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Land Use

Our Land Use Department is the largest, and one of the most sophisticated, legal practices devoted to land use in New York City. We handle all aspects of site development in New York City, including zoning changes, special permits, variances, landmarks proceedings, air rights transfers, tax abatements and economic development initiatives. Our expertise is broad and diverse, and our clients benefit from the depth of experience of our lawyers, who have been involved in most of the major development projects in New York City over the past thirty years. We have worked with major corporations, financial institutions, universities, hospitals, religious institutions and other non-profit organizations, and commercial, hotel and residential developers on matters ranging in scope and complexity from large scale development projects to individual landmark townhouses. We represent clients both in securing administrative approvals from City, State and Federal agencies and on the acquisition and financing of vacant land, transferable development rights and existing buildings, with the goal of maximizing development potential and value of properties.

Our work includes: 

  • Zoning changes 
  • Special permits 
  • Variances 
  • Landmarks proceedings 
  • Development rights transfers 
  • Analyses of site development potential 
  • Due Diligence for acquisitions and financing 
  • Condemnation/eminent domain 
  • Tax abatements 
  • Waterfront development 
  • Economic development incentives

We advocate regularly before City agencies that have land use jurisdiction, including the City Council, the City Planning Commission, the Borough Presidents’ Offices, the Board of Standards and Appeals, the Landmarks Preservation Commission, Department of Buildings and Community Boards. We also negotiate with various City and State authorities and agencies with land use and economic development jurisdiction, including the Economic Development Corporation, the Empire State Development Corporation, the Dormitory Authority, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The qualifications of our 16 lawyers—together with our professional staff of an engineer and two planners—provide an unparalleled depth of expertise that will add value to any development project.

We are one of the few land use practices to have a veteran litigator with expertise in land use and environmental matters. Our department also includes one of the pre-eminent condemnation practices in New York City. Another partner served more than 30 years as a regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, adding significantly to our environmental capabilities.

Several members of the department have previously served in prominent government positions, including: Counsel to the New York City Economic Development Corporation, Department of City Planning, Landmarks Preservation Commission, and Department of Parks and Recreation; Vice Chair and Commissioner posts with the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals; Director of the Manhattan Office of the Department of City Planning, Director of Planning for the Queens Borough President ; and First Assistant Corporation Counsel and Deputy Chief of the Administrative Law Division at the New York City Law Department.

In addition, members of our team have held prominent positions in professional industry organizations, including Vice President of the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), member of the Board of Directors of REBNY, Chair and Vice Chair posts on the landmarks, environmental, zoning and planning committees of REBNY, Founder, Director and President of the Association for a Better New York, and member of the Board of Directors of WX Women Executives in Real Estate.

Members of our department have held faculty positions at the undergraduate and graduate level at Columbia University, New York University and other institutions, and also lecture on land use and planning at legal education and planning programs.

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GreenEsq. Blog

GreenEsq. is an interdepartmental effort of Kramer Levin's Real Estate, Land Use and Environmental practices. This blog is a resource for news and commentary on the latest environmental law and sustainability developments, including "green" building and renewable energy initiatives. Learn More