BBG News

In The Zone, Part II: SoHo/NoHo Rezoning Update: New Protection for Existing Tenants

Oct 10, 2022

Earlier this year, we published a newsletter article discussing the recent radical changes in the SoHo/NoHo rezoning. See article here.

The rezoning changed many manufacturing zoning districts (which do not allow for residential uses) to mixed-use districts (which do). Under the prior zoning, most living spaces were only for joint living-work quarters for artists (“JLWQA Units”). JLWQA Units are unique in that an occupant of the unit must be certified as an “artist” by the City’s Department of Cultural Affairs (“DCA”). Over the past few decades, these JLWQA Units have been increasingly occupied by and/or sold to non-artists. This practice was technically illegal but not enforced by the Department of Buildings (“DOB”), even though such use could subject owners to violations and substantial penalties.

The SoHo/NoHo rezoning now provides for a mechanism to authorize the conversion of these JLWQA Units to standard residences, which can be occupied by anyone, regardless of whether or not they are a certified artist.

In addition, the New York City Council passed an amendment to the City’s Administrative Code that would have significantly increased the penalties for violative use of a JLWQA Unit to $15,000 for the first offense and $25,000 for each subsequent offense, plus a separate monthly penalty for each month that the violation is not corrected (Int. No. 2443-A). This law never went into effect because it was vetoed by Mayor Adams. His office issued a statement saying it “will take a little more time to make sure we are rightsizing any fines associated with this process and clarifying the associated enforcement mechanisms going forward.” Read Mayor Adams statement here.

To protect long-term residents, the New York State legislature adopted a new law to protect existing tenants of JLWQA Units from such violations. On July 21, 2022, Governor Hochul signed into law Bill A9675A. The law modifies Article 7-B of the New York State Multiple Dwelling Law (the “MDL”), which is the law that authorizes JLWQA’s in New York City (or for any other city with a population in excess of one million). The law changed the definition of “artist” in § 276 of the MDL, by adding the following language:

For joint living-work quarters for artists limited to artists’ occupancy by localzoning resolution, any permanent occupant whose residence therein began on or before December 15, two thousand twenty-one shall be deemed to meet such occupancy requirements under the same rights as an artist so certified in accordance with applicable law. (emphasis added)

The amendment to the MDL protects any permanent occupant that has lived in a JLWQA Unit since at least December 15, 2021 (the date of the adoption of the SoHo/NoHo rezoning). Any of these permanent occupants are now treated as “artists” whether or not they were previously certified as artists by DCA. It should be noted that it must be the unit’s occupant that has been living in the unit since December 15, 2021. The law does not certify that the unit’s owner is deemed an artist, merely the long-term occupant. Additionally, this law does not protect future
owners or tenants of JLWQA Units. Future tenants need to either be certified as artists by DCA, or the JLWQA Unit must go through the application process of being converted to a residential apartment.

BBG is glad to assist property owners, developers and design professionals in the process created by the SoHo/NoHo rezoning to alter a building to convert JLWQA’s into residential apartments

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