A new luxury condo building in New York City has space for affordable housing – but those residents have to use a separate, back entrance:
The poor will use a separate door under plans for a new Upper West Side luxury tower — where affordable housing will be segregated from ritzy waterfront condos despite being in the same building.
Manhattan developer Extell is seeking millions in air rights and tax breaks for building 55 low-income units at 40 Riverside Boulevard, but the company is sequestering the cash-poor tenants who make the lucrative incentives possible.
Five floors of affordable housing will face away from the Hudson River and have a separate entrance, elevator and maintenance company, while 219 market-rate condominiums will overlook the waterfront…
“It’s a blatant attempt to segregate people,” fumed Rosenthal, who is demanding that HPD deny Extell’s request for tax breaks. “It’s just not a good thing for the city of New York to be supporting.”“I hate the visual of market-rate tenants going in one door and affordable tenants going in another, but that’s a visceral reaction,” Diller said.
I’m not sure we should be all that surprised. Developers generally don’t want to construct affordable housing because it cuts into the profits they could make. This is particularly the case in dense areas like Manhattan where land is at a premium and using some of the space for affordable housing means leaving money on the table. So, if the city is going to offer tax breaks for including some affordable housing units (and this is a common strategy for encouraging affordable housing), why wouldn’t a developer want to separate the exits so the wealthy can think they live in a building solely with other wealthy people (and will pay more for this appearance)?
On the other hand, perhaps New York needs to add to what it means by “affordable housing.” It is one thing just to require units. It is another to place wealthier and less-wealthy residents closer together so they might actually interact. This is the sort of “black box” behind mixed-income neighborhoods that replaced public housing high-rises in many American cities. The idea is that more regular contact between wealthier and less wealthy residents will help those less wealthy residents in the long run.