As the economy limps along and more attention is paid to the so-called 1 percent, some of the richest New Yorkers have taken to driving around in vehicles that ooze neither wealth nor privilege. But on the inside, the vans may be as lavishly decorated as the private railroad cars owned by turn-of-the-century industrialists.
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Nonetheless, during morning spin classes at Soul Cycle, the Upper East Side studio, the parking spaces cannot accommodate the Sprinter vans, Range Rovers and Lexus GX470s that are sometimes double-parked. A modified black Mercedes van owned by Philip A. Falcone, the chief of Harbinger Capital Partners, has become a fixture on the Upper East Side, idling by the Michael Kors shop on Madison Avenue.
Jill Kargman, a writer and mother of three who lives on the Upper East Side, said that play dates adhered to a certain pecking order: those that start in one of these ultra-luxury vans are preferable because they can “just bop into a souped-up bulletproof living room on wheels,” she said.
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Hyde Ryan, a designer who worked with a wealthy New York family on decorating the interior of their Mercedes Sprinter van, said that the family wanted gold-plated fittings for every button that would be pushed. The owner installed a vacuum cleaner so the chauffeur could remove every crumb and grain of sand each time the children stepped out of the van.