Last Year Luxury Real Estate Was One of NYC's Hottest Commodities, Now It's Bulletproof Vests


Some people use music to get through these thoroughly unnatural and unnerving weeks and months. It soothes the savage beast, or at least the husband who’s been cooped up inside the house and considers a big day out walking his dog to the park on the far side of the neighborhood.

I have to admit, it mostly works. I put in the earbuds, put a leash on an overeager mutt and let her pull me to the park. It’s a mood-booster — or what the kids these days like to call “self-care.” And then the playlist hits “The Times They Are a-Changin’.”

Oh, shut up, Bob. Yes, the times are a-changin’ again, and uniformly for the worst. I admit, as you say in the song, that the waters around me have grown and that I am, in fact, metaphorically drenched to the bone — as are the 18 million Americans currently unemployed, mostly thanks to coronavirus lockdowns. We’ve tried to start swimmin’, as you advised in the lyrics, but it’s a bit hard when everything around us has basically sunk like a stone.

Take, for instance, your beloved New York City. Please.

One year ago, as the New York City rental site Elegran reported, one of the hottest commodities was hyper-luxury real estate. Gordon Gekko-style luxury penthouses were reportedly selling themselves.  The general atmosphere in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s New York, according to reports from what feels like a century ago, made the lifestyles of the “Sex and the City” gang look a bit lower-middle-class.

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The hot commodity this year? Bulletproof vests.

But that real estate market last summer! Take this report from real-estate blog Elegran on June 26, 2019: “The luxury market in Manhattan is on the upswing this summer, just in time for peak sales season. After nine weeks in a row with over 20 reported contracts signed, the borough just saw its best week of the year. An NYC-based real estate agency recently released a report showing that 29 luxury homes were sold throughout the city between June 17th and 23rd, with a total sales volume of around $290.5 million.”

A luxury condo is considered one that’s over $4 million by the real estate agency that wrote the report — although there’s real estate described here that made this writer, a laissez-faire economic libertarian, kind of understand why the French killed Marie Antoinette.

“The priciest apartment sold last week was a three-bedroom corner apartment at 432 Park Avenue, the tallest residential tower in NYC,” Elegran’s report read.

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“This home, spanning nearly 4,000 square feet, was originally asking $41 million but ultimately sold for under $40 million. Some interior features include an eat-in kitchen, 30-foot master suite, sizeable living room, and library. The apartment also offers sweeping views of Central Park, the Hudson, and East River views. 432 Park Avenue is a luxury rental with unrivaled amenities, including a 75-foot swimming pool, fitness center, billiards room and library, screening room, children’s playroom, wine cellar, and private dining room.

“The second highest contract signed was for the Terrace Duplex at 1010 Park Avenue, a six-bedroom luxury condo asking $28.5 million. This home spans nearly 8,000 square feet and boasts a spacious outdoor terrace. 1010 Park Avenue is a boutique luxury development with just 11 apartments. Residents can enjoy all of the beautiful upscale amenities this building has to offer, such as an indoor swimming pool, private fitness center, drawing room with entertainment space, and children’s playroom.”

Get the tumbrils ready.

Granted, that Elegran piece was written roughly eight months before things began to get very real. I’m guessing even the masters of the universe on Wall Street and in tech have had to scale back some of their lifestyle. However, in addition to the toll taken by COVID-19 itself — 32,840 deaths in New York state alone as of Sunday afternoon, according to Johns Hopkins University data — New York City is dealing with a surge in violent crime.

Just this weekend, four victims were shot dead in more than two-dozen shootings in 48 hours, according to WABC-TV.  In July, WNBC-TV reported, murders were up 59 percent year-over-year and shootings were up 177 percent.

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New York City is known, colloquially, as Gotham. For the moment, it seems more like Gotham City. That’s bad business for high-end real-estate agents. That’s good news for businessmen like Brad Pedell, for better (for him) or for worse (for us).

According to an article in Saturday’s New York Post, Pedell says sales of body armor at his Midtown Manhattan supplier, 221B Tactical, are up 80 percent year-over-year.

The unsurprising reason? The “unrest” that’s become a fixture of life in the Big Apple.

“You wouldn’t believe the people who call up and say, ‘I’m scared,’” Pedell told the Post.

When Pedell’s customers were contacted, however, they didn’t want to talk about why they bought the body armor.

“I am a private citizen and I keep a low profile,” a female Manhattan vest-purchaser told the newspaper by text message.

One buyer who was willing to talk was “The Amazing Kreskin,” the illusionist known otherwise known on his driver’s license as George Joseph Kresge. The New Jersey resident said he bought a “high-priced, well-designed” vest from 221B Tactical last year. The 85-year-old said he would “absolutely” wear the vest into New York City if he were to venture in there.

“I love the city, but you can no longer feel at home and comfortable with a degree of safety,” Kreskin told the Post.

“What really hits home is, look at all the innocent children who have been shot. Right now I would not feel comfortable living in New York City.”

Then there was Joseph Giacalone, a retired NYPD sergeant who’s currently teaching at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. He gave the Post this cheery assessment: “Guns are flying off the shelves and now bullet-resistant vests. Bring back cast iron tubs. That’s where mothers used to put their kids to sleep to deflect the bullets.”

Pedell said most of his sales are to the Bronx and Brooklyn; customers say they feel their “neighborhood is getting dangerous.” However, I’m sure even a few sets of body armor have gone to Dylan’s beloved Greenwich Village. Even that part of the city doesn’t feel quite so peaceful anymore.

And this is just going to get better. As The New York Times first reported in June, Mayor de Blasio has defunded (or, as the euphemism goes, “shifted money from”) the New York Police Department to the tune of $1 billion as the crime rate skyrockets. The de Blasio administration assumes the current bizarre surge in violent crime will all just go away with COVID-19. Assuming either goes away is a pretty big leap.

The NYPD’s largest union, the New York Police Benevolent Association, apparently not particularly seeing the wisdom in this strategy, has endorsed de Blasio’s bête noire President Trump for re-election. (It was the first presidential endoresment for the union in at least 36 years, New York PBA President Patrick Lynch told Fox News.)

So, how have the times a-changed? In a Thursday report from Elegran, the site was no longer gushing over pricey Manhattan real estate. The latest headline: “Will we see a surge of homebuyers moving to the suburbs?” TL;DR: Yes.

“More space, proximity to fewer people, and a desire to own at a more affordable price point are highly desirable features in this new era,” the site reported.

I’d say so, particularly if it’s space away from a soaring crime rate.

So thanks, Mr. Dylan. You’ve thoroughly ruined my dog walk. I thought about those a-changin’ times. How, in 2019, New Yorkers were envious of elites moving into $40 million penthouses in the heart of the city.

In 2020, from all appearances, they’re envious of those heading out of the city, who don’t want to worry about getting sick or getting shot, or having a local government that’s proved itself totally impotent when it comes to protecting its citizens from either.

And if that didn’t put me in a foul enough mood, I just realized I didn’t bring along a poop bag for my dog. Great. Time to find some leaves…

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture