Living Large In New York City

This has been a good year for the stock market. The Nasdaq alone is up more than 50 percent. This is creating pockets of enormous wealth in the shadows of Wall Street.

CBS News Correspondent Richard Schlesinger reports about the embarrassment of riches and the people who are spending it shamelessly.
At New York's tony Lespinasse restaurant, chef Christian Delouvrier uses an ingredient so valuable he hides it in the basement under lock and key.

The ingredient is white truffles, which cost about $1,600 a pound.

The truffles are the star ingredients in the chef's special soup. This soup kitchen is for the very fortunate. Each bowl costs $60.

When asked if he thinks people will buy the $60 soup, he says, "I think soÂ….I really do think so."

And the chef has every reason to be confident. There's a kind of feeding frenzy in New York fueled by money. Cash cows and raging bulls have left piles of it, and millionaires are a dime a dozen here.

"The greater New York area has upward of 400,000. That's up from about 300,000 a few years ago. So it's a center of vast wealth," says economist Robert Frank.

Frank has written about what he calls luxury fever. It's a kind of epidemic in New York as thousands of people spend millions of dollars for palatial apartments that can sell sometimes within hours of being put on the market, sometimes even before they are built.

There is one apartment that is the most expensive apartment per square foot in the world. The total cost was $15.5 million. The apartment's been sold, and so have most of the others in the building by owners Arthur and Will Zeckendorf.

How long does it take to sell a $15.5 million apartment in New York?

"That took about a week and a half," says Arthur Zeckendorf.

"By the time that apartment was sold, we had already sold about 20 others," Will Zeckendorf adds.

Once all the apartments are sold, the combined wealth of all the residents of the building will be about $3.6 billion. That means the amount of money belonging to the people in this one building will be more than the gross national products of Monaco, Greenland and Lichtenstein combined.

Of course the very rich have always come to New York. The barons and bankers of the 1800s built mansions and left their own marks on the city. That was then.

"What we're seeing now in the '90s is beginning to rival anything we saw in the last century," Frank says.

Last year Wall Street alone gave out almost $11.5 billion in bonuses. And now there's a waiting list for Hermes handbags that cost more than some cars. The handbags cost $13,900.

The same people who line up for the handbags order up the truffle soup. Chef Delouvrier's $60 delicacy he would only serve here.

It's nothing against the rest of the country. It just turns out that New York has more of the one ingredient needed most to enjoy this soup: money.

©1999, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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