Affordable Housing

A Luxury Manhattan Building To Include a Separate 'Poor Door' for Less Affluent Tenants. Is It 'Segregation'?

New York's clownish political leaders are in a tizzy.


Developer Extell moved ahead with plans last week to build a luxury tower on Manhattan's Upper West Side that will offer no river views and a separate entrance for the 55 less-affluent households that get to live in the building at way below-market prices because they won an affordable housing lottery.

New York City's political class is in a tizzy. Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York) pledged to change the zoning code to outlaw "poor doors" (as the tabloids have dubbed the separate entrance). New York City Public Advocate Letitia James (D) held a press conference on Friday calling the arrangement "segregation," protesting that "this administration was elected into office based on equality, one rule of law, one New York City."

A rendering of 40 Riverside Boulevard, home to New York City's "poor door." |||

Among Gotham's clownish political leaders, apparently it qualifies as "segregation" if rich people pay more to live amongst each other, a totally new and unheard of phenomenon.

Council Member Mark Levine (D-7th District) recently introduced a law that would allow below-market tenants to file a discrimination lawsuit or a complaint with the city's Commission on Human Rights if denied all the amenities available to market rate tenants. Next City reports that Levine's bill came after a building in his district denied rent-controlled tenants the right to use an onsite gym. "It just so happens that the rent-regulated tenants being blocked from the gym happen to be older and more often people of color than the market-rate tenants," said Levine, "which is the same as the tenants who would be affected by the 'poor door.'"

The rent-regulated tenants just happen to be older and of color; they weren't denied the right to use the gym because they're older and of color, which is precisely why these policies don't qualify as "segregation." To call them that devalues the word.

It's depressing that the biggest story of the year in local housing policy is that a few dozen families living in a luxury building at taxpayer expense have to walk through a separate entrance. Outlawing separate amenities for below-market tenants will only mean that the government will have to pony up even more subsidies, such as real estate tax abatements, tax free financing, and Low Income Housing Tax Credits, to entice Gotham's crony capitalist affordable housing developers to put up new buildings.

Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal (D-6th District) called the poor door an "absolute disgrace." You know what's an absolute disgrace? The deal Rosenthal brokered recently to give affordable housing subsidies to families earning nearly $200K, which I wrote about earlier this month.

NEXT: American Companies Want to Pay British Taxes

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I'm kind of torn between two thoughts:

    Hey poor guy you're getting a generous subsidy, so SFTU about the door and lack of access to a gym and

    Sorry rich NY liberal, you have to let the unwashed masses use the same doors and elevators as you and your kids do.

    1. I have to say, though, that if I were a rich person looking to buy an apartment in NYC (none of those things applies to me) I would prefer a single point of entry into my building, if for no other reason than that it would be easier to secure and I would get a better sense who all of my neighbors were.

      1. Will soliciting be allowed in the entrance though?

        1. Don't those NYC apartment buildings usually have doormen?

          1. Prolly. But the poor people will be inside the door:)

      2. I get the sense that the entire low income section of the building is separate. IOW, you go in the "poor" door and you can't access the "rich" corridors, apartments, facilities, etc.

      3. True it would be like a Seinfield episode.

  2. Easy solution: eliminate the down-market housing. There, now everyone is happy (you know, except for the people who now don't have housing, but WGAF, right?)

    1. Effective solution: Stop subsidizing housing, sell Helen Rosenthal for parts and let the market decide.

    2. If only there was a natural mechanism that would allow supply and demand to set price points that would allow an abundance of affordable goods and services...

      Or we could create a regulatory state that artificially drives up the price of housing and inhibits economic mobility, subsidize housing and create a feedback loop.

  3. Back in the 90s, my parents had a river view condo in a high rise. There were separate entrances for the condo (expensive) versus the apartment (cheaper) residents. Condo owners also got their own elevator and even a separate (and better) parking garage. The humanity!

    1. You mean that people ought to be willing to actually pay market value for something if they want it?
      You monster!

  4. "Poor door"? I prefer to call mine, "orphan chute".

