Archived: NYC's 'Poor Door' Phenomenon: Separate Entrances for Low-Income Residents

By Albert Lin

New York City has approved a developer’s plan to build a luxury apartment building with a separate entrance for tenants living in its affordable-housing units.

A spokesman for the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development confirmed to the New York Post that the agency has greenlighted Extell’s proposal under the Inclusionary Housing Program, which allows developers to build larger buildings if they include low-income housing.

Who does that housing generally serve New York University’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy says that rent-regulated tenants are likely to be elderly or from underrepresented groups—in 2011, 17.4 percent were 65 or older and 63.7 percent were Black, Latino or Asian.

Extell’s 33-story tower on Riverside Boulevard in the city’s Upper West Side will have 219 market-rate condos overlooking the water and 55 affordable-housing rentals in a “building segment” facing the street. (According to Gothamist, a building segment is a legally separate entity that may be managed by a nonprofit and therefore would be required to have its own superintendent, social worker and entrances.)

Studios will rent for $845 per month, one-bedrooms for $908 and two-bedrooms for $1,099, and units will only be available to people with a household income below 60 percent of the city’s median income. That means an individual would need to earn less than $36,120 and a family of four less than $51,540. Meanwhile, condo owners will pay more than $1,000 per square foot.

The Real Deal suggested that the separate entrance would be in a “back alley,” prompting Extell to issue a statement saying that the door in fact will be on 62nd Street, similar to where an adjacent, market-rate building has its entrance.

According to the Post, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer vowed to reject future developments that have separate entrances—but it turns out that Extell’s poor door will not be the city’s first. When Extell’s plans were first revealed last August, The Real Deal spoke to several brokers and developers who could name a handful of buildings across the city with poor doors.

“No one ever said that the goal was full integration of these populations,” said David Von Spreckelsen, Senior Vice President at Toll Brothers, told The Real Deal. Toll Brothers’ 1 Northside Piers in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, has separate entrances. “So now you have politicians talking about that, saying how horrible those back doors are. I think it’s unfair to expect very high-income homeowners who paid a fortune to live in their building to have to be in the same boat as low-income renters, who are very fortunate to live in a new building in a great neighborhood.”

More common is the practice of limiting access to amenities—gyms, storage units, rooftop space. But City Council member Mark Levine is drafting legislation to expand the city’s anti-discrimination code to include people living in low-income and rent-regulated housing. “The city has just begun to wake up and see that if we don’t act, this is going to be an increasing problem,” Levine told the Times.

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