Land Use

From: New Directions: A 197-A Plan for Manhattan Community district 11 (Revised 1999)


There are 3,823 lots in East Harlem. The predominant land use is residential. The second most common land use is vacant property. (The CIVITAS survey on the "commercial corridors," surveying half of the total lots in 1997 found 21 % of all sites without buildings). The least common land use is industrial/manufacturing.

The Community District 11 is primarily zoned residential. Commercial zones ("overlays"--mixed commercial and residential) are located along avenues and major cross streets. There are four manufacturing zones in the district.

Land Use and Zoning information is supplied herein, but the the
Manhattan Community Board #11 has decided to postpone any in
zoning proposals for a later submission under a 197-C offering.



Table I illustrates the distribution of land uses in East Harlem exclusive of streets and sidewalks. The table also reveals that 40 percent of East Harlem's land acreage is owned by the City of New York.

Land Use
Vacant Land

SOURCE: Department of City Planning Community District Needs, Manhattan p. 233 (New York: 1995).

East Harlem, like much of Harlem, is made up of many strong residential communities. Together these residential areas make up 55 % of block area in the district. Approximately 180 acres, or about one third of the total block area, consists of high-rise public housing developments built between 1941 and 1986 supplying one third of
a apartments. The other residential units are primarily four story "old-law" and six-story "new law" tenements. Many of these have been rehabilitated in the last 3 0 years. The few remaining "brownstones" on 16 to 20 foot lots represent the oldest housing stock in East Harlem, built soon after the Civil War.

Most of East Harlem is zoned R7-2 which allows for medium density apartment buildings. The floor area ratio (FAR) ranges from 0.87 to 3.44, which produces building types that range from a five-story tenement to a 14-story building set back from the street, such as the Johnson Houses on Park Avenue and 115th Street. The R7-2 zoning districts has a high open space ratio (OSR) and requires parking for one half of the new units built.

East Harlem also contains a small number of R8, R9, RIO and RIOA zoning districts. The R8 and R9 zones produce tall narrow buildings set back from the street. RI 0 is the highest residential district in New York City. Its companion, RIOA, a contextual zone, regulates lot coverage and height. The Quality Housing Program is mandatory in all contextual districts.

East Harlem also contains R-6 districts in some sections of Randall's and Ward's Islands which are the least dense zoning in Manhattan. Usually R6 buildings range between 3 and 12 stories high, Table 2 summarizes the residential districts found in East Harlem.







50% of new units





40% of new units





40% of new units



up to 700


40% of new units

SOURCE: New York City Department of City Planning Zoning Handbook (New York 19%).

The primary commercial corridors in East Harlem are located on First, Second, Third, Lexington and Madison Avenues between East 96th to East 125th Streets; and East 116th and 125th Streets between Second Avenue to Fifth Avenue.
(Click here to see color Land Use Map - 579K)

The secondary commercial corridors are located on the north side of East 96th Street between First to Park Avenue; East 103rd Street between Third to Park Avenues; East 106th Street between First to Madison Avenues and East 110th Street between First to Madison Avenues.

East Harlem has several commercial zoning districts and overlays. The zones comprise of C 1 -9, C4- C8-3 and C8-4. The overlays comprise of Cl-I through C1-5, C2-1 through C2-5. The CI-9 category allows local retail and services on the ground floor. The C8-3 zones (FAR 2.0), typically used as automotive service facilities and showrooms which require substantial parking.

The C8-4 district (FAR 5.0), which allows warehouses, is located along the eastern side of Park Avenue between East 106th and East 110th Streets. Housing is not, permitted in C8 districts.

The C4-4 district is mapped across 125th Street and along Third Avenue. C44 permits regional commercial centers such as department stores, theaters and entertainment facilities. Residential and community facilities are permitted in C4-4 zones, while service and repair shops are prohibited. The maximum FAR is 3.4.

The C I - I through C 1-5 commercial overlays typically include local services such as grocery stores, dry cleaning establishments, restaurants and barber shops. The C2-1 through C2-5 commercial overlays, which he parts of I 10th Street, permit uses that serve more than one neighborhood. These uses include funeral homes, trade schools and small lumber yards. Parking is not required since the Zoning Resolution states that these commercial uses do not generate a significant amount of automobile traffic. The maximum FAR for these districts is 2.0.

