I am tempted to make a series noting the stupidity that passes for quality writing at vox.com. Creating a site that is supposedly smarter than other sites is a bad idea when your commentary is regularly idiotic. This article by Matthew Yglesias is a case in point. He defends the implementation of what is being called a “poor door” at new development on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. His defense of this door, is simply stupid.
For one thing, contrary to what he is arguing, inclusionary zoning policies do not tax individual condominium unit owners, they tax developers who usually are getting a tax break in exchange (mainly under NY’s 421A tax abatement program).
Second, the point of inclusionary zoning is to ensure that you do not ghettoize the poor as was done with the massive brick housing projects of the 1950’s and 60’s. The idea is to allow everyone to live together and that no one can tell just by looking which unit in the building you live in. When I lived in a luxury rental on the Upper West Side, the 20% inclusionary units were indistinguishable from the exterior of the unit. I know that my pan-handling lunatic neighbor was a beneficiary of this program only because he chose to pan handle on that very corner. Mr. Yglesias is against ensuring that there are units for the poor and the middle class in Manhattan. This is a policy argument that would mitigate against inclusionary zoning and other policies, but does not actually justify the poor door. It is simply a straw man argument by someone trying to sound smart.
Yglesias then calls for upzoning more of New York City so that it can be denser and claims that Mike Bloomberg downzoned too much of the City. While anyone actually having been in the City in the last ten years knows that Bloomberg upzoned or attempted to upzone all of Manhattan and most of the waterfronts in Brooklyn and Queens and pretended to offset this with reduced density in neighborhoods that were already less dense. Furthermore, Bloomberg’s rezoning, which added a huge amount of density to parts of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens have not been accompanied by any increase in infrastructure to support the additional residents. There has not been a single mass transit or road project that would increase capacity (though some are subway and commuter rail projects underway, they only questionably increase capacity and seem to be years away from opening). There is no additional road capacity being planned and no parking increases. Just calling for taller buildings does not deal with the fact that you have to service those buildings, nor does it account for the question of whether anyone wants an entirely high-rise city.