NYC housing rules raise fairness issues
New York – — One new Manhattan skyscraper will greet residents of pricey condos with a lobby in front, while renters of affordable apartments that got the developer government incentives must use a separate side entrance — a so-called poor door.
In another apartment house, rent-regulated residents can’t even pay to use a new gym that’s free to their market-rate neighbors.
New York is a city where the rich and relatively poor have long lived side by side, with who pays what often a closely held, widely varying secret. But a recent spate of buildings with separate amenities for the haves and have-nots is hurling that question out in the open, provoking an uncomfortable debate over equality, economics and the tightness of the social fabric.
“Nobody treats me like a second-class citizen in my own home,” says Jean Green Dorsey, who filed a complaint with the city Human Rights Commission this spring over her Manhattan building’s fitness center. She and fellow rent-stabilized tenants aren’t allowed to enter it despite a willingness to pay a fee; market-rate renters use it gratis.
Developers say they’re motivated by business, not bias, and reserving some prime features for higher-paying residents is the price of having affordable housing in hot neighborhoods.
But officials are broaching proposals to force more inclusiveness, troubled by seeing landlords use affordable-housing tax and zoning breaks to create what critics view as a caste system.
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