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Poor Doors

October 19, 2014

“Lazarus at the Rich Man’s Gate” by Fedor Bronnikov (PD Art / Old-100)

Upscale New York City housing lately has a poor door [1]. Condominium owners and those who rent at market rates are allowed access to a posh lobby; renters occupying more affordable apartments are required to use a separate, inconspicuous, side entrance. This is the so called “poor door”.

Ironically, many of these buildings were designed to include less expensive apartments, specifically so that developers would qualify for government incentives, including tax abatements and zoning variances.

Amenities are, also, being rationed. In some cases, rent stabilized tenants (whose rent is regulated by the state) may not be permitted use of a rooftop garden or on-site gym, though willing to pay a fee for the privilege. About one million New York City apartments are covered by rent stabilization.

Developers argue that they will be unable to find tenants willing to rent at market rates without such incentives. Condominium owners argue that they should be entitled to benefit for absorbing the lion’s share of building expenses.

Whether the deferential treatment constitutes bias had not yet been litigated.

Jesus told a parable about the beggar, Lazarus, who lay covered with sores at the gate of a rich man. When the two men died, Lazarus was carried by angels to Abraham’s bosom (a reference to the peaceful place in Sheol, where the righteous were thought to await the Judgment Day), while the rich man burned in Hades.

When the rich man asked for a few drops of water to ease his thirst, Abraham turned down his request this way:

But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented’ ” (Luke 16: 25).

Lord Jesus, there are so many poor doors, in this great nation of ours and across the globe.

Doors behind which children sit with hungry bellies; behind which women try to decide which bills can be paid this month, and which must wait. Doors behind which the unemployed contemplate their fate, all hope now gone. Doors behind which men, who have known little mercy, plan criminal activity; behind which imprisoned men stare at bare walls; behind which addicts risk their lives, in desperate pursuit of a temporary fix.

You said once that You stand knocking at the door. Enter these poor doors, Lord. These hearts are in great need of You.

And so, too, are ours. Open our eyes to that fact. Open our hearts to the destitution around us. May we not regret, as the rich man did, how we spend the time here.


[1] Staten Island Advance, “Poor Doors Divide Apartment Residents” by Jennifer Peltz of Associated Press, 8/19/14, p. A3.


  1. I pray with you to walk through the many doors the Lord opens us to express and display His love to others — especially those who are poor in spirit and body.

  2. Powerful message. Thank you for an extraordinary illustration on “poor doors”. I’m speechless.

    • I am glad the post touched a chord. I thought the painting was striking, too. Journalist and reformer, Jacob Riis, first used photography to document the squalor of the New York City slums in the late 1800s. Sadly, poverty persists to this day in that great city. The contrast between rich and poor could not be more stark.

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