Separate Entrance For Poor People? (Real Estate Ramblings)

It's funny how our interests change once we start paying rent, isn't it?

This is an interesting article from Friday's New York Sun. I never read The Sun, but I saw the article over someone's shoulder on the bus on Friday morning and it looked interesting. (I managed to read most of it during the bus ride.)

It discusses a residential building to be built on and over the West-Park Presbyterian Church at W. 86th St. and Amsterdam. The building would have 50 affordable-housing rental units (for tenants aged 55 and over) and 27 market-rate condos. Sounds good so far, right? I mean, maybe it's sad that they're ripping down part of a 19th century red stone church to build residential units, but it seems necessary to save the rest of the church, and surely more affordable housing in Manhattan is a blessing! The catch? The renters and condo-owners are going to have separate entrances. They will live on entirely separate floors, and only condo-owners will have access to amenities like the gym, playroom, and media room. The title of the article is "Critics See Signs of Segregation In a Proposed West Side Tower," and it's pretty clear why. Without the separate entrances and separate floors, actually, I'm not sure that there would be much of a story. The final quote is, "a spokesman for New York Acorn, an affordable housing advocacy organization, Jonathan Rosen, said the proposal 'brings a type of social exclusion that really has no place in the city in this day and age.'"

First of all, what is he talking about? Social exclusion is the calling card of Manhattan! It's just usually the case that poor people are so socially excluded by rich people that the two groups hardly ever have to meet, I mean really meet (not be asked for money on the street or in the subway). In my neighborhood, for example, there are housing projects and expensive high-rises right across the street from each other. Do you think the tenants of the two buildings party together? Do their laundry together? No. Social exclusion is what happens when people of different social statuses (stati?) live in the same neighborhood or in abutting neighborhoods. It happens in New York all the time, and probably in other cities as well. So I'm not sure the proposal brings social exclusion as much as highlights existing social norms. I'm also not saying that social exclusion is okay, only that it is sort of inevitable in an economically stratified society such as ours. And if you aren't part of the solution, you're part of the problem. So I am part of the problem. Although, if you compare the salaries of all of my friends, from undergraduates and graduate students through i-bankers, my social circle(s) probably has (have) a wide range of incomes.

As far as the proposal itself goes, it seems reasonable that affordable-housing residents would not have access to the amenities that million-dollar condo owners do. Separate entrances, though, pisses me off and reeks of, I don't know--something. Segregation, I suppose. Disgusting.

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Bonus real estate links:
  • "Choosing Israel, Not the Hamptons," New York Times, Friday, March 9, 2007

  • Washington Heights: the next victim of rising rents? See this NYT article from Sunday, March 4. I'm sure that some people are being pushed out of Washington Heights already, and will continue to do so, because of the yuppification or hipsterfication of Washington Heights. First the immigrants will get pushed out, then the students and non-profit professionals. Sigh...

  • "Buying With Help From Mom and Dad," New York Times, Sunday, March 18, 2007. I do know people whose parents bought apartments for them. Like, maybe two people. They work the same kinds of non-profit jobs that I do, but they wear nicer clothes and seem less stressed out. Oh, well. I'm not complaining about my own situation, which is just fine and dandy, only expressing some jealousy over those whose parents choose to invest in NYC apartments in which their children then live, rent-free, in the meantime. (It's probably a smart investment. I don't see rents or property values on the UWS crashing anytime soon, especially if you buy in the currently-gentrifying-formerly-drug-infested areas.)

  • I'm not about to move to the Midwest over it, even though I'm sure I could get a nice house there for what I currently pay for a bedroom in an apartment with two (and a half) roommates. Heck, I could move to plenty of other nice cities and probably get a nice one bedroom for what I currently pay for my room. Oh, I could also move to Queens, Staten Island, or even many parts of Manhattan or Brooklyn and get a nice studio or possibly even a one bedroom for what I currently pay for my room. It's just that right now, I don't want to live there. Or in the Midwest. Neither do a lot of other people, which is why rent is so high here in this part of Manhattan and in the parts of Brooklyn where hipsters want to live, and lower elsewhere. What am I ranting about, you say? Gawker gets all snarky about this personal narrative from the Sunday, February 25 New York Times. Gothamist agrees. And I, more or less, do as well, although I'm not quite as prone to snarkiness and personal attacks as some of the Gawker and Gothamist commenters.

  • This isn't exactly about real estate, only something to possibly consider when you think of safe vs. unsafe neighborhoods in Manhattan. [Hat tip to Cyburbia.]

1 comment:

David said...

I am appalled at the idea of separate entrances for people based on any criteria other than from which direction they happen to be arriving.

I am also appalled that there is a restriction against the use of communal amenities by the subsidized housing population.

A less offensive way of paying for amenities is offering an optional charge (monthly?) which any resident could pay which would grant them access.

This seems to be designed to push as many offensive buttons as possible...