    1. Which leads into the orphan blender, which is emptied into the orphan vat, which drains into the orphan cloacum, which debouches into the orphan canal.

      1. debouches into the orphan canal.

        So named because that's where the orphans bathe and get their drinking water?

        1. Off topic, but "Orphan Black" is a really good show that you should watch.

  5. So the guy in the $6,000 suit should use the same door as poor people? Come On!

    1. Funny thing is that I really liked GOB's suit. Not for $6K, but it looked nice.

      1. Considering it ended up with candy all over the back, I wonder if they really used a suit that expensive. Maybe there was a stunt suit?

      2. The man did look sharp in that suit.

        That said, it was actually George Sr's suit. And GOB had to have the crotch taken in a little.

  6. One more example - anytime "equal" becomes an operative consideration, it's going be purchased at the sacrifice of somebody's freedom.

  7. Is this sort of how the first class passengers get to board the plane by walking past the ticket machine on the red carpet instead of everybody else who has to walk on the regular carpet? Who cares? At the end of the day everybody still ends up on the plane.

    1. The great injustice there is when you have to walk through the first class section on the way to coach. That is really depressing.

      1. INJUSTICE! Yes, obviously that, too, needs to be added to our plethora of anti-discrimination laws.

        Perhaps the problem can be solved by simply declaring a single, equal amount of pay that every gets, regardless of the work they do. They we set fixed prices on everything, and also make sure all cars, houses, clothing, are equal for all.

        I am sure that will work out just peachy-keen.

        1. Where's the line to receive my toilet paper ration?

      2. Those seats really look comfy.

        Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to wedge myself in between 2 meat mountains and pray that my ass actually touches the seat this time.

      3. It's interesting that rich people seem to like making the poors parade in front of them on airplanes, but don't want them anywhere near their apartment hallway.

  8. "one rule of law "

    So the wealthy tenents will get to pay the below market rate too? I mean, since we're all equals and everything.

  9. I'd ne more worried about being hooked up to the same hvac ductwork. jj

    1. I bet they have activated charcoal filters to get rid of the poor people smell.

      1. That would make a good Monty Python bit. What that smell?

        1. Hang some money in front of the vent and see if that helps?

  10. How does this affordable housing thing work? Is it mandated or subsidized?

    Is the building privately owned?

    If so FOADIAF.

    1. In NYC, usually mandated. There is a set-aside of a certain number of units of "affordable housing" in each development.

      1. In Jersey, having some "low-income" units is usually key to getting through the zoning / permitting process. I assume something similar.

        1. So, IOW, forced charity.

          Tell ya what...I'll allow you to live in my private building for free, but you will wear a sign around your neck that says "I live here at someone elses expense."

          Welfare is EASY to fix. Just make it shameful again.

          1. Making welfare shameful is extremely controversial these days.

            1. Because racism, or something.

      2. There is a set-aside of a certain number of units of "affordable housing" in each development.

        Not correct. There is no mandate but well-connected developers are happy to toss some crumbs in return for sweetheart deals - extra floors, tax rebates, etc.

    2. Yes, it's forced charity. In the county where I grew up, the council mandated that in any development of 50 or more units, the developer provide affordable housing. A friend asked me why all of the new developments had exactly 49 houses each. Unintended consequences, how do they work?

      1. "Clearly they should be stopped from taking advantage of this loophole in the law!"

  11. I live in a high-rise. There's a strange sense of literal class stratification because lower floors are cheaper. But everyone in my building is fucking weird (or "eccentric" as you get to higher floors), so figuring out if it means something is pointless.

    The only crime here is unseemliness. They tried to mix housing where I live and it didn't do anything to make poor people less poor. It just made neighborhoods look nice or shitty in patches.

    1. There's a strange sense of literal class stratification because lower floors are cheaper.

      I assume you're squatting in a space on the bottom level of the parking garage?

      1. Eating raw fish and protecting the precious...

    2. I like to listen to tony tell me about how he looks down at the poor people from his high tower and has sympathetic thoughts about them.

