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Defining Luxury Down, Manhattan style

Bret Stephens in today’s Wall Street Journal writes about what passes for “luxury” in the Manhattan real estate market:

I live in a large Lower Manhattan apartment complex that has the great virtue of being situated directly across the street from my office. Other than that, it’s hard to see how the complex–built in a brutalist style of unadorned, heavily chipped concrete that would have blended well in East Germany–meets any plausible definition of “luxury.” The popcorn ceilings certainly aren’t luxurious, nor are the single-plate windows that don’t quite keep out the winter cold. And let’s not talk about the condition of the air-conditioning units.

… Yet thanks partly to Manhattan’s circumscribed geography, partly to the stock market’s record highs and partly to the verbal effusions of billionaire mayor Mike Bloomberg, who in 2003 described his city as a “high-end product”–Gucci on a metropolitan scale–there’s very little in New York today that isn’t a “luxury,” in name if not in fact. In turn, this has created linguistic challenges (or opportunities) for real-estate developers trying to distinguish their offerings from the rest of the pack. Call it subprime language in an era of subprime mortgages.


Tom GrossTom Gross is a former Middle East correspondent for the London Sunday Telegraph and the New York Daily News.


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