NYC Lawmakers Vow To Ban 'Poor Doors' In Luxury Buildings

New York City officials are vowing to reverse a law allowing luxury developers to install two separate entrances in new residential towers -- one for residents paying at market rate and another for low-income residents who qualify for affordable housing.

Such buildings include affordable housing units so that developers can receive tax credits.

“The two-door system, or creating a poor-door system as some media have coined it, is an affront to New Yorkers' belief in fairness and diversity,” Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said at a recent press conference. “Creating a two-tier system in a development that is receiving tax benefits is offensive.”

The outrage stems from news last week that the city approved a controversial dual entrance at 40 Riverside Boulevard, where developers have already begun constructing a luxury condo in which low-income residents will be segregated from wealthier residents. Those who will live in the lower-income part of the building will be prohibited from using amenities including a gym and swimming pool.

Extell, the developer behind the Riverside Boulevard project, has since defended the housing design.

"Would you rather not have the affordable housing? Ask any one of the thousands of people who are applying for that, and they don't give a damn," Extell president Gary Barnett told NPR. "They want to have a beautiful apartment, in a beautiful neighborhood, and you know, at a super price."

The poor door practice, which is technically permitted due to zoning codes created to spur more affordable housing units under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I), is common throughout buildings across the city.

Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) was quick to put blame on his predecessor for the loophole, even though he voted for the measure in 2009 when he was a city council member.

Lawmakers including Councilman Mark Levine are now drafting legislation to close the loophole in the city's Inclusionary Housing Zoning system.

"It's outrageous that we give huge tax credits to developers for including affordable apartments in their buildings only to allow them to turn around and segregate entrances or block access to amenities for low-income tenants," Levine said. "I am profoundly disappointed that the developer of 40 Riverside has exploited this loophole in creating a ‘poor door’ in its building. We must do everything we can to end this discriminatory practice immediately.”

Cvil rights groups are also working to end the practice, which they say inherently discriminates against minorities who make up a large portion of residents qualifying for affordable housing.

A New York University study cited in the Times noted in 2011, 73.4 percent of market-rate residents were white. Seventy-seven percent of owners were also white.

A petition demanding change was also launched.

“Our goal is to continue to fight, to do what we need to do and make it right,” Elzora Cleveland, who started the petition, explained. “It’s just not right, it’s not right.”

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