Industrial uses make up the smallest percentage of land use in East Harlem, with only 4.3 % of the land. The major industrial uses are concentrated in main areas: Park Avenue industrial corridor (East 119th to 124th Streets) and the East Harlem Triangle (above East 127th Street). Scattered outside the fight manufacturing industries are a number of auto-related services such as repair, tire and auto body shops which serve a significant role in keeping the East Side of Manhattan rolling. (Click here to see Zoning Map - 244K)

There are a few fight, medium and heavy manufacturing districts exist in East Harlem. A small light manufacturing M1-2 district (FAR 2.0) extends along upper Park Avenue and 126th Street. Another block of manufacturing uses is located south of Jefferson Park, a loft building the neighbors still call "the Con Ed building". --because it was a local drop for paying the electric bills.. It is now a warehouse building serving many downtown companies.

Almost all industrial uses can be located in MI areas if they meet certain performance standards. Retail and office uses are also permitted, as are some community facilities by special permit. The MI 2 and M 1-4 districts differ in parking requirements.

An M2-2 district was mapped along the Harlem River between East 116th and East 119th Streets for steel wire manufacturing of a former time. Now called the East River Plaza, an application has been filed to amend that designation.

East Harlem has two types of heavy manufacturing districts: M3-1 and M3-2. These districts were designed for industries that generate noise, traffic and pollutants. They are usually near the waterfront and are buffered from residential areas.

The portion of Randall's and Wards Island that contains the water pollution treatment plant is mapped M3-1. Two sites (East 110th Street and First Avenue and East 127th Street and Second Avenue) are mapped M32. The FAR for M3-1 and M3-2 districts is 2.0. The only difference between the two districts is the parking requirements.

Light manufacturing may offer employment and business growth in the community. The Federal Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, the NY State Economic Development Zone, a Park Avenue industrial and manufacturing corridor and the western boundaries of the East Harlem Triangle all serve as incentives for future fight manufacturing establishments to move into East Harlem. Two areas require special attention: Park Avenue between 119th and 122nd Street and the East Harlem Triangle. The land along Park Avenue (which is adjacent to the Metro North Viaduct) is zoned R7- Federal regulations prohibit land 100 feet from the Metro North to be developed for subsidized housing.

Community facilities, such as hospitals, museums and schools, occupy a portion of 7.5 % of "other category" (see Table 1). The major East Harlem institutions are the hospitals: Mount Sinai on Fifth Avenue, Metropolitan Hospital on Second Avenue and North General Hospital on Madison Avenue. The Manhattan Psychiatric Center located on Ward's Island, is also within district boundaries.

Museums and other cultural institutions such as El Museo del Barrio, the Museum of the City of New York and the Puerto Rican Workshop, are also important institutional presence in the community district. Institutional uses, or community facilities, are allowed in all zoning districts except C7, C8, M2 , M3.4

East Harlem has over 100 religious institutions; channeling faith-based energy into hundreds of positive enterprises. Some provide accessory school programs. In addition, there are many nonprofit civic and multi service organizations with facilities for youth, seniors and alcohol and substance abusers. East Harlem has two police precincts, the 23rd and the 25th, and five active firehouses.

The major parks are Randall's and Ward's Islands with approximately 400 acres of parkland, Marcus Garvey with 20.2 acres and Thomas Jefferson with 15.5 acres.

Although the district has more than 435 acres of parkland to East Harlem residents this number is deceiving because there is limited access to East Harlem's parks especially to Randall's and Ward's Islands. In addition, the island is home to a number of uses that are not compatible with recreational open space uses such as the large sewage treatment plant, sanitation facilities and social service facilities. The programming of ball fields are highly contested by schools and organizations inside and outside the community district. Randall's and Ward's Islands are discussed in more detail in Chapter VIII: Waterfront.

Use Group 3A is allowed in NU and M3 under certain conditions.

Through the casitas (Spanish for little houses), community gardens and murals, East Harlem residents have shaped and identified their neighborhoods by creating new meeting places and recreational spaces. The wooden casitas, surrounded by lush gardens, remind many of the character of rural Puerto Rico. Sewing classes and fiestas sometimes occur in the casitas, representing the ingenuity of East Harlem residents in creating spaces to serve special needs of their community.

This creative impulse is not limited to the Latino residents of East Harlem. Community gardens and murals give the area local flavor. They express Latino, African-American, Italian and Irish cultures. Community Board # 11 gave hearty support to the erection of a statue honoring Edward "Duke" Ellington at Fifth Avenue and East 110th Street. These artistic expressions provide a way for the community to celebrate its struggles and collectively influence and experience their culture.

According to the 1990 US Census population count there are 42,629 children under the age of 18 years. Presently this large population does not have access to good parks and open space. The quality of the well spaced parks has declined since the removal of park attendant personnel, forcing the City to spend more on rehabilitation than would have been spent on employing the recreation leaders and summer workers in the parks. Many of the parks and playgrounds have been "rehabilitated" over and over again. Parks and playgrounds above 125th Street need upgrading and attendants.

