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Development Rights: Current Trends and Legal Concerns


Learn about the latest issues impacting development rights.

This topic provides an overview of the role of development rights in real estate transactions and development projects, including a review of current trends and potential problem areas and areas of legal concern. The material will begin with an overview of zoning regulations, including use, floor area, bulk and light and air requirements. It will review the most common type of development rights transfer, by zoning lot merger, as well as other mechanisms, e.g., transfers from landmarks, by statute or special district designations, and by inclusionary or affordable housing bonuses. There will also be a discussion of development rights pricing, and areas of special interest to transactional real estate attorneys, such as the treatment of development rights in opinion letters and loan agreement covenants. There will be a focus on both local (primarily New York City) and national air rights schemes and regulatory trends.



James P. Power

James P. Power

Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP

  • Partner at Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP, which has the largest land use practice in NYC
  • Practice involves representing private developers and cultural, educational and health care institutions with respect to New York City real estate development issues; in that capacity, he advises clients on municipal law issues, the development potential of sites, and the land use and environmental review processes and practices before various New York City land use agencies
  • He also advises on inclusionary housing and 421-a benefits issues
  • Recent projects include advising the development of a new primarily residential tower that would rise 1,066 feet in height and be the tallest building in Brooklyn; representation of a major New York City developer in obtaining a text amendment and City Planning Commission special permits for a new residential development in the West Clinton area; representation of a prominent design-build developer in obtaining a variance for a new residential project at a prominent site in Tribeca; and represented a major hotel investment firm on a series of development projects involving complex site assemblages and in the midst of regulatory changes
  • Jim has lectured on land use and zoning at education programs sponsored by continuing legal educational organizations such as Lorman Education Services, and professional and industry groups such as the Appraisal Institute
  • Has published and quoted on a range of land use topics, including COVID-19-related impacts on land use, residential conversions, air rights transactions, the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and 421-a tax abatement programs, the floor area bonus structure in the Special West Chelsea District, and the recent restrictions on hotel use in M1 manufacturing districts; articles and quotes have been published in the New York Law Journal, Real Estate Weekly, the Commercial Observer, Law360 and New York Construction Magazine (quoted as “industry leader”)
  • J.D. degree, New York University School of Law; B.A. degree, Williams College
  • Can be contacted at 212-715-7839 or [email protected]
Eugene C. Travers

Eugene C. Travers

Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP

  • Senior associate with Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP
  • Practice involves representing developers, lenders, not-for-profit institutions and other entities in land use, zoning, and historic preservation law matters
  • Negotiates complex zoning lot mergers and transfers of development rights, conducts zoning due diligence and analyzes development potential, and seeks discretionary land use approvals
  • Recent projects include: Representation of a cultural institution in securing zoning variances to facilitate the development of a $20 million education center to complement its existing museum
  • Represented a major developer in its assemblage of multiple development rights parcels in connection with a proposed 400,000 square-foot luxury residential tower in Manhattan’s Financial District
  • Thomson Reuters New York Super Lawyers, Rising Star (2015-2018)
  • Can be contacted at [email protected] or 212-715-9496

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