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How to Use ZoLa: NYC’s Zoning and Land Use Interactive Map

There are many rules and regulations in NYC, and finding out the rules for specific zones can be hard to know. Lucky for New Yorkers, the Zoning and Land Use Interactive Map can answer many of your questions. But how does the map work? What questions can the map answer? How can you use this information for your benefit? We here at CitySignal have the answers to all those questions so you can use this amazing tool to the best of your ability. 

What Questions Does the ZoLa Map Answer?

The name speaks for itself in this situation. The Zoning and Land Use Interactive Map gives you information about your zoning district and what landowners are allowed to do in said district. Most people use this map to understand regulations for their zoning district, research new zoning and city planning initiatives, and find their zoning district. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg regarding the info this map can provide. 

When it comes to full districts, you can find out what kind of district you live in, be it commercial, residential, manufacturing, or special purpose district. The map will have info on building regulations for your area, such as how high they can be, the requirements for quality buildings, and the requirements for the construction of new buildings. You can also find current and pending amendments for the area, as well as whether or not your district is legally obligated to provide flood insurance for those who want it. 

If you search for your specific address, you can learn even more info. You can learn who owns your building, whether or not you live in a historic district, and even find a link to the building’s public records. They can even show you some fun things like landmarks, cafes, and FRESH zones (locations with special tax codes for grocery stores) in your area. The ZoLa Map will tell you everything you want to know and more about your zoning district.

How to Use the ZoLa Map

The ZoLa map has recently gone through an update to make navigation simple. Once you head to the portal on the government website, type in the building number, street, and borough you’re searching for. You’ll find yourself on the map, and you can search by block or lot numbers to find your district. When you’ve found the address or district you’re looking for, two menus will appear on either side of the map, each with different links and information.

Some of the links that can be found in the menus include ACRIS (The public records for buildings), transit zones, and coastal zones. The website is intuitive since it’s been updated earlier this year, and anyone can use it for any purpose. The ZoLa map might seem complex at first glance but is very easy to use once you get the hang of it.

Why Would You Use ZoLa?

The ZoLa map can, and should, be used by everyone. Landowners, business owners, and developers will benefit the most from it for several reasons. Developers, especially, will want to pay attention to this map. District zoning policies are extremely rigid, and any new development project must follow the district’s rules. Landowners should check the map frequently to keep up with current zoning laws and pending regulations for the neighborhood. This way, owners can be sure that additions or renovations to their buildings are completely legal. Business owners will want to check the map to see changes in their zoning areas’ tax status.

Although the map is most helpful for professionals, it can also be helpful for individual use. Residents should check the map regularly, especially if there’s a new addition to your building. They should also keep track of any zoning changes regarding sanitation and tax codes, which the map also provides info on. That said, ZoLa also provides an exciting look into your zoning district. You can find hidden gems on the map, see if you live in a historical area, and find out cool information about your zoning district. Pair that with some stats and trends on rents in your area to have a better understanding of the real estate market. Cartography enthusiasts, especially, will love this portal.

Additional Resources 

Many people might have specific questions that the ZoLa map cannot answer. For more information, people should visit the ZoLa help desk, a resource designed to answer any questions you might have about the platform. They address common questions like what people in multiple zoning districts should do if they want to know how their area works. 

They can also answer questions like, “when was my area last rezoned,” “How can zoning policies in my area change,” and “can I run a business out of my home?” If this page doesn’t answer your question, you can contact the Zoning Help Desk or fill out the Zoning Inquiry Form. The form is probably the fastest way to get your question answered, as a response should be sent to you in a matter of days. 

The government is also aware that the map isn’t a perfect tool. Though it’s much improved, people can still make suggestions via Github and Twitter @NYCPlanningLabs or with #ReimagineZoLa. You can also email them at [email protected]. Your suggestions could very well make it easier for the public to access public information, which is a net positive for the entire city.

ZoLa is an excellent yet underused resource that every New Yorker should know about. It provides essential public info that residents and developers can use to make their lives easier and follow the complicated zoning rules of their area. The map is incredibly easy to use, and the amount of information is mind-boggling. One could spend an entire day learning about their zone alone. This resource is important, and more people should be aware of it. So head to the portal and learn about your district today. A well-informed resident is a powerful one. 

Russell is a writer and comic based in New York City. His plays have been featured at Penn State’s Cultural Conversation’s Festival, The NYC Thespis Festival, and Imaginarium’s Inaugural Theater Festival. Follow him on TikTok and Instagram @pooleparty528