The Robin Hood Foundation, which raised $56 million at its annual dinner this week compared to $72 million the year before, isn't the only one out there seeing evidence that even the wealthiest New Yorkers are starting to curb their spending in response to a slowing economy.
Giving is different than consuming, but evidence of New Yorkers cutting back is growing. Sports car dealers are reporting a flattening of sales and in certain cases even a dip. High-end caterers are seeing their invoices studied by clients with renewed scrutiny. Cosmetic surgeons are starting to see the demand for some of their high-end treatments wane. There are signs as well for the less affluent.
"It has definitely slowed down," a sales manager for Ferrari-Maserati of Long Island, Gianni Mercuri, said. Mr. Mercuri declined to provide figures but said he had started to notice a slowing of sales around a year ago.
A high-end caterer, Serena Bass, whose corporate clients in the past have included AOL, Saatchi & Saatchi, various fashion magazines, hedge funds, and accounting firms, said — without naming names — that she is seeing a level of penny-pinching among certain clients who traditionally spared little expense.
"Suddenly some clients are saying what's this, what's this, and what's this? What do you mean a thousand dollars for sushi? Whereas in the past they would say, 'Whatever it takes,'" Ms. Bass said.
Ms. Bass said that a number of her clients have called to ask that their original agreed-upon arrangements be trimmed. There are also more subtle signs: More clients are opting for a house wine as opposed to the top-shelf wines, and are cutting back on the flower budget, the location, and quality of entertainment.
"People used to want 10 choices for a cheese table and, really, I believe that two beautiful cheeses are more elegant anyway," she said.
Analysts say that it is still too early to fully discern how hard the economy will be hit and trying to isolate the New York economy from the national economy has its challenges. Recessions tend to hit the New York economy later than the rest of the country and coming off four years of explosive growth on Wall Street many New York residents are sitting on substantial financial cushions — at least for now. Despite reports that layoffs on Wall Street could reach 40,000, if not more, many of those cut have yet to show up in the statistics compiled by the state, and many of the thousands being laid off are still on payrolls because they are collecting severance checks.
The local economy has also been buoyed by an influx of foreigners who are pouring into the city in record numbers to take full advantage of the dollar's weakness, which can provide an illusion of the local economy's health.
A restaurant owner, Kurt Gutenbrunner, who owns Wallse in the West Village, Café Sabarsky on the Upper East Side, and Blaue Gans in TriBeCa said his numbers were up from last year but he is seeing more of his regular New York customers being supplanted by foreigners.
"I am seeing more and more Europeans for sure," he said.
A grocery store magnate and a 2009 mayoral candidate, John Catsimatidis, said that sales at his Gristedes supermarkets are up this year more than 8% over the same period last year, an inverse signal that New Yorkers may be cutting back.
"When you have a recession people are pulling back and people buy more at a supermarket rather than go out to dinner," he said.
Mr. Catsimatidis said he continues to eat out at restaurants seven nights a week but he is noticing more availability.
"Six months ago reservations were tougher to get. You are seeing a lot more empty tables," he said.
A Manhattan-based plastic surgeon, Joel Studin, said his business remains strong but he has seen a fall-off in the number of face-lifts, a more expensive procedure than liposuction.
"In the face-lift surgery there is a slight dip, in the body surgery I am seeing an increase," Mr. Studin said. "I have found over the years, if someone wants a face-lift that tends to swing with the economy, if somebody has a flabby stomach they will get that done. That part of the practice swings less," he said.