East Harlem has three Special Purpose districts: the Special Transit Land Use District, the Special Park Improvement District and the Special Madison Avenue Preservation District.

To accommodate a future Second Avenue subway which was proposed in 1951, the Special Transit Land Use District was mapped along Second Avenue from East 105th to East 110th Streets and 120th to 126th Streets. Any new development in this district must provide easements for subway related use and public access. Although the fiscal crisis of New York City halted construction in 1976, the regulations for easements, curb cuts, uses, parking and planting remain in effect.

The Special Park Improvement District is bound by Park Avenue to Fifth Avenue and from East 96th Street to East 111th Street. This district was created to preserve the character and quality of Fifth and Park Avenues. It mandates building height and street wall continuity.

The Special Madison Avenue Preservation District is mapped along Madison Avenue and extends to the north side of East 96th Street. It regulates height, facades and a continuous retail frontage that characterizes Madison Avenue.

The 1961 Zoning Resolution emphasized a building type that produced tall slender buildings surrounded by large open spaces. These new developments were not consistent with the scale and character of the older neighborhoods. The City amended the Zoning Resolution in 1984 and 1987 to establish contextual districts in medium and high density residential areas.

These districts mandate street wall heights, lot coverage and density requirements, which produce lower, bulkier buildings that maintain the scale and street space of the existing neighborhoods.

East Harlem contains only one contextual district, RI OA, found along only a few blocks on the north side of East 96th Street.

The charter-mandated public review process is critical to the development of East Harlem. Early notification to the community and all elected officials is crucial to the public participatory process.

At present, only the Community Board, the members of the City Council, and the Borough President are notified about pending ULURP applications. Excluded from that the early notification are the U.S. Representatives, US Senators, New York State Senators and Assembly persons, and residents.

More importantly, neighbors most affected by a pending action are not notified, especially when it involves an action on vacant property. Many community residents near vacant property are unaware that it may be up for auction or it may be developed. Few residents read publications like the City Record. Unless the City requires City agencies or private, public and non-profit developers to post signs on a property that fists a pending ULURP action, telling when and where hearings and decisions will be made, the affected community will not be informed and people who want to purchase the property for local reasons are completely out of the action.


1. The City should consider developing parks and other open spaces as close to

youth oriented institutions as possible such as, schools, day care centers, housing developments and youth community centers.

2. The City should develop a comprehensive and capital strategy to redesign

City parks and land under the jurisdiction of the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation north of East 125th Street.

3. As the City redesigns playgrounds and parks, it should provide adequate

street lighting and sidewalk repair around the park It should seek local agencies and institutions to adopt a park. Possible redesigns could include softball and baseball recreational use, and adequate lighting at night.

4. The City should redesign Mt. Morris/Marcus Garvey Park, Madison Avenue and East

122nd Street, to increasing public safety in the park and to encourage wider public use.. North General Hospital should be asked to adopt this park and be involved with future redesigns.

5. The City should install public toilet facilities at safe and convenient locations throughout East Harlem, including in the parks. These could be commercially (coin) operated, and the management contracts leased out to community residents.

6. The City should re-institute the Park Attendant program to make the parks attractive for all ages, to teach creative sports, and to protect the public investment in the Parks.


1. The Department of City Planning must notify all affected and nearby agencies, businesses, community-based organizations, institution's and related parties.

2. The City should expand the notification of ULURP hearings and actions to the locally elected members of NY State Senate, the State Assembly and US Congress.

3. The City should require a project sponsor to post a printed announcement, readable from at least 15 feet, on the site of a pending ULURP action.

4. If a public hearing is required for a proposed development or if a property is being placed in Public Auction, the date of such hearing or auction must be posted on the site at least two weeks prior. The sign should be readable from at least 15'.

Other Sections of the 197-A Plan

History of East Harlem
Demographic and Socio-Economic Profile
Land Use and Zoning
City-Owned Vacant Property
Housing and Urban Renewal
Economic Development
The Waterfront
Tranportation and Infrastructure
Institutional and Historical Resources
Non-Profits At Work In East Harlem
For Profits At Work In East Harlem

Maps (all pertain to Community Board # 11)
The maps are in Gif format. File sizes are big, but you can better see the details in the maps.

Community Board District # 11 (162K)
Population of Race and Ethnicity by Census Track (679K
Land Use (Color 579K)
Zoning Map (244K)
Major Housing Developments (329K)
Urban Renewal Areas (328K)
Empowerment Zone (630K)
Economic Developement (628K)
Public Transportation (672K)
Historic District and Landmarks (610K)
Crossroads (589K)


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