New York’s Towers of Secrecy: Build It and They’ll Buy It

Last week, The New York Times published the first in a five-part series on expensive Manhattan condominium developments near Central Park. The first article, written by Louise Story and Stephanie Saul, titled “Stream of Foreign Wealth Flows to Elite New York Condos,” documents the rising use of shell companies to hide the identities of the owners who buy high-end real estate.

“Behind the dark glass towers of the Time Warner Center looming over Central Park, a majority of owners have taken steps to keep their identities hidden, registering condos in trusts, limited liability companies or other entities that shield their names,” writes Story and Saul. “By piercing the secrecy of more than 200 shell companies, The New York Times documented a decade of ownership in this iconic Manhattan way station for global money transforming the city’s real estate market.”

Two days later, David Gelles, inked an article titled “The Logic of an Empty $100 Million Pad,” chronicling how the global elite spend tens of millions of dollars on

New York high-rise condos, many of them sitting empty. Gelles writes that many of the world’s mega rich aren’t buying to make the Big Apple their home.

“Instead, many of them are paying record prices with the expectation that their investments will appreciate, even as they sit empty for most of the year,” he writes. In January, he points out, one condo sold for more than $100 million

The Housing News Report covered this topic in our January 2014 issue in an article titled “Castles in the Clouds: New York’s Skyscraper Race.”

Back then, mega Manhattan real estate broker Dolly Lenz, told the Housing News Report that: “Fifty million dollars is the new $20 million. There’s no question that foreign buyers are parking their money in safe havens in the U.S.”

Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel Inc., said “We’re building the world’s biggest safety deposit boxes. New York residential skyscrapers have become a global safe haven for foreign buyers. A tremendous amount of wealth is being poured out of China, Europe and Latin America to buy hard assets like high-rise condos in New York. It’s not only happening in New York, but Miami and Vancouver too.”

In March, the Housing News Report will return to New York with a book review of Vicky Ward’s new book, “The Liar’s Ball: The Extraordinary Saga of How One Building Broke the World’s Toughest Tycoons,” (Wiley, 2014), an expose on the General Motors Building.

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