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Dear big developers: Not every tax break is worth a bad headline. Extell Development Company is building a 274-unit luxury condo building in the Upper West Side, with plans to put in a separate door for people living in its planned below-market-rate units. The reason? It’s a workaround enabled by the city’s Inclusionary Housing law to help Extel collect on some major tax breaks and building allowances. Local residents are upset and have gotten their elected officials to jump into the ring.
Of the 274 units in the building, 55 will be below-market-rate housing, meaning only those earning less than 60 percent of the neighborhood’s median income will be eligible for leases. That’s about $51,000 for a family of four for the Upper West Side–about the same as the median income for the city as a whole.
The building’s affordable units would occupy floors two through six, attached to the building but legally as a separate entity. That separate entity allows Extell to cash in millions in affordances for technically having an entire building devoted to affordable housing. To add insult to injury, zoning law requires that a separate building have a separate entrance.
Neighbors are crying wolf when it comes to Extell’s blueprints, accusing the developer of demeaning potential tenants with the second entrance.
“This ‘separate but equal’ arrangement is abominable and has no place in the 21st century, let alone on the Upper West Side,” Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal told West Side Rag. “A mandatory affordable housing plan is not license to segregate lower-income tenants from those who are well-off.”
Members of Community Board 7, which represents the area around the planned development at Riverside Drive and 61st Street, have penned a letter to the city Departments of Planning and Housing Preservation and Development urging them to scrutinize Extell Development’s designs on the site.
It reads in part: “We urge that HPD carefully consider appropriate safeguards to avoid a situation inwhich the Affordable Housing tenants are relegated to the status of second class citizens.”
Here is CB7’s letter in full: