I’ve been reading a book called The Sky’s the Limit: Passion and Property in Manhattan about the high-stakes and often crazy world of residential real estate in NYC. It’s fascinating stuff.
A few of the streets in Manhattan, like Fifth and Park Avenue, are home to some of the most concentrated areas of personal wealth in the world. These people buy homes for $10 – 25 million in cooperative buildings. Unlike condos, where owners actually own their unit and pay dues to take care of the common areas, cooperatives are owned by a private corporation, with the shares being held by the owners of the units in the building. As a result, the boards of these coops have absolute power to accept or deny anyone the right to buy a unit in the building, for any reason they deem suitable. Billionaires, celebrities, politicians, and musicians have all been turned away from some of the most exclusive buildings, not because they couldn’t afford the unit in question, but because of their industry, their reputation, or simply their lack of pedigree.
It’s a very interesting inside look at the way the ultra-rich families of America protect the space around them and maintain, for better or worse, an exclusivity and elite status that lasts for generations.