Welcome to NYC! Please Enter Through the Poor Door.

In our super-stratified society, we are used to a certain level of unfairness. If you pay more, you can board a flight first and sit in the increasingly luxurious first class section of the plane while everyone else squeezes into steerage. If you don’t have dollops of dollars, as Josh Michtom notes, there’s probably no hope for you as a consumer, period. But what if you, a middle-class tenant who pays her rent, find yourself living among the super-wealthy because they have invaded your building and then added amenities to which you are not allowed access? Or you’re allowed to live in a fancy-shmantzy new condo, but only if you enter through “the poor door” (!) and stay out of the gym?

In recent years, developers who have earned tax credits by promising to provide affordable housing have built luxury condos with separate entrances and lobbies for the affordable rental units. The so-called “poor door” makes it easier to restrict who gets access to amenities. Last summer, 40 Riverside Boulevard, a luxury condo rising on the Upper West Side, drew criticism for a design in which low-income tenants enter through a separate door and do not share amenities with owners. …

At the Windermere, tenants living in the nearly 140 rent-regulated apartments have been barred from using the new spa with a pool, yoga studio and gym. As part of a $10 million renovation, Stellar Management is also adding a sky lounge, a bar and planters to the roof. Rent-regulated tenants, who pay about $1,000 a month for a one-bedroom, had socialized on the roof for years, but will no longer be allowed to use it when construction is complete.

This brings out my inner banner-waving go-ahead-and-pepper-spray-me revolutionary.

If two sets of people live in the same building, of course they should share the roof/movie theater/bowling alley/party boat/make-your-own-martini bar. Why not? Are the children of rent-subsidized tenants going to leave State School germs on the Legos? If the super-wealthy want to live in gated communities, they can — in Connecticut or something. If they choose to live in a city, in a glass monstrosity erected in the first place because it set aside a certain number of “affordable housing” units or, worse, converted out of a regular, normal-type building filled with regular, normal-type people, then they can live mingling occasionally with the Jeffersons. Who are, after all, their neighbors.

Adding to my ire: not to be misandrist or anything, but I did notice that the commenters with no sympathy for the second-class-citizen tenants in this dispute tended to be dudes.

“Cry me a river!” –Bradley

“The ingratitude on the part of people who have been subsidized to live in Manhattan for decades is astounding.” –Nigel

“Living in “rent-control-heaven” in NYC is the amenity.” –Joel

I’m assuming these were the boys who refused to share their toy trucks in the playground. Do they have a point that I’m missing? What’s so wrong with letting the poorer folks come in through the same door as the rich?

photo via Sakeeb Sabakka



Show Comments

From Our Partners