Peasants’ entrance


There’s a new residential high-rise going up in New York that will have separate entrances for rich people and not-rich people. No this time it’s not the Onion. It’s for real.

Extell Development Company, the firm behind the new building, announced its intentions to segregate the rich and poor to much outrage last year. Fifty-five of the luxury complex’s 219 units would be marked for low-income renters—netting some valuable tax breaks for Extell—with the caveat that the less fortunate tenants would stick to their own entrance.

The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development approved Extell’s Inclusionary Housing Program application for the 33-story tower this week, the New York Post reports. The status grants Extell the aforementioned tax breaks and the right to construct a larger building than would ordinarily be allowed. According to the Daily Mail, affordable housing tenants will enter through a door situated on a “back alley.”

Anything else? Piranhas? A row of burning tires between the alley and the door? Buckets of decomposing sludge emptied on the differently moneyed as they open the door?

Any of the unwashed folk who complain about such a convenient arrangement, of course, are just being ungrateful. As the Mail points out, fellow poor-door developer David Von Spreckelsen explained as much last year:

“No one ever said that the goal was full integration of these populations,” said David Von Spreckelsen, senior vice president at Toll Brothers. “So now you have politicians talking about that, saying how horrible those back doors are. I think it’s unfair to expect very high-income homeowners who paid a fortune to live in their building to have to be in the same boat as low-income renters, who are very fortunate to live in a new building in a great neighborhood.”

But it’s not a boat. They don’t get in a boat to go to their respective apartments. It’s an entrance. It’s a door, and an approach to a door, and a lobby or hall. There’s no need to worry about a boat; it’s just the entrance to a posh apartment building. The rich people won’t be made filthy and malodorous merely by using the same front door and lobby that the less-rich people use. They won’t be assailed by intolerable smells and sounds merely by proximity to people who aren’t millionaires.

But this is America, where we believe that only good people are rich and only evil people are poor.

Comments

  1. Crimson Clupeidae says

    Are you sure this isn’t an Onion article?

    Jumpin jeebus these people are grade A assholes.

  2. Nancy New, Queen of your Regulatory Nightmare says

    It smacks of “Separate but Equal.” and we all know how well that worked.

  3. smrnda says

    Exactly why do these high income people need to be isolated from the proles? Exactly what would happen to them if a a peasant walked through the same entrance? What would they catch? Poor cooties?

    It’s dangerous for the rich to have their own segregated spaces (defended on the grounds of property rights of course) but to give a tax break for such a project is obscene.

    If rich people are too good to use the same entrance as poor people, then they should find another country to live in.

  4. Chris J says

    If a rich person’s sensibilities are so offended by having to use the same entrance as the proles, why in god’s name would they consent to living there in the first place? Unless they divide the building in half with separate stairs/elevators, separate desks, and separated floors, the two groups will have to interact at some point.

    There is less than zero purpose to this, except maybe so people won’t have to watch the downtrodden enter the same building. You know, to protect the image of the rich folks. “I’ll know the common rabble that lives here with me, but by golly nobody else will!”

  5. Rich Woods says

    Anything else? Piranhas? A row of burning tires between the alley and the door? Buckets of decomposing sludge emptied on the differently moneyed as they open the door?

    Rotating knives.

  6. Blanche Quizno says

    I’m reminded of when football player Tim Tebow, back when he was still popular and a conservative Christian media darling, said he was going to donate his penthouse apartment in a rich-folks apartment building in Denver (or wherever) to be turned into a soup kitchen for the needy. Ha ha ha. What a cynical, mean-spirited joke. Yeah, it’s always good fun to get some laughs at the expense of society’s most vulnerable and downtrodden.

    It’s amazing that some people were stupid enough to take him seriously. Do they REALLY think the rich folks who’d paid top-dollar for posh digs would share the elevator with unwashed homeless people? These aren’t even on the same socio-economic level as the “common rabble” of this page’s article! They’re WAY below THAT!

    And what of zoning? I’m soooooo sure that cities will allow residences to be turned willy-nilly into offices that provide services to the homeless. Sure, it would be nice if they did, but they don’t. NIMBY is alivest and wellest where the richest reside.

  7. RJW says

    Not only in America Ophelia, it seems universal that the rich are usually portrayed as somehow being more virtuous because they have more money, it’s the toxic product of neo-liberalism, one of America’s most pernicious exports.

    We were so smug in the 1970s, social democracy was secure and the welfare state seemed unassailable.

  8. dmcclean says

    Sounds like a good opportunity for turnabout on the sidewalk counseling decision.

  9. moarscienceplz says

    Unless they divide the building in half with separate stairs/elevators, separate desks, and separated floors, the two groups will have to interact at some point.

    I’m betting that’s exactly what they intend to do. It will be essentially two buildings that just happen to occupy the same plot of land.

