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It's an elegant uptown crowd at the private screening of Che, a new movie about the guerrilla leader directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring the superb Benicio del Toro. Though the film is an overlong hagiography of the most gullible kind, it nevertheless wins the enthusiastic applause of the socialites and literati assembled by one of New York's top film PRs. After the screening the audience repairs to a dinner hosted by the director at the Plaza Athénée Hotel. They seem coolly untroubled by either the doctrinaire Marxism of the film or the fact that this afternoon the Dow has plunged by 300 points. Looking around the dining room at the women in cocktail dresses and the men in sleek suits, I'm briefly reminded of the ballroom sequence in The Godfather Part II, the one in which a tuxedoed Cuban elite dances feverishly while the rebels close on the capital.

In general, New York feels much calmer than London about the financial crisis. Among people not directly involved with financial services you're more likely to hear jokes about the bad times to come than Jeremiads. The Gawker website lists "top 10 scapegoats for America's depression" and offers clips of "20 movies about the first great recession to watch during the sequel". It's not clear if this attitude is a product of resignation or sheer denial, schadenfreude against wealthy financiers, or perhaps a kind of emotional hardiness born of the 9/11 attacks.

It may be because, unlike London, property prices have not yet come tumbling down. Prices here never reached the absurd heights of London's market, partly thanks to an increased supply of housing during the Bloomberg years, and partly because of the co-op system (which requires that apartment-buyers put significant cash down to get into more desirable buildings). People are certainly expecting a drop, as Wall Streeters are forced to sell their lofts in the trendy Tribeca area and wealthy foreigners lose their currency advantage, but so far New York City has been spared the real estate collapse that wracks the rest of the country. Moreover, rents are widely believed to be going up.

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Steve Beaman
November 20th, 2008
9:11 PM
Mr. Foreman, are you the same Jonathan Foreman that hung out with the scout platoon in Iraq in 2003?

Glenn Horowitz
November 1st, 2008
3:11 PM
The key unasked question in Mr.Foreman's elegant piece is: when the crisis concludes, as all crisis' must, will the traditional high income jobs NYC depends upon return in abundance or will enterprises avail themselves, finally, of new technologies to do what humans once did? The downtown may provide the space and time to implement the promises new technology has long held out for efficiency and speed.

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