This New York City High-Rise Comes With a Separate Entrance for the Poor

The luxury condominium being constructed on the Upper West Side is just the latest to treat low-income folks like second-class citizens.

(Photo courtesy Extell Development Company)

Jul 21, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Back in 1977, Liza Minnelli famously sang, "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere." Since then, the "Theme From New York, New York" has been sung by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Stephen Colbert, embedding mythologies about the Big Apple in our hearts and minds. But if you're not one of the ultrarich living in a $100 million apartment, when you head home after a hard day you might be entering your building through the side door.

On Sunday, the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development confirmed to the New York Post that it had approved a plan by Extell Development Company to construct a massive luxury condo building on the Upper West Side. Of the apartments in the building, to be located at One Riverside Park, 219 will overlook the Hudson River. Another 55 more-affordable units will face the street, and residents of those homes will have to use a separate entrance.

This isn't the first time Extell has struck a deal like this with the city. Last year, reports the Post, the company planned a 33-story luxury condo with a similar "poor door." Developers are tacking affordable units on these buildings because it benefits their bottom line. By participating in the city's Inclusionary Housing Program, companies like Extell are allowed to construct a larger building. Adding a few more million-dollar condos to a larger property brings in big bucks.

It seems that developers like Extell don't want the wealthy to have to see those who are less well-off at all. On top of having to enter through another door, it's also not uncommon for low-income residents to be denied use of a building's amenities, such as the swimming pool or the gym. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer has said she plans to veto any other developments with similar plans for separate entrances, reports the paper. However, it appears that buildings that already have these side entrances for low-income folks can keep them.

In February, when Mayor Bill de Blasio committed to closing the gap between the rich and the poor, he pledged to preserve or construct "nearly 200,000 units of affordable housing." Let's hope that these shenanigans with side doors for the poor are not what de Blasio meant.