I’ll start by quoting the Rent is Too Damn High Political Party, because “the rent is too damn high.”
It’s no secret that affordable housing in America’s top metro cities is hard to come by. I live in Los Angeles, so I know this firsthand. But New York has reached an all time low (or high depending on you look at it) by including a separate entrance for tenants living in the “affordable” housing units in a new luxury high-rise on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. And yes–as bad as that sounds, and it’s bad, I could easily see this being duplicated in the City of Angels.
Like in Los Angeles, developers in New York are getting generous subsidies from the government to build new modern housing. In Los Angeles you can look at the transformation of downtown Los Angeles and the ongoing transformation of Wilshire Boulevard, particularly near La Brea Avenue for examples.
Also, like in New York, most of the housing being built isn’t considered affordable and is really geared towards those who are wealthier looking for luxury accommodations. The hitch is that in most cities where poor people are paying any sort of attention at all, that doesn’t fly. So to accommodate the need for affordable housing, deals are put into place between city managers, local elected officials, and developers that any new housing units must include a number of units that fall within the “affordable” housing category for people with low-to-middle incomes.
Developers go along, but not always willingly or happily. Remember, they’re in it to make money, affordable housing units don’t meet that objective. It’s the city and politicians who have to appear to care about housing for those less fortunate who get giddy and beside themselves when these deals are struck.
Which brings me to the case of Upper Manhattan’s appropriately titled “poor door.”
This week the city approved developer Extell’s plans for a 33-story luxury condo with a separate entrance for affordable-housing tenants, nicknamed the “poor door.”
A spokesman for the Department of Housing Preservation and Development confirmed that the agency had approved Extell’s application for the Inclusionary Housing Program with the separate but not equal entrance.
To give you a better idea of how some of these developers look at the poor, there was a 2013 quote in a real-estate trade paper from a New York developer of another project defending separate entrances.
‘No one ever said that the goal was full integration of these populations,’ said David Von Spreckelsen, senior vice president at Toll Brothers. ‘So now you have politicians talking about that, saying how horrible those back doors are. 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.’
Now I’m not going to lie. I must admit there’s a part of me that wants to see more Black people, particularly my age (36) and younger experience segregation in such a way that they wake the hell up and appreciate what others before them went through for them to live the life they do today. I think a certain sense of humility and realization can come from having to use a separate entrance that’s not for the VIPs of the world.
But that isn’t the reason for this separate entrance.
No, this entrance is meant to humiliate the less fortunate and separate the have from the have-nots who don’t want to be forced to make small talk with people from the same class as the hired help.
As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if domestic positions including that of housekeeper and nanny were offered to those in the “affordable” section to work for those in the “wealthy” section. I can see the ads now, wouldn’t you like to work where you live?
New Yorkers should be ashamed of themselves and for those approved to live in the new complex’s affordable housing section you might want to think twice about what you’re giving up (dignity, for one) before you start singing about moving on up to the West Side. Angelenos should be wary and mindful that this trend doesn’t make its way across country into our beleaguered city that is plagued with blatant and purposeful gentrification that has already displaced thousands of low-income residents.