City Approves “Poor Door” For Affordable Housing Tenants In Luxury Building

July 21, 2014 | Sophie Weiner

The massive New York housing developer Extell has been granted permission to increase the size of their building at 40 Riverside Boulevard on the Upper West Side under the Inclusionary Housing Program. The building will house 219 luxury units facing the water and 55 low income housing units facing the street. Controversy has arisen over Extell’s plan to build a separate entrance for affordable housing tenants in a “back alley.” The city approved the plan late last week.

Multiple publications have recently slammed the decision, calling this separate entrance a “poor door” meant to segregate less affluent people away from the luxury tenants.

The controversy began when the building’s plan for separate entrances was announced in August of last year. Extell defended their plan, arguing that “because the affordable housing is legally separate from the rest of the building, it is required to have two entrances.” When The Real Deal ran a piece documenting the supposed trend of luxury developers using “poor doors” for their affordable housing tenants, the only other case they found to cite was at 1 Northside Piers in Williamsburg. (However, there have been reports of low income tenants being barred from using the amenities provided for luxury residents like pools, gyms and tennis courts.)

“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,” David Von Spreckelsen (the senior vice president of Toll Brothers, who built 1 Northside Piers) explained, exposing the privileged thinking behind such decisions.

“I do not believe that these discriminatory practices were ever contemplated by the legislature,” said Christine Quinn, a mayoral candidate at the time. “We need to change state law so that developers provide common entrances and facilities for residents of the building.”

“This ‘separate but equal arrangement is abominable and has no place in the 21st century, let alone on the Upper West Side,” local Assembly member Linda B. Rosenthal said of the project last August. (Photo: Bosc d’Anjou)