  10. Ed says

    But there was also historically a counter-tradition of criticizing the rich and powerful. Even in the Bible, yes there were some people who were supposedly rewarded with wealth for being “good”, but probably 4/5th s of rich characters are villains. You can count the good kings on one hand.

    Then Jesus didn’t seem to like many people who weren’t poor and made the famous camel and eye of the needle statement. Throughout the New Testament the only good rich people are those who give a lot of their money away. Buddhism glorifies a man who voluntarily gave up his wealth to be a homeless wanderer. This theme is repeated in Jainism and some forms of Hinduism.

    The Greek philosophers often had contempt for extreme luxury and inequality. Merchants and financiers were seen as very suspicious characters in most traditional societies. Until recently, boasting and showing off one`s success beyond a certain point was seen as being in bad taste in many circles.

    When the industrial age first produced a class of highly irresponsible rich, reformist and revolutionary movements were right on their heels. The ideal of systematically decreasing inequality became more and more mainstream until concerted efforts to undo not only the modern welfare state, but ANY limits on the power and status of the super-wealthy became very influential in the 1980s with Thatcher and Reagan backed up by the theories of people like von Hayek and Friedman.

    We’re dealing with more than just knee-jerk admiration of the powerful. It’s something else very particular to recent generations. There has been sporadic but impressive social progress in recent decades, but in the purely economic sphere, many past conservatives would be practically communists today and many supposed leftists center right at best.

  11. RJW says

    @10 Ed,

    There’s an element of hypocrisy in the Greek philosophers’ contempt, most of them were wealthy
    landowners living of the labor of slaves otherwise, they wouldn’t have had the time to philosophise, the majority of people were living a very marginal existence.
    For most pre-industrial societies, billionaire ‘farmers’ were respectable, but merchants were not, it was not wealth, but how it was accumulated that determined social status. Conspicuous displays of wealth are certainly not a recent phenomenon, Roman oligarchs were notorious for their spending on progressively more lavish entertainments, some even became bankrupt. The highly irresponsible rich have always been with us, what has changed is the political climate, not the behaviour of the plutocracy.

  12. bahrfeldt says

    Separate entrances help reenforce the fact of segregated living areas, enabling the charging of much higher rents, or obtaining higher prices for co-ops or condos, from the upper castes.

  13. Omar Puhleez says

    “The rich people won’t be made filthy and malodorous merely by using the same front door and lobby that the less-rich people use. They won’t be assailed by intolerable smells and sounds merely by proximity to people who aren’t millionaires.”
    .
    Oh, I dunno. Suppose one of the high-income homeowners was to collide in the front foyer of this tax-dodge of a building with someone engaged in the conspicuous consumption of their evening hamburger! Said homeowner could get ketchup all over their mink coat, followed by a sniff-up by a stray dog!
    .
    Could leave them traumatised and on their cellphone to their lawyer straight away..

  14. Ed says

    RJW–

    Sure, I agree it always been there and sometimes much worse in practice. I guess the point I was making( maybe poorly) was that it seems like criticism of either extreme wealth as such or at least of irresponsible and purely selfish use of it had cultural resonance in the past, even if the critics were hypocrites. Enduring respect required at least a fairly convincing pretence of virtue so their vices could be overlooked.

    Push things too far and they’d probably not be punished, but would be remembered as either a symbol of wickedness or a public joke depending on how intentionally cruel they were. These days, is it possible to go too far? Can any pointless, vulgar waste of money or blatant demand for the “right” to do absolutely nothing to benefit anyone else cause widespread outrage or mockery?

  15. RJW says

    @14 Ed,

    “Enduring respect required at least a fairly convincing pretence of virtue so their vices could be overlooked.”

    Yes, in Greco-Roman civilisation the rich were expected to spend their money on public works or, for example, to finance the construction of warships, as the civilisation declined the rich opted out of the system and spent their money on themselves. Of course, in Medieval Europe, massive inequality was divinely ordained, although the members of the plutocracy were expected to make charitable donations, the order of society was supported by religious ideology. The point I’m making is that neo-liberal ideology has provided the ideological support for the return of the shamelessly narcissistic rich, so we have The Market in place of God.

    “it seems like criticism of either extreme wealth as such or at least of irresponsible and purely selfish use of it had cultural resonance in the past,”

    Agreed. The most effective critique of inequality was obviously by the social democratic movements of the previous century, however the Left seems to have disappeared entirely or become obsessed by narrow ideological causes.

  16. weatherwax says

    I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t done at the request of the “peasants”, who were tired of dragging themselves in after a 10 hour shift, only to have some dandy throw their keys at them saying “Don’t forget to use a dustmat”, or “The servants entrance is round the side”, or some such.

  17. Shatterface says

    Its like JG Ballard’s High-Rise where the wealthier residents on the upper floors have their own express lift..

    Hopefully the residents of the lower floors will eat them.

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