Affordable Housing

I'm a subsidized renter, and a "poor door" might be the last straw

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The cost of living in this city has gotten so outrageous, and now we’re putting in "poor doors" to make those in need of affordable housing feel even more shame?

That was my immediate thought when I read that the city had given the green light to a developer's plan to build two entrances for a new luxury development at 40 Riverside Boulevard--one for the owners of the high-end condos and another for the tenants renting affordable units. 

I have some experience with affordable housing. I live in a so-called 80/20 building in Battery Park City, where 20 percent of the units are set aside for renters who make less than half the area's median income. I pay $700 per month for a one-bedroom. I wrote about my experience for BrickUnderground in 2012 and, let's just say, it didn't sit well with everyone.

As one commenter wrote, "The 20%-ers should be required to wear a label around their necks at all times. And maybe they should clean the apartments of the 80%-ers as a mark of their appreciation for the subsidy they receive." Luckily, the opposite is true: it's often really difficult to tell the 20 percenters from the 80 percenters, much as I've tried. 

That wouldn't be true anymore if we were herded through separate entrances. If my building instituted a "poor door," there would be an uproar. I don't think you'd see picketing in the lobby--well, maybe--but the residents would email management to complain. Maybe we would all just refuse to use the side door. 

And for me? A poor door might be the last straw. I can take crowded subways and overpriced groceries. I can handle the tourists and the traffic. But discrimination in my own building might make me decamp to another city. Maybe the West Coast. I would buy a home so I could go through any door I want. 

But most of us probably wouldn’t leave. We would swallow our pride and follow instructions. Maybe some of us would put on a disguise when we entered and exited the building. The truth is, the majority of us probably couldn’t afford to live anywhere else--that's why we're in this program. For most 20 percenters, even 90 percent of our income won't cover the cost of a one-bedroom in New York.  

Most of my friends are jealous that I pay such a low rent and tell me to shut up when I start ranting about housing inequality, especially when they have to commute to far out neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens and pay triple what I do. But my question is, where's your outrage at the system? We should all be making noise to change this--to add affordable housing to every neighborhood. 

The thought of keeping quiet and having to scurry into my building through an entrance designated for the non-wealthy is pretty demoralizing. I know I'm not rich, I know the majority of people traipsing around my neighborhood are pretty well-off. But having my face rubbed in it? It's humiliating. 

Who wants to be judged by their neighbors based on their income? The wealthy feel contempt for what they see as the handout-taking poor. And the poor feel envy for everything they don’t have (like a front door to walk through when they get home!).

Just wait until the revolution comes. Because the security guards and doormen aren’t going to barricade those fancy private doors for you. They’re 20 percenters too. 

Related:

What you need to know about "poor doors," now that one is coming to the Upper West Side

80/20 apartment living: my life as a 20 percenter

4 ways the Upper West Side gym debacle could play out

Why banning renters from the roof deck is a dumb idea

 

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