My husband and I live in Toronto, but we just bought a condo on 57th Street in a 25 year-old building. I have owned a condo in New York since 2005, and we moved to a bigger place near One57, or Oligarch Arms, and near other controversial sites designed to give wealthy outsiders stunning city views.
To us, New York outshines other capitals such as London or Paris because it’s the world’s biggest shopping mall, complete with 24-hour room service. It’s also a theme park for adults who like theater, art, museums, opera, comedy clubs, food, fashion and dynamic streetscapes. We have invested our after-tax Canadian dollars here rather than buying a place in Florida to golf and mall walk.
We’re not the only ones — figures are imprecise, but estimates are that foreigners like us have been buying roughly one-third of the city’s condos as second or third homes.
But as condo prices climb, along with density and heights, my husband and I have become public enemy No. 1. Populist resentment, new taxes and legislative threats have cast foreign buyers as pied-à-terrorists.
Mayor de Blasio even sideswiped us, along with rich locals, in his “Tale of Two Cities” campaign speech at New School: “One New Yorker is rushing past an attended desk in the lobby of a majestic skyscraper . . . while a few miles away, a single mother is also rushing, holding her two young children by the hands as they hurry down the steps of the subway entrance.”
As we say in Canada: Give me a break.
Attacking New York’s newest, part-time residents like us is fiscally foolish. The facts show that we are the solution, not the problem, to New York’s budget. We are walking wallets — and we just want to have fun.
Robust condo sales to people like us have brought economic development and jobs.
Even better, 63 per cent of us pay cash, a stabilizing effect on an over-leveraged real-estate market, because we can. We contribute to the GDP and are the gift that keeps giving. Every year we stay, we will pay condo fees, cable bills, dry cleaners, utilities and sales taxes. We will buy tons of concert, theater, art show, exhibits and hockey tickets.
My husband and I alone will fork out at least $25,000 a year in property and sales taxes.
Better yet, we don’t cost the city a dime because we don’t dump our kids into public schools or drive cars that damage roads and create potholes. We don’t make political demands, don’t crowd your libraries or hospitals and don’t deduct mortgage interest from our income taxes like New Yorkers do. If we break laws, we get tossed out. If we have broken laws, we cannot get in.
We are an economic fantasy come true. A captive tourism industry, we market the city abroad, like social media platforms on legs, boring to tears our friends and family about how wonderful and safe New York really has become. We support cheesy souvenir shops, park vendors peddling iconic photos of Depression workers on a girder and reworked musicals on Broadway. We bring in relatives and friends who love riding the horse drawn carts through Central Park. We buy the T-shirts and the labels at Barneys and Bergdorf Goodman.
Some locals grumble about the buyers of the lavish “safety deposit boxes in the sky” and whether they are hiding ill-gotten gains.
London and Paris may specialize in catering to despots, potentates, monarchs and questionable characters from former colonies, but New York City is different. Buyers here must submit to a rigorous process that requires us to pay for credit checks, police checks and proving we don’t owe taxes anywhere. Worse yet, we had to disclose on paper, for their perusal, all of our personal and business assets, stock and bond trades, cash and bank accounts worldwide. These figures had to be verified by banks, accountants or lawyers.
Such scrutiny makes us so desirable to America’s economy that Sen. Charles Schumer has proposed a bill to Congress that would grant visas to any foreigner paying more than $500,000 for a residence.
While unlikely, and somewhat daft, the facts show that we deserve a slap on the back, and not one in the face, for buying a slice of the Big Apple.
Appeared in the New York Post Feb. 23