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.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.
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.”
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.