News & Politics

Luxury Condo in Manhattan Will Have a ‘Poor Door’ for Low-Income Tenants

The 33-story tower received approval from the city to have a separate entrance for affordable-housing tenants.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock/Pjard

In a stunning example of “separate but equal” logic, New York City has approved a developer’s controversial plans to construct two separate entrances for a new luxury condo on the Upper West Side: one for low-income residents and one for those who can fork over the market rate. As the New York Post reported, the firm, Extell, is building a 33-story tower with 219 units facing the Hudson River and 55 affordable units that face the street.

Extell is part of the city’s Inclusionary Housing Program, which requires real estate developers to create a percentage of affordable housing units for low-income households either on- or off-site. In exchange, developers often receive permission to construct higher or larger buildings (Extell’s new luxury condo is a case in point). According to the Department of City Planning, this model of development “promotes economic integration in areas of the City undergoing substantial new residential development.”

But segregating poorer residents into their own sections of mixed-income buildings and creating two entrances so that wealthier tenants never have to interact with them is not conducive to economic integration. Instead, it reinforces a two-tier model of housing, where the rich can pay a premium to remain isolated in their waterfront apartments and developers can profit from their extra square footage while feigning a social consciousness. As Bryce Covert reports for Think Progress, “some low-income residents in luxury buildings are prohibited from using the amenities offered to the wealthy tenants…several buildings in the city ban affordable housing or rent-regulated tenants from using perks like gyms, rooftops, and pools.”

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Bill de Blasio made access to affordable housing a cornerstone of his administration, releasing a housing plan in May that promises to create 200,000 new units over the next 10 years. But the Inclusionary Zoning model doesn’t even brush the surface of New York City’s housing problem, as the city lost 400,000 units of affordable housing between 2000 and 2012 alone. If the mayor wants to address the housing crisis and begin to combat New York’s rampant income inequality, he should start by forbidding developers from integrating discriminatory policies right into the design of their buildings. 

Allegra Kirkland is AlterNet's associate managing editor. Her writing has appeared in the Chicago Reader, Salon, Daily Serving and The Nation.