      Do you throw them scraps from time to time, Tony?

      1. Of course not. That's the governments job.

        1. One day you guys will grasp that a social safety net is not about charity, at all.

          1. One day you guys will grasp that a social safety net is not about charity, at all.

            To whoever is playing tony clifton today: You are absolutely right, the welfare state is not about charity. Charities can do things like set conditions for their recipients. Charities are not indulged by the state to show up at my door and steal my things at the point of a gun. If the work ethic of those using the social safety net is any indication it is not viewed as charity, it is viewed as a hammock.

            1. Some of us don't think the state should worry itself with whether individuals are living up to some random Calvinist principle.

              A safety net is about putting a floor on poverty so that society doesn't have to deal with the problems that poverty brings. It's for everyone whether you get a check or not.

    3. it didn't do anything to make poor people less poor

      Welfare doesn't make poor people less poor. An interesting observation.

      1. I said mixed housing. Welfare obviously does, as it puts money in their pockets.

        1. Same thing, though I understand why you can't see that.

  12. I live in a high-rise.

    That's not how you spell "basement", Tony.

  13. NYC is on another planet. I've lived in the midwest for most of my life and here politicians have to at least pretend that a policy helps the working class. How do you pretend that subsidies for 6-figure earning families to live in luxury housing helps anyone but those who are already relatively well-off?

  14. they have doors?

  15. "this administration was elected into office based on equality, one rule of law, one New York City."

    So that means you're going to get rid of the below-market rate requirements?

    1. If they are all equal, shouldnt everyone in NYC be mayor?

  16. Count De Monet - I have come on the most urgent of business. It is said that the people are revolting!

    King Louis - You said it; they stink on ice.

    1. KING: I love them! They are my people I am their sovereign - PULL!!

  17. New York City's political class is in a tizzy.

    But I repeat myself.

  18. Same thing happening in London - coverage presumably influenced by the NYC story (as it mentions de Blasio's intention to legislate):

    One of the excuses here is that "affordable" housing is usually transferred to a housing association. And if they had to use all the same facilities - the concierge, gym, marble lined lobby etc, the housing association would have to pay the same service changes as all the market value apartments and so separating them is the only way they would be affordable. But I see even here some of them are only affordable to people with equivalent of $130k incomes!

  19. Apropos....The Sister-in-law-unit and her hubby live in a rent stabilized building the tony Lower West Side, abusing the NYC tenant laws, so that they can live there, in 2 apartments, for less than $1,000/month. *One* tiny apartment in this building can go for $5,000/month.

    This building also happened to be featured in a recent article about the very wealthy landlord, who allegedly employs a goon to harass and intimidate people living in the stabilized units, so that they leave and he can then rent the apartments out at market prices.

    The wife-unit was suitably outraged and sent me the NYT article on this. I later asked her, "Where's the part in the article about the goons who won't let the landlord sell all of his units at market rates? You might as well complain about a drug dealer violating BBB rules."

    Death glare.

    1. The market rates in NYC would be lower if there where no rent control. But think of all that would cost, it would destroy the soul and fabric and cultural heritage of New York. Isn't that worth it?

      1. What!? And allow the riff-raff from Staten Island to live in Manhattan?

        They work here and then they leave at the end of the day to go back to their tacky ethnic hovels. That's the agreement.

    2. There isn't a Lower West Side.

      They prob live in Chelsea, the W Village or Tribeca.

      1. You are correct. West Village, near Christopher St.

        1. The West Village is the canonical example of progressives fighting the construction of housing units in order to keep out their lessers and to prop up their home values, and then patting themselves on the back for allowing some token lottery winners in their midst. It really is grotesque.

    3. they can live there, in 2 apartments, for less than $1,000/month.

      Death glare.

      1. Infuriating.

  20. Everyone I've spoken to who lives or has tried to live in New York has complained in particular about the difficulty in finding a decent place to live that's affordable.

    Here in Seattle we have a push from certain political circles to impose rent control on the city, because apparently they pine for a world where housing everywhere is as abundant and affordable as it is in *cough* NYC.

