Saturday, August 24, 2013

Poor Door

Well this is gross (via):
A luxury high-rise apartment in Manhattan’s Upper West Side is set to have a so-called “poor door” — a separate entrance for low-income residents receiving subsidized housing.
With this disparity between the million-dollar condos for purchase versus the units for rent at a phenomenally low price for Manhattan, the developer decided to design the building with separate entrances for those who own condos and those who rent at a price below market value. As one might expect, this “rich door,” “poor door” situation doesn’t sit well with some.

“This ‘separate but equal’ arrangement is abominable and has no place in the 21st century, let alone on the Upper West Side,” Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, a Democrat, told the West Side Rag. “A mandatory affordable housing plan is not license to segregate lower-income tenants from those who are well-off. The developer must follow the spirit as well the letter of the law when building affordable housing, and this plan is clearly not what was intended by the community.”
There is a fair amount of evidence that one of the best ways of fighting entrenched poverty is economic integration (read the phenomenal Waiting for Gautreaux for some stark demonstrations). Lower-income persons who live in higher-income areas have much better life chances than persons surrounded by poverty. Part of this is simply access to better services and living conditions. But it also helps mitigate the effects of hypersegregation. A person who grows up in a middle-class (or higher) neighborhood, regardless of her own socio-economic status, is more likely to have successful role models, more likely to have friends from diverse backgrounds, more likely to have personal experience with a wider swath of life possibilities.

The "poor door" -- and the concurrent segregation of the low-income tenants -- flies in the face of these ambitions. As Rosenthal puts it, it manages to obey the letter of class integration while eviscerating the spirit.

1 comment:

PG said...

I'd want to see the design before I judged this. Theoretically much of the interaction among residents of a building happens in the elevator (at least, I've always had more interaction there than in the lobby). But there's nothing necessarily illegitimate about a building design where the most expensive part of the housing has a different elevator than the rest. It may be a practical necessity of the design.

For example, the building where I lived while working at a law firm in NYC was made up of two towers: one facing onto Central Park (and thus mind-bendingly expensive) and the other on a street (so only appallingly expensive). The two towers were connected by a lobby -- enabling the cheaper back tower to have a Central Park mailing address -- but necessarily had separate elevators, because there's no way to have a single elevator for two distinct building towers. Since there was a lobby connecting the two, with a single doorman and small exercise room, we in the back tower could use the front entrance on the Park (which was very attractive and was where the doorman was, so the door wasn't locked), but often used the back entrance (opening into a cement wall area, buzzed through a locked door after camera inspection by the doorman) because it was more convenient for the back tower.

They also secured the elevator so you used a fob to get to your floor, which was for the security reason of ensuring that people who entered the building for commercial purposes (there was a doctor's office among others) couldn't access the residential floors. But it also meant those of us on the cheaper back tower and lower floors couldn't get to, say, the penthouse with views of the park.

I easily can imagine a design for legitimate architectural reasons where there might not even be a connecting lobby, so there would be different entrances from the exterior to get to your apartment. So long as the building's residents share amenities (exercise, storage, bike rooms, etc), i.e. the lower-income residents can get to the same spaces the higher-income residents can get to within the building, I don't think this is a problem.

Obviously the motives can be very different when dealing with low-income residents as opposed to merely less-rich residents, but NYC real estate is a bizarre enough thing that I'm a little cautious about leaping to judgment based on reports from the NY Post.