Zeckendorf’s Semiperm embodies 421a complexities

Off-site affordable housing remains controversial

TRD New York /
Sep.September 14, 2015 08:01 AM

Nearly everyone agrees the city needs more affordable housing, but the specifics of 421a – “poor doors,” off-site facilities – remain controversial.

The Zeckendorf-built Semiperm Housing building, at 210 West 102nd Street on the Upper West Side, funded through tax breaks on the developer’s 15 Central Park West, is a case in point.

Zeckendorf Development built the 36,000-square-foot facility in exchange for the right to add 114,000 square feet to its luxury condo tower, increasing its size by 17 percent.

Many developers favor the model, allowing them eschew the need to accommodate both affordable and market-rate residents in the same building.

“You can create a lot more for less if you’re willing to move something 20 or 40 blocks away,” William Lie Zeckendorf told the New York Times, “If we had done this on-site, it would have diminished both properties, or drastically changed the nature of them.”

Some housing advocates agree, seeing the model as a win-win, but critics assert it allows developers to shunt affordable residents to less-desirable locations with less access to quality schools and other neighborhood amenities.

“We love what Settlement has done with Semiperm, but generally speaking, off-site affordable housing tends to let developers shuttle off these units to the cheapest sites, where the schools aren’t so good or it’s next to a waste-transfer station. But it’s better to have something than nothing, too, so we think flexibility is important,” Moses Gates, of the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, told the Times. [NYT]Ariel Stulberg

A prior version of this article misidentified Semiperm’s location as 247 West 37th Street, the location of the Settlement Housing Fund. 

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