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Even the wealthy are having woes

Marketplace Staff Aug 14, 2008

Even the wealthy are having woes

Marketplace Staff Aug 14, 2008


Stacey Vanek-Smith: We’ve heard a lot about people struggling in the current housing market having trouble making ends meet. But what about the monied masses? New York’s upper-east side was recently named the most privileged area in the U.S. But even there, concerns about the economy abound. We sent Philip Martin to caviar country to check it out.

Philip Martin: Walking with Melissa Morris around her exclusive Carnegie Hills Upper East Side neighborhood, you would never know that the country is being hammered by a major economic crisis.

Melissa Morris: There’s a lot of little fashion boutiques for women. There’s a lot of upscale children’s clothing boutiques. There are fancy sort of dog grooming salons.

Twenty-eight-year-old Morris, whose popular blog might best be described as the lifestyle of the rich and preppy, lives here with her multimillionaire husband, Chappy, and a miniature Italian greyhound named Monty. If the good life is predicated on opportunities and choices, than the upper-east side of New York is a showcase of privilege.

Morris: The sidewalks are very clean. They’re kept clean largely by the doormen, who will be out there sweeping if there’s trash strewn about.

Jose Bermudez has been opening doors at Melissa’s high rise apartment building for over 15 years. He says it’s no mystery why folks here don’t seem nearly as stressed as New Yorkers just a few subway stops away in Spanish Harlem.

Jose Bermudez: People are relaxed and down to earth. I guess it’s the lifestyle.

But Melissa says she’s starting to see that the economic downturn is chipping away at that lifestyle. On our walking tour, she points to some local businesses that have gone under.

Morris: This one just recently closed. It was a clothing store and I guess it’s becoming a different clothing store. But it’s becoming a chain now, and it was an individually-owned boutique.

There’s another “for lease” sign across the street. Recent headlines suggest why: Massive layoffs in the financial services industry and the end of some million-dollar bonuses. The result, according to the research firm Unity Marketing, was a 20 percent decline in spending on luxury goods in this year’s second quarter. Because even here on the Upper East Side, not everyone needs a $6,000 dress.

From New York, I’m Phillip Martin for Marketplace.

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