    The logic on this particular initiative seems to be a very transparent case of "We have to do something, this is something, therefore we must do this." but it's hard to gauge usually how much currency these ideas gain with the public at large.

    1. The amusing thing is the same people also love designating huge swaths of the city as forever off-limits to new housing units. It's like a circuit is disconnected in their heads.

      1. The problem is that they messed around with all of those memory hacks to Objective Reality 1.0. Now, nothing runs like it's supposed to and rebooting doesn't help any longer.

  21. Classic rich white prog idea. And they won't even consider this being racist/classist.

  22. Exclusive Restaurant Refuses to Sell Prime Rib Dinner at Cost of Happy Meal. Is it Segregation?

  23. Would it be meaningfully different if a landlord had two adjacent buildings, one with rents twice as high and amenities and lobby to match? Because that's already how renting works. I'm not sure we can say it's all that different if the different rates are within the same building or complex.

    I understand the outrage, because it implies architecturally views of hierarchy and elitism that are generally very rude and ridiculous when expressed by individuals. But is it really all that different from paying for first class on an airplane, better seats in a stadium, or better entrees at a restaurant? You can pay more money to get better stuff. I'm not sure we can draw a principled stand here, even though at first blush it does sound like some sort of vague prejudice is being catered to.

    1. Also, if certain rich people think a place to live is less valuable if they have to see people who are merely middle upper class (i.e. household incomes pushing $200k), then fewer of them will want to live there at that price point. Therefore, forcing some definition of "building" to require common access to all tenants to all the amenities will either result in fewer rent-included amenities or poorer returns to developers. That likely means less investment in developing buildings. Buildings would be built at lower cost points and the cost of amenities would be borne more heavily by the below-market tenants.

      If rich people will pay for indulgence of their prejudices, some of that value goes to the below-market tenants who've sold away their need to access the areas that the super-rich don't want to see them.

      If you could get implicit rent reduction by not disturbing the biases of the rich, would you? Some people say no, that the rich must be taken down a peg and made uncomfortable. I'm sympathetic there, at least to disliking people who are willfully sheltered and a little bigoted. But do those who are committed to annoying the cloistered wealthy tenants need to force that choice on below-market tenants? I highly doubt that the so-called "poor door" units would fail to sell.

  24. "Poor Door"

    please. this anglocentric pronunciation is blatantly thugphobic

    People on the street call it the "po'do"

  25. As I tried explaining to an acquaintance, the building has roughly a quarter of its units as affordable housing. How does anyone think the building's owners pay for that? Granted, some of it is through tax breaks for offering affordable housing. But, some of it is through offerig very expensive units for other tenants. Now for reasons that may or may not be legitimate those tenants want to limit their interaction with those enjoying subsidized housing. Well, take your pick, do you really think it's more egalitarian to render offering so many subsidized units unattractive and have fewer of them? Is it really more egalitarian to tell the families living in the subsidized units that they can go live in Queens or the Bronx? Personally, if someone told me I could save 1/2-3/4 of my rent by using the service elevator, I would hardly be offended.

  26. Also, I'm sure that, since they're such principled champions of iteraction with the poor, Councilwoman Rosenthal will be relocating to the South Bronx and Mayor DeBlasio will take up residence in East New York. Yup, they'll be on that ANY day now...any day...

  27. The deal Rosenthal brokered recently to give affordable housing subsidies to families earning nearly $200K

    Of course. You don't expect her union pals to be making anything less, do you?

  28. I totally support the "poor door", and I do not believe the poors should be able to use the amenities that others pay for.

  29. I lived in a California apartment complex with a number of amenities that were sometimes in better shape than others.

    We had a few rent-controlled legacy neighbors, one of whom made a hobby of not getting the same responsive service as he perceived the rest of us for getting.

    It was impossible to tell if he was getting the shaft because he was not paying his share of the rent, or if he was just an asshole.

    I don't think he understood why his neighbors, the ones directly subsidizing his rent, didn't care if he got crappy service.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.