From the author of the bestselling Philistines at the Hedgerow, a mesmerizing inside account of the high-stakes world of Manhattan residential real estate Steven Gaines takes us from New York's most expensive condominiums and co-ops to the offices of its most powerful real estate brokers to reveal the outlandish displays of ego, bad behavior, and status hunger that come into play when the best addresses in the city are on the line. With his signature elan, Gaines weaves a gossipy tapestry of brokers, buyers, co-op boards, and eccentric landlords and tells of the apartment hunting and renovating adventures of many celebrities-from Tommy Hilfiger to Donna Karan, from Jerry Seinfeld to Steven Spielberg, from Barbra Streisand to Madonna. Gaines uncovers the secretive, unwritten rules of co-op boards: why diplomats and pretty divorcees are frowned upon, what not to wear to a board interview, and which of the biggest celebrities and CEOs have been turned away from the elite buildings of Fifth and Park Avenues. He introduces the carriage-trade brokers who never have to advertise for clients and gives us finely etched portraits of a few of the discreet, elderly society ladies who decide who gets into the so-called Good Buildings. Here, too, is a fascinating chronicle of the changes in Manhattan's residential skyline, from the slums of the nineteenth century to the advent of the luxury building. Gaines describes how living in boxes stacked on boxes came to be seen as the ultimate in status, and how the co-operative apartment, originally conceived as a form of housing for the poor, came to be used as a legal means of black-balling undesirable neighbors. A social history told through brick and mortar, The Sky's the Limit is the ultimate look inside one of the most exclusive and expensive enclaves in the world, and at the lengths to which people will go to get in.
Buying real estate in Manhattan is like buying real estate nowhere else in the world: a hoity-toity book called the Social Register dictates who can live where; co-op boards in luxury buildings often require a buyer to have at least 20 times the price of the apartment in assets; and the cost of an apartment rarely holds any relationship to the true value of the space. Indeed, Manhattan real estate is a cutthroat, baffling but thrilling world, and Gaines takes readers on a spectacular ride through it. The author of Philistines at the Hedgerow profiles some of the game's influential brokers, with a roving eye for detail (e.g., Linda Stein, who's sold homes to Bruce Willis, Steven Spielberg and Andrew Lloyd Webber, "has a brash, husky voice with the delivery of a red-hot mama, and her expressive face telegraphs the subtlest of emotions"). Gaines is at once intrigued and appalled by the excesses of this world, gloriously rehashing, for example, the juicy details of how Gloria Vanderbilt sued the board of directors of River House, a posh Upper East Side building, for rejecting her as a buyer. But Gaines isn't just concerned with modern-day foibles: throughout this addictive narrative, he weaves a captivating history of the city and its toniest neighborhoods.