poor door2

New buildings that get special tax or zoning breaks in return for affordable housing will have to build a single entrance and common spaces for tenants of all of the apartments — the infamous “poor doors” have been banned.

Two years after the term poor door was coined in West Side Rag, the state legislature passed a bill that included the line “Affordable units shall share the same common entrances and common areas as market rate units,” the Post reported. At least two Upper West Side buildings (here and here) that received permits before the ban will have the separate entrances.

The same bill extends the 421-a tax law for another year, with limits on condo projects that can use the break. The new tax law, hashed out in typical Albany backroom fashion, is unlikely to result in as much new housing as was expected under the bill endorsed by Mayor de Blasio and city real estate executives.

Before 2009, developers had to intersperse affordable-housing units throughout a building. The poor door loophole, passed under Mayor Bloomberg in 2009, didn’t spur the building of much affordable housing — just a few hundred units at most.

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 33 comments | permalink
    1. Bruce Bernstein says:


      question: does a building gym count as a “common area”?

      • Truf says:

        Only if its wallpaper is shabby.

      • Common areas should be clearly defined by the regulations that govern housing. There are minimum standards and responsibilities than are needed to be defined. A gym is not a required amenity but windows and water are. If the owner wants to give you a key for a dark room in the basement and wants to charge you more for it he can. If its in your lease and you are paying for it, you have every right to use it. Negotiating access might be something that can be attempted but it is not a civil right to have access to that room. Until a gym is legally defined as a common space, its not.

    2. denton says:

      This, coupled with 421a, is the death knell for affordable housing in NYC.

      “In the meantime, Schwartz said, four or five rental projects that are in the pipeline will be scrapped for condominiums. All five would have included between 20 percent and 30 percent affordable housing, and would have produced between 750 and 1,000 apartments.”

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        although they are in the same bill, the extension and design of 421-A and the issue of “poor doors” are separate issues. Will the design of 421-A potentially have an impact on affordable housing? yes. (although this is an extremely complex matter and one has to examine the actual rules… which are not yet fully in place.) Will banning “poor doors” have any impact whatsoever on affordable housing? not that i can see.

        • denton says:

          I am not sure I agree. It’s one thing to intersperse tenants in a rental, where everyone is a renter and some just pay more than others. It’s a whole other ball of wax in a condo where you have people paying many millions for an apartment. Developers may not want to risk it any more in a condo, which would decrease the number of affordable apartments being built.

          • Bruce Bernstein says:

            well, then they don’t get the tax abatements. I’m not sure yet how the new law is written… but De Blasio doesn’t seem to be too happy with it.

            • anon says:

              If Wilhelm is grumpy that can only mean the news is good for the non-poor/non-connected of the city and doesn’t pander to his voting bloc

            • Bruce Bernstein says:

              so it’s your contention that the vast masses of poor in NYC are somehow “connected”?

      • We do not know what the unintended consequences are of this legislation. We are getting concessions to build housing by dangling tasty carrots in front of developers. Adding poison when we want live rabbits will not help get more live ones. We need to find other ways to get the needed housing that works. Compromises may have to be made to get to that goal.

    3. Lis says:

      Most of the “subsidized”units go to market rate after 20 years. They are not permanently “affordable”
      So developers do quite well.
      BTW downtown developers are building dorms for Pace and Marymount getting extra floors – of course in 20 years will convert to luxury housing.
      No reason to feel sorry for big real estate developers

      • D.R. says:

        Would you know, Lisa, whether the same dynamics apply to Fordham U. at the Lincoln Center campus?

        I am told that the first dorm is only half-full. Yet, an additional building is going up.

      • Christina says:

        That is up to the landlord. They can extend beyond 20 years.

      • The zoning has rules for converting from public facilities to residential use. We don’t need to worry what the developer is going to do in the future with the land.

    4. D.R. says:

      Just noticed that I got your name wrong. Sorry, Lis.

    5. C says:

      “We’re only looking now at condo projects. We’re not looking now at any new projects that could have any rental component, any affordable component,” Schwartz said.

