Developers are giving a New York City building a makeover that includes a custom wood entrance to its "poor door." Some activists have called the separate entrances, which have been dubbed "poor doors," a form of segregation. But developers are keen on keeping the doors because they get tax breaks for having the separate entrances. 

1 West End Avenue, better known as 10 Freedom Place on the Upper West Side is giving these doors a renovation. The luxury condo tower was designed atop of a structure that has affordable housing units. The project will include 250 market-rate condos and 116 affordable housing units.

City officials and developer Larry Silverstein negotiated changes that would allow the residents of the affordable housing building access to a courtyard and a 12,000-square-foot roof deck that looks west over the Hudson River.

Silverstein and partners at El Ad Group decided to have the entrance to the project's affordable housing building face a planned four-acre public park. The custom-made entrance will be made out of glass and wood. The makeover is an attempt to make the residents feel like it's not a backdoor. If the two types of residents shared an entrance, the tenants would have to walk only 200 feet to the elevator bank.

"I'm hoping that as time goes on, people will share play dates and I hope that they'll do BBQs together. I'm hoping that it will work," Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewser, said.

The building had layout approval from the City Planning Commission and City Council in 2010, before Silverstein and partners bought the site in 2013.

"I do think we've made a blueprint. The blueprint is that you've got to have a building that signals, 'You are welcome here. You are just as valuable as every person in this neighborhood,'" says Vicki Been, Housing Preservation and Development Department Commissioner.

But not everyone is buying the reasons behind the makeover. City Council Member Helen Rosenthal says that the Mayor's Housing Preservation Commissioner "went to extraordinary lengths to strengthen the affordable housing guarantees for a new building."

"Regrettably, the developer chose to exploit the affordable housing zoning code of the prior administration, which allows for a separate entrance for tenants in affordable housing units, commonly referred to as a 'poor door'" she says.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio plans to change the law that allows affordable housing units to be built on the same site as market-rate units with separate entrances.

"We oppose so-called 'poor doors' and will change the necessary rules so that when [affordable] housing is provided on-site, we will not allow separate entrances based on income," says a spokesman for the mayor.

The building will include 800 to 900 square feet one-bedrooms for about $1,000 a month. The affordable housing units will cost about $800,000 each. At least the rooftop deck and courtyard access are the first steps to changing the 'poor door' policy.

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