Micro apartments could help cities retain their diversity says Ian Schrager


The booming market for luxury apartments in New York "is an issue" that could damage the city, according to hotelier and real-estate developer Ian Schrager – and micro apartments could be the solution.

Speaking to Dezeen, Schrager said that the influx of rich people into New York and other cities threatened their diversity.

"I do think that not having diversity in cities is a bad thing," he said. "And it just being rich people is not a good thing."

He added: "I think an area gentrifying and having some rich people is fine, as long as the area has diversity. It is a diversity that brings the energy, and brings the greatness to a city. I think that's an issue."

Ian Schrager
Ian Schrager told Dezeen that micro apartments are "potentially a great solution" to declining diversity in cities

Schrager, one of the most influential living hoteliers and developers, spoke amid concern that the super-rich are pricing everyone else out of Manhattan.

In a column for Dezeen last year, architect Stephen Holl wrote that Manhattan's "astonishingly unequal income has begun to take architectural form" while critic Aaron Betsky wrote that Manhattan is becoming somewhere "there is no place for poor people, for production, or even for conflict".

There have even been protests on the streets of New York against the rash of supertall residential buildings going up in the city.

Manhattan skyline, New York
Architect Steven Holl and critic Aaron Betsky both expressed concern about Manhattan's boom in expensive condo towers

Schrager, who during his career has launched game-changing nightclubs, hotels and more recently condo buildings, said that a new generation of "micro apartment" developments could help cities retain their mix.

New York's first micro apartment building, called My Micro NY, has recently been completed. It contains 55 units of between 250 and 370 square feet (23 and 35 square metres).

My Micro NY apartment building by nArchitects
Completed earlier this year, My Micro NY by nArchitects is New York's first micro-apartment building

The building, at Kips Bay in Manhattan, was the result of a competition initiated by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who saw micro apartments as a way of alleviating the shortage of affordable housing in the city.

"People from all over the world want to live in New York City, and we must develop a new, scalable housing model that is safe, affordable and innovative to meet their needs," Bloomberg said when the Kips Bay competition was launched in 2012.

In the same year, San Francisco city chiefs voted to allow the construction of apartments as small as 20 square metres to help alleviate the affordable housing shortage.

My Micro NY by nArchitects
The 55 apartments in My Micro NY range from 23 to 34 square metres with built-in furniture to turn the living rooms into bedrooms

Further similar developments are now being built in New York and other cities.

"You know I think these micro apartments they are being built are potentially a great solution," Schrager said. "They're doing them in San Francisco. I think there's a design problem to make these places efficient. And I think that's a very exciting prospect."

San Francisco plans micro apartments
San Francisco city chiefs voted to allow the development of apartments as small as 20 square metres to tackle the city's housing shortage

Schrager made the comments in an interview with Dezeen, in which he discussed his career and his collaborations with leading architects and designers including Arata Isozaki, Philippe Starck and Herzog & de Meuron. Key projects by Schrager include the Studio 54 and Palladium nightclubs and hotels including Morgans – the first ever "boutique" hotel – the Royalton and the Delano.

Schrager said he missed the old New York of the Studio 54 era but added: "I think we all do [miss the past]. I think my parents did. You know I remember driving around with my parents with them saying that it used to be better. F Scott Fitzgerald said it used to be better. People always say that."

  • hellfire

    How disconnected to the average New Yorker do you have to be to suggest micro-apartments would help “retain diversity”? Too many ultra-rich buying up massive apartments for investment purposes rather than actual homes? But you want to keep some of the bourgeois around for that added je ne sais quoi?

    Just get them used to living in smaller spaces! That definitely seems the most logical approach.

    • spadework

      I think what he’s saying makes sense even if it is uncomfortable to hear.

      • hellfire

        I’m sorry, but it only makes sense to those who don’t have to live in said micro-apartments. The city can do without the ultra-rich, but not the middle class. Trickle-down economics has been debunked plenty of times already.

  • Andrew Parker

    This and similar proposals are less a solution to the problem, more a knee-jerk reaction!

  • Concerned Citizen

    “I do think that not having diversity in cities is a bad thing,” he said. “And it just being rich people is not a good thing.”

    Why is that? Do you mean to tell us that there are no more “micro” apartments in NYC? Have they all been demolished? The photos given in this article show rooms that still appear to be out of reach for the lower middle income groups.

  • Zac

    This might be an uncomfortable truth.

  • It is me again!

    I would not call 20 m2 a micro apartment. When you go below 10 m2, the term might be warranted.

  • Keiron

    Thinly veiled profiteering – suggesting lower space standards can defy simple supply and demand economics and in so doing encourage diversity? Pffft. I can’t imagine these micro apartments would be at all ‘affordable’. The developers will eventually be laughing their way to the bank with these.

  • My_Pseudonym

    Or how about: “Sleeping in cardboard boxes on the streets will help retain the diversity of NYC”. Thanks for that, maybe we could even store poor people in Japanese-style capsule hotels and bring them out into the parks for the rich to appreciate in bitesize chunks.

  • Dariusz

    Do you know what is killing the vibe from these cities? For example, I moved away from Vancouver because the place simply had no soul. It had a massive amount of condos, mostly owned for investment.

    I hope these greedy developers don’t fool people – shaking hands with sneaky politicians and allowing the laws to be changed so they can fit more units in their development. Another approach is to limit these luxury investments and limit their final cost, so developers have to actually be pragmatic with their spec, materials, etc., to make things for NORMAL people to live in, not outside investors, banks and corporations to simply buy square meters.

    I cannot believe people don’t have their eyes open and see that this is already happening. I would love any planning department to stand up to these cretins.

  • james

    But how much are they?

  • I am Evelyn Salt

    All of this support for diversity from the man that is pushing out the working class with his luxury developments. Clueless.