New York apartment blocks are using “poor doors”

One nation, indivisible. 

Not the poor door. Photo: Extell

The website for One Riverside Park, a new high-rise in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, calls it “New York’s most distinguished new address, introducing a new level of luxury to waterfront living”. It’s very pretty. Look.

Unfortunately for its developers Extell, the new building is hitting headlines not for its charming river views, but because it’ll have two separate entrances – one for the residents of its luxury apartments, and another for those living in its cheaper units.

Critics have dubbed this second entrance, which will apparently be located at the back of the building, the “poor door”. It offers access to the 55 affordable apartments, which face the street. The block’s 219 luxury apartments have those river views all to themselves.

This segregation is a sneaky way to appease New York’s drive for mixed-income housing, without actually forcing people with different incomes to mix. Developers are under pressure to ensure that a proportion of all new housing is affordable, and receive subsidies and tax exemptions for any affordable apartments they build. But Extell has decided to keep its two sets of apartments as separate as possible, and last week its plans were approved by the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

Bill de Blasio, the current mayor, has spoken out against the separate entrances, but says he can’t do anything about these plans, which were given the green light by his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg. This week, though, he announced plans to change planning laws to make the practice illegal (Extell claim that they believed the separate entrances were “required” under the current regulation). Wiley Norvell, a City Hall spokesman, said in an email to Next City:

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 to reflect our values and priorities.”

There’s also a bill going through the City Council that would make it illegal to discriminate against tenants based on whether they were eligible for affordable housing.

A “poor door” entrance for renters living in publicly-subsidised units is already in operation at 1 Northside Piers, another New York apartment block. David Von Spreckelsen, senior vice president at Toll Brothers, the building’s developers, told The Real Deal last year:

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 neighbourhood.”

We’re just going to leave that quote there for you to think about.

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