Wealth Blog

Class in the city? Not for Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 January, 2013, 7:13am

Judging by readers' feedback, it seems much of Manhattan is still exercised by a recent piece in The New York Times on class distinction in the city. Class snobbery was increasingly based on property, the article said. It sounded like Manhattan was growing to resemble Hong Kong in this respect. But unlike Hong Kong, where everyone can guess how much rent someone pays and where their kids go to school by the area they live in, New Yorkers seem to have grasped this idea late.

The reason is the relative anonymity of Manhattan apartments. Its 1.6 million inhabitants "hide in a forest of tall buildings" the article says "and even the city's elite take the subway".

That wouldn't happen in Hong Kong - instead of using the MTR, super-wealthy people prefer to have not just one, but two cars circling Central, so that at least one driver is nearby when madam emerges from a posh shop loaded with bags. No, I'm not joking. It happens.

New York is different. The writer cites a resident of TriBeCa who complains that the past decade has seen the arrival of "uber-wealthy" neighbours, "the kind of people who discuss winter trips to St Barts at the dog run, and buy US$700 Moncler ski jackets for their children".

First of all, no one here would complain about having rich folks living next door. And in Hong Kong, rich people wouldn't be seen dead walking the dog - they have domestic helpers for that.

Like Hong Kong, Manhattan has brand-name buildings where the entry fee clearly demands a certain amount of wealth, the writer adds, but there are no middle-class neighbourhoods as such. It's "probably the only place in the United States where a US$5.5 million condo with a teak closet and mother-of-pearl wall tile shares a block within a public housing project". Now that would never happen on The Peak.