On Monday, news surfaced that the city had approved Extell's 40 Riverside Boulevard with separate entrances for the 219 luxury condos and 55 affordable rental units. The outrage over the "poor door," as these things are known, quickly spread nationwide — even The Onion got in on it, eviscerating the poor door's proponents with typical deftness ("Oh great, so we're just giving the poor free doors now?"). But, while seemingly every New York City politician from Mayor de Blasio down opposes the poor door, there is, apparently, little that can be done. "This specific project was given a green light by the previous administration," City Hall spokesman Wiley Norvell told Newsweek. "The previous administration changed the law to enable this kind of development. We fundamentally disagree with that approach, and we are in the process of changing it."
Today the Times published an article that lays out the particulars of the Bloomberg administration's changes to the zoning codes that give developers tax breaks for including affordable housing in market-rate rate projects, and the discretion to create separate entrances for rich and poor residents, if they wish. It then veers into defending Extell's decision:
As nearly the entire Upper East Side from Lexington Avenue to Fifth can lay testament, rich people like to live among rich people. A developer erecting a structure with $3 million apartments is going to worry, not irrationally, that those apartments will be less marketable if they are next door to those renting for $1,000 a month. "Rich people prefer it this way" is always just a super good argument in favor of segregation. Of course, as an article on Brick Underground points out, it's not actually as easy as one might think to tell the affordable tenants apart from the market rate ones ... unless, you know, they're herded into separate sections of the building ... through separate doors.
The Times goes on:
It isn't simply that rich people find poorer people yucky, though in some cases that will certainly be true, but that owners typically prefer living among other owners, out of the belief that this arrangement best protects the value of their asset. Renting has the taint of transience, diminished stability and so on. Yes, it's not just that rich people hate poor people irrationally. They also hate them for hypothetical financial reasons. So who's really the bad guy here?
Extell's head honcho Gary Barnett finally responded to the controversy today in a Crain's piece, saying, "Frankly, it's the only possible way to do inclusionary housing that's for sale in a prime location." He goes on to profess that, had any of the affordable units been given water views, it would have made the whole project economically untenable. And if the building had been given just one entrance for all the residents ... well, he'll probably get to that at some point.
· On the Upper West Side, a House Divided by Income [NYT]
· Bill De Blasio Seeks to End New York City's 'Poor Doors' [Newsweek]
· Rich-door, poor-door debate heats up [Crain's]
· I'm a Subsidized Renter, and a "Poor Door" Might Be the Last Straw [Brick Underground]
· City Approves Extell's Riverside South Tower with 'Poor Door' [Curbed]
Photo by Colin Miller, via NY YIMBY