      On the issue of poor doors, I think the bigger problem is the fact that the change will effectively require developers to intersperse affordable units with market rate units. In theory, you would rather put all of the affordable units on lower floors, with less valuable views, so you could maximize the value of the market rate units. I assume what will happen is we’ll now get nothing more than a few affordable units mashed with ultra luxury inventory, as that is the only way the math works. Which is really a microcosm of New York City in de Blasio-land: lots of super rich people, lots of poor people, and nothing in between.

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        why does having the same common areas and entrances imply that developers can’t put affordable units on lower floors?

        • denton says:

          Well, you can’t expect real analysis from the Post, but if you could, you will note that the article says “buildings with affordable units can’t segregate tenants based on income” which would imply the apartments have to be interspersed, somehow.

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        … and as for the middle class being driven out of NY.. that hardly can be blamed on De Blasio. look towards Bloomberg. at least De B is TRYING… Bloomberg’s housing plan in large part was to build ultra-ultra-micro apartments. which never got built.

      • Christina says:

        The Ultra rich and the very poor in this city could be blamed on Bloomberg NOT De Blasio! In fact, under De Blasio we have an historic rent freeze on subsidized housing. Which, by the way are occupied mostly by the middle class!

        • anon says:

          how do you know that? Residents are not required to provide proof of income after moving in (they could be but it’s not an enforced practice) meaning that what we know is that people who move into these buildings make, on paper, under 200k.

          • anon says:

            in the above I refer to rent-stabilized apartments. Sorry I wasn’t more clear!

          • Bruce Bernstein says:

            the NYU Furman center issues a report that looks at demographics of people in various housing types.

            In 2011 (stats from most recent report), median household income for “market rate” tenants in nYc was 52,260. for rent stabilized/controlled tenants, it was 36,600. while they don’t break this down by community board, they have the stat for “core manhattan” (CBs 1-8, including CB7, UWS). market rate tenants median household income in that area was 110,000; rent stabilized / controlled, 57,780. 43.8% of rent stabilized/controlled tenants in “core manhattan” were listed as “low income.”

            i think some people on this site subscribe to false myths about rent stabilized tenants.

    6. Joanne says:

      Too little too late.

    7. jsf says:

      Yay! Actually I don’t give a rat’s …. if the landlord is willing to provide an “affordable” rent for me! And he can keep his roof gardens, gyms, cocktail bars for those who both want and can afford these “civilities?” – I merely want an apartment with an elevator if there are more than 2 floors,with a kitchen and bath, some closets, heat/hot water, a room height so that I don’t need to crawl in and sufficient space inside so that I can have a bed, table, desk, chair(s) an be able to turn around in with my significant other, a few children and a pooch or cat. Hey! I forgot windows that do not face brick walls and allow for intermittent sunshine. Is that too much to hope for? Seems to me that, with the exception of the elevator, most apts. in NYC, even tenements, used to provide these – with real, not sheet rock walls. What are our legislators about if they cannot insist that builders provide these?

      • Like you, most people want a place to live and are willing to put up with what an elite calls a poor door. Our elected officials pander to special interest groups that are only interested in their dogma. We are not solving the problem of affordable housing by only building housing for the extremely poor and doing that badly. We are paying people more for doing less. Those that need jobs to pay for the housing are not given the opportunity to earn the money needed to live in NYC. Our elected officials want you to work for them for free while they pay themselves and use your money to further their interests. Our city is becoming a world dominated by a Tammany Hall of technocrats and political idealists. If you are poor, you cannot survive without a political patronage handout. If you are rich you don’t give a damn. The rest of us are superfluous and obsolete. Our opinions and needs are unimportant. We are stuck in the middle with no hope of finding a solution to our problems because of the ideological mindset battles preventing progress. The fact is, arguing about the morality of poor doors and gym accessibility does not build housing. You and I will not see a suitable place to live while this continues.

        • Lulu says:

          the so called “affordable housing” is more like give away winning the lottery housing. To take a $5400 unit in a luxury building and rent it for $571 to students, who are 19/20 yrs old and have the rest of their lives to pay back loans and are young enough to be able to work and go to school is beyond unfair. Now they desreve gyms and rooftop swimming pools too?