For Affordable Housing, Can Separate Ever Be Equal?

September 20, 2017

The RIOC board voted in favor of an amendment in Southtown’s ground lease that will allow them to build the last two promised Southtown buildings, Building 8, and Building 9. 


As plans exist now, Building 8 will be ‘affordable,’ and Building 9 will be ‘market.’ On a per deal basis, this one offers a larger percentage of affordable housing, and deeper affordability than prior Southtown deals did.


Affordability is a good thing, and providing it has always been a part of the mission of Roosevelt Island. Its loss has changed our community, in many ways for the worse.


Yet, how do we feel about having one affordable building among eight market buildings? Or put differently, has the Manhattan Park experiment worked well enough to be repeated in Southtown?


Manhattan Park is home to five buildings comprising a total of 1107 rental apartments. Building 2-4 River Road is the affordable building, containing 222 units built pursuant to the Section 8 New Construction Program back in 1989. 


Then there are the 885 market rate Manhattan Park apartments spread out in the remaining four buildings. These are all in varying stages of renovation being billed by Manhattan Park as, “A stylish makeover transforming Manhattan Park’s luxury apartments.” At present 2-4 River Road is not part of the current renovation. Manhattan Park’s market buildings all have concierges while 2-4 River Road has security. 


As a community, can we think of a better way of doing this? As we look back on this decision ten years from now, will we wonder why we segregated people by their economic status? In the rush to approve and close by the end of the year, we may have neglected having this important conversation. Let’s have it now.      



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