Newsweek - The NY-LON Life
November 13, 2000

More people are working and playing in New York and London as if they were one city.

Ron Kastner is a classic New Yorker: first off the plane, first out of the airport. Carrying a single small bag, he breezes through immigration and customs. He doesn't look as if he's spent six hours in the air (business class will do that to you).

At 50, he's white-haired and balding, but he has a healthy glow suggesting beach time, and wears a navy blazer, jeans and T-shirt. He owns an apartment in the East Village in Manhattan, but tonight London is home - a flat in Belgravia. "Wilton Crescent," he tells the taxi driver. When he arrives, the wine is chilled, the fridge is stocked and his clothes are hanging in the closet. His fiancé from London arrives five minutes later. Kastner is a resident of NY-LON, a single city inconveniently separated by an ocean. He flies between the two places up to five times a month. As a theatrical producer (Sideman, The Real Thing, True West), he takes shows between Broadway and the West End, the twin capitals of the theatre world. His other business - a specialised printing company for investment banks such as Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter - also quite naturally takes him to both Wall Street and the City, the world's two great financial centres.

David Eastman lives there too. A Londoner who is vice-president at in New York, he travels the JFK-Heathrow run so often he's on first-name terms with the Virgin Atlantic business-class crew. Last month he had been back home in New York for 48 hours when he was off to London again.

London-based Olga Barr, a New Yorker who is global creative director for Saatchi and Saatchi, spent more time in New York than London last year. More and more people have homes in both places, from celebrities like Madonna to Salman Rushdie and biographer Anthony Holden, who has a London house and a "view with a room" on East 29th Street. And then there are people like ex-Londoner "George", a construction worker who's been working in New York illegally for a year and a half. He downs his pints at the Telephone Bar and Grill on Second Avenue and says that in the Big Apple "guys like me can make a packet and live it large".

As different as New York and London are, a growing number of people are living, working and playing in the two cities as if they were one. The cities are drawn together by a culture that long ago linked Broadway and the West End and today explains the NY-LON nexus of film, TV, pop music, publishing and the New Economy. But mostly the two cities are drawn together by money. "In terms of our business," says Richard Corrigan of Merrill Lynch in London, "the cities are beginning to meld into one massive whole."

The explosion in finance in New York and London over the past 20 years was the single most important catalyst in the creation of NY-LON, seriously interrupted just once by the stockmarket crash of 1987. The number of foreign banks in London grew from 73 in the mid-Eighties to 479, including 10 American banks which alone employ 21,000 people. The financial industry has had an outsize role in shaping NY-LON. In New York, jobs in finance account for 11 per cent of the workforce. The jobs come with fat pay cheques that add up to nearly a third of New Yorkers' earnings, and salaries, bonuses and even dress codes on Wall Street have had an effect across the Atlantic. In some instances, London law firms have had to double what they pay newly-qualified lawyers because of pressure from the New York competition; Wall Street, chinos and open-neck shirts are making headway here.

The property markets in New York and London have become daunting. In London, prime office space rents for nearly twice as much as in New York. The residential markets in both cities are no less intimidating. Housing subsidies to the ever-growing number of New Yorkers on temporary assignment to London (and vice versa) have made it increasingly difficult for less well-off residents to own or rent in desirable areas.

Of the 47,000 Americans living in London (up 50 per cent since 1991), the largest group is from New York. In central London, more than half of estate agents FPD Savills's "elite" clients work in finance (and are between 30 and 40 years old). Almost half are American - the vast majority from New York. In New York, the number of Londoners approaching the New York Habitat rental agency has tripled in two years. The boom in business persuaded the rental firm to launch a UK website, which receives 3,000 hits a month. Douglas Elliman, one of Manhattan's largest commercial and residential real-estate companies, says Londoners and London companies now account for 10 per cent of its business.

The boom in financial services attracted ad agencies, accounting firms and management consultancies to both cities. This has had a knock-on effect on the hotel and restaurant businesses, architecture and design, construction, air travel, and other service industries. In a world dominated by money and English-language-based information technology, NY-LON stands above a tier of second cities - Tokyo and Hong Kong, for example, are not in the same league. "We're closer to our New York office than our Paris office. New York and London are both so trendy and modern now in terms of fashion, art, photography, music," says Trevor Beattie, 40, the London-based creative director of the ad agency TBWA.

New York and London are the twin capitals of globalisation, joined as they never have been before. "Ten years ago, people [from New York and London] arriving in each other's city would look at each other as if they were coming from some backwater," says Olga Barr of Saatchi and Saatchi. The global economy changed all that, she says: "You can't afford to be a flat-earther any more."

One of the most visual symbols of the NY-LON phenomenon is the proliferation of transatlantic restaurants. It makes sense, says restaurant guide publisher Tim Zagat, who ranks New York first and London second among the world's best cities in which to eat. Earlier this year Terence Conran opened his first New York restaurant, Guastavino's (named after the architect of the Queensboro Bridge, under which it sits). "We dream about each other's cities," says co-owner Joel Kissin, a New Zealander who after 25 years in London bought a penthouse on Fifth Avenue. "lf you're in New York, your dream is London, and if you're in London, your dream is New York."

Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, who opened his first London Nobu restaurant at the Metropolitan hotel, says before Concorde stopped flying last summer, "I'd see my London customers on board. Then, that evening, they'd be eating at Nobu in New York."

Members-club Soho House plans to open a branch in New York's SoHo. 57 Jermyn Street is also very London, but its loungey, couch-bar mentality is pure New York, says investment banker Michael Murphy, who came to London three years ago from New York. What New York needs, says David Eastman, the frequent flyer, is the more adventurous nightlife of London's dance clubs. Londoners may flock to New York before Christmas to buy gifts at very favourable exchange rates, but Eastman says he could make a lot of young New Yorkers very happy if he brought back suitcases filled with 12-inch vinyl DJ dance mixes from London.

Michael Davies, the Londoner responsible for giving America Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, has a home in SoHo and works on the Upper West Side. Having bought the US rights, Davies is now executive producer of the American version. "There's a lot of noise here in the States over the British," says Davies. "London has changed, too," he says, "perhaps more than any other city I've known." Davies spent six years in Los Angeles, but moved to New York "because it's a lot more like living in London. Besides, a lot of my London friends are here. They just happen to be living in New York."