Low-Income Tenants Sue Developer, Allege ‘Poor Door’ Discrimination
Tenants who won a lottery to live at Fifteen Hudson Yards are suing the developer for violating New York City’s “poor door” ban, which bans separate entrances for low-income residents.
Several low-income tenants who won a lottery to live in New York City luxury high-rise Fifteen Hudson Yards are suing the developer for discrimination, according to a New York Post article published on Thursday. The tenants said they’ve been banned from using building amenities, including a pool, playroom and indoor and outdoor common spaces, and they have a separate entrance from other tenants who pay market-rate rent.
“We asked them about all the amenities, and they kept saying, ‘We don’t know what you’ll be able to do,’” tenant Ronnie Clark told the Post. “They never said no. I think the reason they never said no is because they wanted us to continue the process, and then once they got us on the dotted line, we would have to go.”
Chanel Moody, who won a spot to live at Hudson Yards, said a housing specialist told her she’d have to use a separate entrance on the backside of the building and her family wouldn’t have access to any of Hudson Yard’s amenities. After learning that information, Moody decided to take her chances elsewhere.
“My housing specialist told me I would not be able to use their pool on the 51st floor,” said Moody who would’ve paid $1,348 for a two-bedroom unit. “She explained to me that I wouldn’t be able to use the playroom. She explained I couldn’t come in through the front entrance.”
“I asked her, ‘If I’m coming from 34th Street and I’m closer to 15 Hudson Yards and it’s windy, I wouldn’t be able to go through this door here?’ No, I would have to go around to 553 West 30th,” she added. “I felt like I’m not going to put my daughter through that.”
The tenants’ attorney, Mark Shirian, said the developer’s actions are a violation of the Fair Housing Act and New York City’s ban against “poor doors,” a term for the separate entrances developers created for low-income tenants living in luxury apartments. The use of these doors started in 2009 when developers began taking advantage of a loophole in the city’s Inclusionary Housing program.
The program enabled developers to receive tax breaks if they provided affordable housing units either on or off-site, which meant developers could meet the requirements for the break, even if they had separate entrances and elevators, a 2015 Guardian article explained.
Five years later, the New York City Council fixed the loophole as part of rent-regulation bill 421-a. “I think that the state legislature and the city are now doing the right thing in terms of treating people in every socioeconomic group with the same level of respect and dignity,” New York City councilwoman Helen Rosenthal told the Guardian.
“Our legislators heard the human cry from constituents who were very dismayed to see that there was a loophole in the previous legislation that allowed the developers to build a segregated building even though taxpayers’ dollars were involved,” she added. “Now that indignity won’t happen.”
Shirian said Hudson Yards’ developers, The Related Companies and Ery South Residential, have illegally tried to bypass rent regulation bill 421-a by giving the entrance for low-income tenants a different address.
“Regardless of whether the defendants violated [the partial tax exemption law] the differences in wealth equate to the lower-income residents not having access to market-rate tenants and the posh amenities and rules and regulations of 15 Hudson Yards, which has become a modern-day ‘New York-style financial apartheid,’” he said in court documents.
Both developers denied Shirian and the tenants’ claims and said they have followed state rules. The so-called “poor door” on the backside of the building, they said, is for all tenants to use and therefore not a violation.
“To be clear, there is one lobby in the building with entrances on 30th Street and the Plaza, accessible to everyone who lives in or visits the building,” the developers’ attorney Job Weinstein told the Post. “While we do not comment on the specifics of lawsuits it appears that the claims that this lawyer is making are categorically false.”
Weinstein also said none of Fifteen Hudson Yards low-income tenants have moved since its opening in 2019, which he said is proof of “the quality of the building, services and apartments.”