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NYC developer makes some changes in design of apartment building with 'poor door'

NEW YORK, N.Y. - A plan for a luxury skyscraper with a so-called "poor door" is changing to extend more of a welcome to residents of its cluster of affordable apartments, officials and the developers said Friday.

The retooled plan for 1 West End Ave. still involves separate entrances, but all residents will now have access to such building amenities as a courtyard and river-view roof deck, and the affordable segment's lobby will be stylishly appointed and set facing a park.

The retooling follows an outcry over developments that got government incentives to include affordable housing but have separate amenities and even entrances for higher-paying residents. Developers say such arrangements can help make it financially feasible to build affordable housing at pricey addresses.

But some residents and officials see the divisions as discriminatory, and Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration has said it aims to bar separate-door schemes.

With 1 West End Ave. approved under a prior administration in 2010. Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been called the changes the best solution possible for now. The Wall Street Journal first reported them.

"This project sets the tone" for working with developers to make such buildings more inclusive, Been said in a statement. "This negotiation resulted in a project that will help create an economically diverse community, ensures the long-term sustainability of the affordable units and makes all of the tenants feel welcome."

Part of a development called Riverside Center on Manhattan's Upper West Side, the building is to include about 250 market-rate condos and 116 affordable apartments. The affordable units will now be rentals instead of co-ops, at the urging of officials who note that people of modest means sometimes can't meet financial standards for owning co-ops.

Because of the building's layout, some residents would have a long walk to elevators if there were only one entrance.

Developers Silverstein Properties Inc. and El Ad Group are "proud to have best-in-class, affordable housing as a central element" in the project, Silverstein executive Janno Lieber said.

"We want to create a community that honours the spirit of our city and Manhattan's West Side," Lieber said. The company declined to comment on the cost of the changes but said they wouldn't delay construction. It's in the foundation-digging stage now and due to finish in late 2016.

The site is a few blocks from another upcoming building where a "poor door" setup has ignited controversy. That tower, being built by a different developer, is already dozens of stories tall and expected to go forward unchanged.

To Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, one of the officials who pushed for the adjustments to 1 West End Ave., they represent progress but not a full solution to what she calls a "loophole."

"Now, we have to close it," she said.

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Reach Jennifer Peltz on Twitter @ jennpeltz.

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