Editorial: No Country for “Poor Door”

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If Occupy wants to choose a new target to take over, forget Wall Street.

I’ve got a better idea

Let’s bring all the tents, bullhorns, signs and societal scrutiny to a newly excavated piece of land right off the Hudson River in New York City.

That’s where Extell has just broken ground on a complex with what will be enviable waterfront views and luxury trappings befitting of its Upper West Side digs.  The developers will also offer 55 units of affordable housing, according to a New York Post article about the project.

But don’t take your hats off to Extell and their corporate magnanimity just yet.

Apparently, the suits there are leveraging that low-income living space for sweet tax breaks. That’s nothing new, but here is where you may want to brace yourself for a nasty surprise.

Even though the so-called poor are welcome to live in the structure if they meet stringent household income guidelines, they will be forced to enter and exit through a door that leads to an alley.

They’ll also have a completely separate elevator bank and maintenance system.

Yes, take your time and drink that in. We’re not in a rush.

This company, in 2013, on the eve of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington is creating what amounts to a colored entrance.

But in this case, the color is green. The good folk at Extell clearly don’t want their monied market-rate clients rubbing shoulders with the great unwashed, not even for the five minutes it takes to get to their separate-but-not-equal floors.

There are some who are actually defending this “poor door,” explaining that it’s just the way of capitalism. The have’s cannot be put on a playing field with the have not’s, these apologists argue. It undermines the very system that makes this country run once we start giving everyone everything, they opine.

And while I can somewhat understand why the affordable housing units would not face the water or perhaps be located on certain floors because that’s par for the rental course, it is vile that they would be relegated to go in and out of a certain door and be shielded from their wealthier counterparts via an isolated elevator system. The message this sends is deplorable.

It also negates, in many ways, the very purpose of tearing down projects and building living spaces that allow people of different walks of life to be exposed to one another.  Here, in Chicago where JET is based, the demolition of the soaring, but segregated towers with names like Robert Taylor and Cabrini Green was looked at as a point of progress as residents (not enough, in my mind) were relocated to condominiums and apartments. That kind of arrangement, obviously in its more ideal state, could not possibly occur with the Extell system, which is reminiscent of a passage in some Dicksensian tale.

It’s even more galling that the company stands to reap benefits from this farce of affordable accommodations.

The shame is being piled on, but it should go much further than a Twitter dragging via #poordoor or mocking blog posts. Hopefully, the city’s inclusive housing officials will spurn these greedy and, clearly delusional, executives in their bid to get millions in tax incentives for their waterfront treasure.

That is, unless they revisit their current blueprint.

If these low-income residents aren’t good enough to go home through the front door, the city should insist that Extell exit through the back.