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Luxury condo developers building separate 'poor door' for low income residents

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Apparently luxury apartment developers have received a go ahead by the city to build a “separate entrance, or a 'poor door,'" according to Think Progress. Tenants will live in the affordable apartments built into luxury condos in New York City’s Upper West Side, but will also have a separate entrance. Yup – separating those who make less money from those who make more. According to public comments and letters, many see these actions as divisive, which create a status of “second class citizens.”

Some government officials believe this common practice needs to have further oversight to ensure the city isn't creating "second class citizens". The developer, Extell, believes the “building segment” of affordable units that span floors two through six, are legally separate though they’re all in the same building.

Westsiderag.com described it best; it’s like watching Downtown Abbey live but in the 21st century, and instead of servants having their own entrance not to be seen coming and going by the upper-crust, builders have created a separate door for affordable housing renters. Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal told 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.”

So far it appears that Extell has taken the idea of “separate but equal” to a whole new level, not only creating separate entrances like the “poor door”, but they are also keeping affordable housing residents from using any amenities in the building, and have focused those units to have the views of the road, whereas the other units take advantage of a park with plush landscaping.

Although Extell has stated it follows all the rules and regulations, it appears their proposal may have used their own interpretation of affordable housing section 40, and applicable zoning laws. According to the New York Post, the proposal came through last year, and was recently approved by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. However Community Board 7 for the Manhattan and the Upper West Side community wrote the HPD, asking them to please consider “safeguards to avoid a situation in which the Affordable Housing tenants are relegated to the status of second class citizens."

With developers gaining more subsidies, possible tax credits, and acquiring more square footage if they build affordable units; this practice appears to be growing. Currently lawmakers in New York, plus a couple council members are working on a bill to further develop anti-discrimination protections for affordable housing and rent-regulations.

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