There’s all sorts of complicated concepts that you have to understand if you want to advocate for changes to zoning. One of the toughest concepts is Floor Area Ratio (FAR) which is the main way that the city limits the size of buildings in the zoning laws.

CUP made an online interactive tool to help community members get a grip on that slippery concept of Floor Area Ratio. What Is FAR? lets you manipulate virtual blocks as it takes you step-by-step through the process of how Floor Area Ratio controls the size of your building. It also shows how the city applies FAR’s other building-size-controlling cousins: lot coverage, setbacks, and height limits.

After you understand how the rules of zoning work, you can use the Neighborhood Tool to see how these rules can shape a whole neighborhood, and how your neighborhood might change if the city changes the zoning rules.

Click here to try the tool!

What Is FAR? is an online compliment to CUP’s What Is Zoning? toolkit. What Is Zoning? is a part of the Envisioning Development Toolkits, a series of teaching tools that foster conversations about land use and urban development.

Resources & Links

NYC Department of City PlanningDCP is the primary organization responsible for initiating or managing changes to zoning in NYC.

Several organizations helped to develop What Is FAR?. They are:
Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development
Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation
El Puente
Fifth Avenue Committee
Housing Conservation Coordinators
Public Works Partners
Urban Justice Center

Funding Support

This project was made possible through the generous support of the Mertz Gilmore Foundation, The Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Surdna Foundation, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.

Special Thanks

Ingrid Haftel, Christy Herbes, Oscar Nuñez, Frampton Tolbert, Jenn Anne Williams, Sandy Xu


  • CUP
  • Concept & project direction
  • Christine Gaspar
  • Mark Torrey
  • Design
  • KUDOS Design Collaboratory
  • Jeff Lai
  • Andrew Sloat
  • Web Development
  • KUDOS Design Collaboratory


Zoning Game Lets Players Develop a 2,000-Square-Foot Lot
  • Next City
  • April 11, 2017

The tool comes from the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) — the same nonprofit that urged designers working in cities to consider social impact and “not be a Dick.” CUP also broke down the “big picture” of NYC welfare, and created a game to help Harlem residents understand zoning and their rights.

A new tool teaches NYC developer lingo by making you an all-powerful urban planner
  • Architect’s Newspaper
  • April 04, 2017

Building on the What is Zoning? toolkit, CUP’s What is FAR? helps users get savvy with developer lingo—particularly the concept Floor Area Ratio (as readers may know, FAR determines the height and bulk of buildings). Language is power, and CUP, along with eight community partners, reasoned that it’s helpful for ordinary folks to speak the language of bureaucrats and capitalists when discussing changes in their neighborhoods.