has released an updated version of its Available Air Rights Map, which shows the maximum development potential for any property in New York City as of April 2023. The release of this map comes on the heels of the latest debate about lifting New York City’s decades-old residential density cap (FAR cap), which limits the density of new housing construction in the city.
Air rights, or development rights, generally refer to the maximum amount of floor area permissible on a zoning lot. When the actual built floor area is less than the maximum permitted floor area, the difference is referred to as “unused development rights.” Unused development rights are often described as air rights.
The map reveals that there are 3.8 billion square feet of unused development rights citywide, air rights equivalent to the built area of more than 1,300 Empire State Buildings. Approximately 1.9 billion square feet of unused development rights currently exist in zoning districts that are primarily residential. Although some of these development rights might be unsuitable for redevelopment, the numbers show that the city has room to grow under current zoning.
In addition to better understanding the debate around the FAR cap removal, this map is a useful tool for community members, elected officials, and any user who wants to better understand development potential in their neighborhood.
First created as part of MAS’s Accidental Skyline initiative, the map incorporates the City’s latest MapPLUTO data from 2023 (22v3.1). Available floor area calculations were completed by tax lot using lot and floor area also included in MapPLUTO and by using New York City’s Zoning Resolution. Maximum FAR includes the maximum bonused FAR for commercial, manufacturing, or residential uses that can be obtained as-of-right and without certification. Community Facility FAR was not used. Split tax lots used the FAR generated by the zoning district that had the largest area on the lot. Finally, this map is based on tax lots, whereas development in New York City is based on zoning lots. However, the City of New York does not maintain a database of zoning lots. Consequently, in areas where zoning lot mergers have occurred, the map may overstate the amount of available floor area.