Sunday, May 18, 2014


In New York City, developers who want to put up luxury apartment buildings sometimes reserve a certain number of units for middle-income tenants paying lower, stabilized rents, which can rise only a set amount each year. The developers do this not out of the goodness of their hearts, but because it entitles them to a sweet tax break.

And then, as The New York Times notes, this often happens:
When a playroom opened in Michael Reilly's Upper West Side building two years ago, he asked the concierge for a key to the space so his toddler could play there. The concierge's answer stunned him: It was out of bounds to him and his child.

Mr. Reilly's building, the Windermere West End, a luxury rental, is one of several in the city that prohibit rent-regulated tenants from using new services like gyms, playrooms and rooftop gardens. Some co-op and condo buildings have similar restrictions.

Developers say amenities are a marketing tool to lure high-paying tenants....

In recent years, developers who have earned tax credits by promising to provide affordable housing have built luxury condos with separate entrances and lobbies for the affordable rental units. The so-called "poor door" makes it easier to restrict who gets access to amenities....

At the Windermere, tenants living in the nearly 140 rent-regulated apartments have been barred from using the new spa with a pool, yoga studio and gym. As part of a $10 million renovation, Stellar Management is also adding a sky lounge, a bar and planters to the roof. Rent-regulated tenants, who pay about $1,000 a month for a one-bedroom, had socialized on the roof for years, but will no longer be allowed to use it when construction is complete....
I don't know where this falls on your injustice scale. The separate-entrances thing strikes me as the creepiest -- it's not quite Jim Crow, but it's as if these developers want it to be.

Over at The American Prospect, Harold Meyerson notices something similar going on in air travel. At one end of the income spectrum, you've got this:
According to a New York Times story on business travel that ran earlier this month, "the average seat pitch -- the industry standard for the space between two seats, currently about 31 inches -- has been reduced by about 10 percent over the last decade. Airlines are also using slimmer economy seats that allow them to add more rows and passengers on their planes."

... Spirit [Air] charges its benumbed passengers a fee for their carry-on bags, $3 for water and $10 for printing out boarding passes, and has seats that, by design, don't recline.... And yet Spirit thrives as the 99-cent store of air travel, because it's an airline that the downsized working class can afford.
And at the other end, there's this:
A first-class ticket on Emirates Air from Los Angeles to Dubai entitles you to a private compartment -- complete with a sliding door, a lie-flat seat and mattress, a vanity, a minibar, a flat-screen TV and luxury bathroom with shower -- for a tidy $32,840. Korean Air has installed what the New York Times describes as a "spacious lounge" with fully equipped bar in the first-class sections of its planes. Delta will provide flat-beds for their first-class and business passengers on all their New York to L.A. flights starting this summer. Virgin Atlantic provides private limousine service to and fro airports for their first-class passengers. Not to be outdone, Lufthansa has built an entire separate terminal for its first-classers at the Frankfurt airport, from which they are carried by limousine across the tarmac to their planes. Delta and United whisk their first-class passengers to connecting flights in Porsches and Mercedes, respectively.

Even the air within the plane is apportioned by class. In its first-class cabins, Lufthansa has installed humidifiers that increase the humidity to 25 percent, while in coach, it ranges from 5 to 10 percent.
Are these First World problems? Sure. But still, they're a sign that business is abandoning any expectation of making money in the future from a broad middle class. And clearly no one in the upper brackets cares any more about the conspicuousness of their own consumption. The middle class is expected to feel deprived. That seems to be the point.


Paul said...

So true. So depressing.

aimai said...

I accidentally ended up in the first class lounge at Heathrow last time I was travelling. My ticket was for coach class but my mother was travelling first and because she was in a wheelchair they sent me with her. I had no idea--hot and cold running champagne, every kind of food in a permanent buffet all simply free once you were in the lounge. Blew my mind.

Victor said...

Everything you need to know in life, you can learn from "Rocky and Bullwinkle."

In one episode, Rocky is unconscious and plummeting down to earth.

Fearless Leader is standing with Boris Badenoff, watching Rocky plummet, through a pair of binoculars.

Boris ask Fearless Leader if he can see, and Fearless Leader says, "NO! The only thing better than seeing something really great, is to keep others from seeing I!"

Today, that reads as:
"I got MINE! F-U, you get yours!"

Ten Bears said...

I trust you are familar with statistical saturation, and the inevitability of a perpetual motion machine's failure? Marie Antonette and her cohort had no idea what was coming.

Funny thing, or not... I have oft noted the canard of Banker types leaping from rooftops on Black Tuesday was just that, a canard. They didn't jump. Ore the past several months twenty-some Banker types have "leappth to their deaths" around the world.

Marie Antonette and her cohort never saw it coming.

Nothing to fear.

Nefer said...

"The separate-entrances thing strikes me as the creepiest -- it's not quite Jim Crow, but it's as if these developers want it to be."
My first thought was, the servants/tradespeoples entrance. After all, we are only here to serve the 1%.

RandomThgt said...

Chris Hayes did a segment on this issue with relation to real estate development in NYC a few months back...What I find interesting about the issue (actually, its not interesting) is that some (perhaps any?) of these developments likely could not have been built without the tax breaks/subsidies (which, in turn, requires the developers to have the rent regulated units). We (as a society) need to demand more (if we are going to make these types of economic concessions). its not any different from the circumstance where states and municipalities grant corporate welfare to companies in exchange for locating (or maintaining) facilities in their areas. The states and/or municipalities rarely (if ever) demand that the companies achieve measurable job creation targets in exchange for the largess...

M. Bouffant said...

From Salon:
“As a retailer or a restaurant chain, if you’re not at the really high level or the low level, that’s a tough place to be,” John G. Maxwell, head of the global retail and consumer practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers told The New York Times in February. “You don’t want to be stuck in the middle.” Yup.