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NY City Council Approves ‘Poor Door’

Thursday, July 24, 2014

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A controversial plan to install separate entrances and elevators for affordable-housing and luxury-condo residents in the same building has gained approval in New York City.

City Council recently approved a proposal by Extell Development to install a separate door for affordable-housing tenants in its 33-story property at 40 Riverside Boulevard at 61st Street, on the city's Upper West Side, the New York Post reported.

Critics are appalled at the plan, calling the separate entrance a "poor door."

'Separate But Equal'

“This ‘separate but equal’ arrangement is abominable and has no place in the 21st century, let alone on the Upper West Side,” Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal told the West Side Rag.

Extell Development

Extell Development will be allowed to have separate entrances and elevators for affordable-housing and luxury-unit residents at a condo complex in New York City.

“A mandatory affordable-housing plan is not license to segregate lower-income tenants from those who are well off," said Rosenthal.

"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 55 affordable-housing units fill five floors in the back of the building. In addition to the separate entrance, the section will have its own elevator and maintenance company.

The remaining 219 units are luxury apartments and overlook the Hudson River.

The property is part of Extell’s 15-tower Riverside South complex that began development in 2012 and stretches from 59th Street to 72nd Street.

Inclusionary Housing Program

The entrance is part of the Inclusionary Housing Program, a zoning program that allows developers to build larger projects if they also provide low-income housing, either on- or off-site.

The incentive for the program is subsidies. A developer gets to add more floor area to a development than zoning allows by building affordable housing.


Affordable-housing units under New York's Inclusionary Housing Program must remain permanently affordable.

The program requires that affordable housing be located within the same community if it cannot be located it on site.

The units must also remain permanently affordable.

Income eligibility guidelines require that potential tenants earn less than 60 percent of the city’s median income. In New York City, that means a family of four must make $51,540 or less to qualify; an individual must make less than $36,120.

$20M Tax Break

The affordable units are expected to cost about $845 a month for a studio, $908 for one bedroom, and $1,100 for two bedrooms.

In addition, The New York Post reports that Extell is applying for a tax break given to developers who include affordable housing in their market-rate buildings.

Five buildings in the development already given the break paid a total of $567,337 in annual taxes, the news outlet said. Without the tax program, the report added, they would have paid the city $22 million.


Extell Development's proposal for the separate entrance was first reported last summer and immediately drew fire from affordable-housing advocates.

Since then, the developer has proposed a similar plan on the Lower East Side by building separate buildings next to each other. Critics call the plan "economic discrimination."


Tagged categories: Building Envelope; Economy; Housing

Comment from Sarah Marble, (7/24/2014, 8:15 AM)

This is disgraceful. What, you can't legally segregate from anyone else, so you have to create a new class of "untouchables"? We're all people; apparently some of us forget that.

Comment from john lienert, (7/24/2014, 9:00 AM)

i guess the next step is to label the drinking fountains "rich.......poor"

Comment from Paul Braun, (7/24/2014, 9:54 AM)

this is a wonderful idea. On one side we have the people who can afford NYC living, but may be hard-pressed to afford the maids, nannies, cooks and drivers that make their lives so enviable. With affordable housing so close (but so thoughtfully out of sight), the downstairs staff is not only within a finger snap of their superiors, but relieved of the cost of transportation from their less-desirable current digs, saving the employer another $120 per month, allowing one more serf to be employed, perhaps as a cell-phone finder or a shoelace polisher

Comment from José Avendaño, (7/24/2014, 10:22 AM)

It’s clear where the interest is, $ 20 million reduction in taxes. Developers benefit by not paying that huge amount of money (which is in their pockets) but segregate people with lower incomes. Too bad for the New York authorities that allow this.

Comment from John Fauth, (7/25/2014, 9:29 AM)

Like most, my emotional reaction is the developer’s proposal is deplorable. On the other hand, I can well imagine there are potentially some real financial costs to including affordable housing within a luxury development, including lower rental/sales rates, increased maintenance costs, increased crime and criminal activity which in turn further depresses values... Doing what they can to minimize the impact of those costs seems reasonable, even if it makes us uncomfortable. I've been to many upscale hotels where the penthouse suites use a separate elevator. I frequently felt envious while waiting for a public elevator to arrive, but never once did I feel like a social outcast.

Comment from William Feliciano, (7/28/2014, 2:18 PM)

Aside from the obvious social insult posed by the poor door, there exists the real possibility of far more tangible problems awaiting the lower income unit owners in the future: the so-called "separate maintenance company". Why would the lower income units require "a separate maintenance company"? Is the one hired to service the richer apartments not capable of properly servicing the lower priced ones? The one hired here will likely to be the caliber company hired by slum lords -slow to respond, shoddy work. I'm surprised they didn't install separate heating and cooling systems, or at least, not yet. Lower income units don't have to be a synonym for crime and decay - good, hands on management can screen tenants carefully (for both luxury and lower income).

Comment from John Fauth, (7/29/2014, 10:37 AM)

I could be all wrong, but I'm guessing most $ 800 to $ 1,000 apartments are serviced by a different caliber of maintenance company than luxury apartments. In fact, I'm guessing most luxury apartments do have upgraded heating and cooling systems, and plenty of other upgrades. That's what makes them luxury. Affordable housing doesn't have to be synonymous with "slums". But it also doesn't mean luxury subsidized by the taxpayer.

Comment from William Feliciano, (7/30/2014, 8:37 AM)

To John F., according to the article, the developer got a whopping $21.5M savings in taxes for building 55 low income units. Doing the math, that comes out to $391,000 that taxpayers paid for each "low income apartment". I don't know about where you live in the US, but where I live that kind of money buys you a nice palace, with 3 car garage, and plenty of land. If my hard earned tax money is going to pay that much to subsidize an apartment for low income folks, I would rather have the renter benefit from an upgraded heating and cooling system than have it line the pockets of a rich developer.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (7/30/2014, 9:13 AM)

If the new affordable housing meets current code (and it has to) - it's going to be a much nicer place to live than a lot of the existing "affordable housing."

Comment from Andrew Piedl, (7/30/2014, 10:33 AM)

First, I don’t think there is a law that mandates affordable units be included in any NYC development. The developers are providing some affordable units to trade it for a zoning bonus. They are also applying for a tax exemption (they have not received one yet - the $22M figure references 5 other projects, not the one with the 'poor door'). Typically, the affordable units in these types of buildings are distributed through out the building, so one would not know if the unit next to them is 'affordable' or not. As far as I know, no one has ever tried to exploit this bonus or tax break with a plan that segregates the units, thus the outrage. It should be noted that the tax break goes to the project - tax payers are subsidizing the luxury apartments in return for some affordable housing. The idea is that that luxury owners (or developers) benefit, as well as the people who are lucky enough to pass muster with the building's screening process and win the 'lottery' (the number of applicants exceeds the number of affordable units - so there is typically a draw to determine who gets a unit).

Comment from John Fauth, (7/30/2014, 12:11 PM)

William, it sounds like you have a beef with the politicians that wrote the subsidy law. Sorry, no backsies.

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