Tuesday, August 21, 2018 | Updated at 1:17 PM ET


New York Officials Seek to Close Loophole That Allowed for Segregated Housing

First Posted: Jul 26, 2014 10:40 AM EDT

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Public Advocate Letitia James and City Council member Helen Rosenthal demanded Friday that the city's Inclusionary Housing Zone be revised, because a loophole allows developers to build separate entrances for its richer and poorer tenants.

"It has come to my attention that developers are abusing an option left over in the Inclusionary Housing Zoning text to create segregated buildings, often known as two-door buildings. This most recently occurred at 40 Riverside Boulevard, a building in which the affordable rental units will be segregated into one section of the building and market rate condos in another," Brewer said.

The building created controversy among city residents, and the media and referred to it as creating a "poor door" for lower income tenants. One city council member's office was inundated with phone calls, with one caller asking if the next thing they could expect is segregated fountains.

"The City's Inclusionary Housing program was enacted to grow the affordable housing supply and foster diversity. There are unit distribution requirements in the program to help ensure that future developments retain a mix of households and to allow truly diverse communities to grow and thrive," Brewer said. "Unfortunately the IHP currently allows for developers to build what are called 'segmented buildings,' freeing them of these distribution requirements. To do this, developers essentially use the option of creating the affordable housing off-site but place the 'off-site' housing on the same zoning lot."

Brewer said in 2007 New York State modified its housing program so that developers could only get tax benefits if they provided affordable housing on site -- the city, however, didn't amend the local inclusionary housing program. Brewer is demanding the city support a law revision, especially, if it ramps up the construction of middle-income and affordable housing.

"The two-door system -- or creating a "poor door" -- is an affront to New Yorkers' belief in fairness and diversity. In our city, we all live together, and creating a two-tier system in a development that is receiving tax incentives is offensive," Brewer said.

The developer, Extell, has received approval from the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development to go ahead with its construction of 55 affordable rental units segregated from 296 market rate condos.

Brewer has approached the developer about making changes to the segregated plan but to no avail. Extell, she said, is interested in participating in the city's affordable housing network, which is expected to compete for subsidies to build 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next 10 years. Brewer will be introducing legislation, supported by Letitia James, to close the loophole in city law.

"Developers who receive public funds to build affordable housing are saying it is legally acceptable to provoke economic division, that we should accept attempts to isolate wealthy residents from everyone else. That the rule of law varies depending upon income," James said. "You know this administration was elected into office on equality, one rule of law, one New York City, it really strikes at the core of that principal. And this principle should not just be talking points but should be a principle in practice, in fact."

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