New York – Land Use and Zoning

Our New York land use and zoning attorneys develop and implement legal strategies to take some of the most ambitious development and infrastructure projects in the region from the conceptual stage through application and ultimate approval. Our team also conducts zoning due diligence prior to major acquisitions and negotiates the documents necessary to transfer development rights.

Experienced in the legislative, administrative, environmental, and regulatory aspects of complex local zoning laws, landmarks, and other land use issues, our practice is both regulatory and transactional.

We represent clients before local, state, and federal regulatory authorities in connection with special permits, zoning variances, authorizations, certifications, and other approvals and permits. We counsel clients on zoning and planning, landmarks and historic preservation, coastal zones and other special protection areas, environmental reviews, variances and special permits, the City's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) and community board public review requirements, and other issues. We advise on substantive issues and procedural questions relating to possible challenges by project opponents, including maintaining the administrative record, advising on potential land use litigation risks, and responding to and negotiating with elected officials, civic organizations, and project opponents throughout the process.

We conduct zoning due diligence for clients contemplating the purchase of or investment in a property. We also negotiate the transfer and use of development rights (so-called air rights transactions), government lease and license transactions, easements, restrictive declarations, and community benefit agreements.

Master Planning and Due Diligence

Our land use attorneys have assisted clients with master planning; approvals for capital projects ranging from historic façade restoration to complex new buildings; projects on City- and State-owned land, including parkland, streets, and land under water; revocable consents; tax lot reapportionments; and zoning and permitting issues and appeals. We also provide guidance on community and government relations and defend project approvals in administrative and court challenges.

Administrative Proceedings and Approvals

We help clients obtain approvals from, among other entities, the City Planning Commission, including, pursuant to the City's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA), City Department of Parks and Recreation, Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), Public Design Commission (PDC), Department of Transportation (DOT), and Department of Buildings (DOB), as well as State agencies, public authorities, and the State Office of Historic Preservation.


Our land use team consults with architects, surveyors, and appraisers to determine the development rights available for transfer or purchase. We negotiate Zoning Lot Development Agreements (ZLDAs) and associated easements, review compliance with the Zoning Resolution, and negotiate and obtain required consents from lenders and other parties-in-interest to complete the transfer.

Article 78 and Land Use Litigation / Arbitration

Working with Venable litigators, our land use team defends against challenges to land use approvals and advises on litigation or arbitration over zoning and land use matters. Our attorneys defeated a motion for preliminary injunction, later upheld on appeal, and obtained dismissal of an Article 78 proceeding challenging the New York State Housing Finance Agency's issuance of a "negative declaration" in an environmental review under the State's environmental quality review act (SEQRA). Petitioners sought to enjoin HFA's financing of, and the developer's construction of, a $70 million mixed-income residential development project in Brooklyn, New York.


Representative Matters

  • Represent Mount Sinai Health System in connection with campus master planning and zoning approvals for hospital, medical school, and life sciences research facilities; zoning analyses; environmental review; obtaining zoning variances, special permits, and revocable consents; tax lot reapportionments; and a subway station easement. Projects have included a new 160,000 square foot hospital, the approximately 175,000 square foot expansion of a hospital in Queens, and an 800,000 square foot mixed-use facility with life sciences research labs, clinical care space, and a residential tower, among others
  • Represent a major energy company in zoning due diligence and site selection for a utility substation, including advising on local, state, and federal environmental permits
  • Represented an affordable housing corporation in the negotiation of a light and air easement and transfer of development rights from an affordable housing site, subject to a regulatory agreement and requiring consent by national and state housing authorities
  • Represent the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation in the reconstruction of the World Trade Center site and other projects in Lower Manhattan funded by federal grants. Venable has provided advice on the State Urban Development Corporation Act and Public Authorities Law and the requirements for the planning and implementation of the World Trade Center Memorial and Redevelopment Plan, including land use review, environmental review, appraisals, and public hearings
  • Represented the United States Tennis Association in connection with a major renovation and expansion of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, including the rebuilding of Louis Armstrong Stadium and the Grandstand, and a roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium. This project required a City Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), a CEQR environmental impact statement, State legislative alienation of parkland, and renegotiation of a long-term lease with New York City
  • Represent Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation in the proposed rezoning and redevelopment of Restoration Plaza, the cultural and commercial "tower center" of Central Brooklyn. Currently in the early stages of the approvals process, this project involves extension of the lease for State-owned portions of the Plaza, ULURP and environmental review, and government funding
  • Represented the American Fine Arts Society (the parent organization of the Art Students League of New York) in a major sale of transferable development rights, involving a zoning lot development agreement and cantilever transaction, with substantive protections for the League's midtown Manhattan building – a New York City landmark
  • Represented a Brooklyn church in the appeal of a Department of Buildings zoning determination required for conversion of a former residence for nuns to multifamily housing use
  • Represented the Brooklyn Academy of Music in connection with the renovation and expansion of the BAM Harvey Theater, including zoning analysis, a City license amendment, and City funding
  • Represented a major property owner affected by the reconstruction/replacement of a highway. Venable's services included preparation of written comments responding to the draft environmental impact statement relating to substantive and procedural compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and State Environmental Quality Review (SEQRA), including coordination of comments from economic specialists and environmental engineers
  • Represented Ørsted Wind Power North America in connection with approvals required to install a power transmission line across New York State-owned property
  • Represented a private K-12 school in connection with a New York City Planning waterfront certification and Public Design Commission approval
  • Represented the Brooklyn Public Library in an Article 78 petition, upheld on appeal, involving a challenge to the environmental review and project approvals for the sale and redevelopment of the Library's Brooklyn Heights branch. After an expedited exchange of papers and a two-day trial in arbitration, Venable won a dispute involving the interpretation of a zoning lot development agreement (ZLDA) affecting proposed new development on a shared zoning lot
  • Represented the American Museum of Natural History and Planetarium Authority (a State agency) in the renovation and redevelopment of the Museum complex, from the development of the Rose Center for Earth and Space in 2000 to the current development of the Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation, including successful outcomes in the litigation of project approvals for both projects. We have guided the museum, a designated landmark, through City and State environmental and historic preservation reviews, NYC Parks review of construction on City property, and negotiations with community stakeholders on traffic flow, parking, and other community concerns