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Gary Barnett, Controversial Master of New York City Luxury Real Estate

Gary Barnett is pretty down to earth for a guy whose new tower is 90 stories tall, warehouses money for oligarchs, and blots out the sun

Some 600 fashionably dressed guests arrive at the newly completed Park Hyatt New York hotel, embedded at the base of the tallest operational residential skyscraper in the city. They’re greeted by black-garbed receptionists, who scrutinize them closely to make sure they belong. Upstairs, the guests encounter friendlier servers offering flutes of pink Champagne. The visitors admire paintings by Richard Serra and Ellsworth Kelly. They nibble on Petrossian caviar and slices of toast topped with briny sea urchin. One man shows up without a jacket and immediately regrets it. “I’m underdressed,” he complains to his companion.

Just before 8 this September evening, the guests are herded into a ballroom with onyx-lined walls, where they’re welcomed by wavy-haired Thomas Pritzker, the billionaire executive chairman of the Chicago-based Hyatt Hotels chain. He invites everybody to join him in a toast to his new inn. “We think we have created the finest product in New York,” Pritzker says. “I think that’s true not just physically, but metaphysically.” He had to look up the latter word in the dictionary, he says.