Separate, but not equal

It appears that in New York a developer has proposed a new housing development, 40 Riverside Boulevard, whereby tenants will use separate entrances if they live in affordable housing or in the “premium” housing above. The developer, Extell Development Company, is essentially splitting the building into two, where the second through sixth floor are affordable housing and the remainder are market rate. Extell by splitting the building into two, with separate entrances and elevators, will receive  millions in subsidies, allowing it to building “as much as $100 million in floor space it couldn’t previously build.”

While the economics of the project, from the developers point of view are understandable –they aren’t building housing because they are altruistic– it is disconcerting that they may be aided by the government to segregate people in this way. Time and time again we have seen in cities how everyone does better when there is a democratic environment. People are more understanding and sympathetic when they encounter people outside of their own circle, not to mention the benefits to of living in an integrated environment are better for those less well off.

In this instance, while there will be a greater stock of affordable housing, we have to decide if this is the manner we want to provide it. I can’t believe that we want to create a city where we literally divide the public on class lines, the wealthy through the front door, the not-wealthy through the alley. This may make sense financially, for the developer, but as a social piece of the city it is antithetical to the ideals we hold dear about a city.