Whether they live in a shoebox-size studio apartment or a Fifth Avenue mansion, city residents all crave more closets. And closets have become a status symbol the way a flashy car might be in the suburbs.
"It's a very talked-about thing," said Andrew Gerringer, managing director at Douglas Elliman real estate agency. "You can't underestimate the importance of a closet,"
Some people brag about their closets; others know that closet envy is a palpable New York emotion.
"If I told you how much closet space I have, you would die," said Alan Hilfer, director of psychology training at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn. Lowering his voice to a conspiratorial whisper, he said: "I have more closet space than I can fill."
When people visit his Manhattan apartment, he said, "They salivate and they get jealous. So I'll pretend the closets don't exist."
New Yorker Daria Winter recently chose an apartment with closets and a view of a brick wall over another apartment with fewer closets and a good view.
Even so, she turned the second bedroom into a giant closet for her admittedly extensive collection of clothes and shoes.
"Women are jealous," she said, "and all the guys laugh at me. Then they blame me for causing their wives and girlfriends to decide to turn their den into a closet."
Even New York's premier address -- the mayor (news - web sites)'s Gracie Mansion -- has just a handful of closets, having been built in 1799 when armoires were more in use, according to city history.
Real estate broker Jill Sloane of the Halstead company said in New York, one hall closet and one bedroom closet are "a lot of closet space."
She added that not long ago she sold an apartment without a single closet. "You had to use your imagination," she said.
Those without enough closet space -- that would be just about everyone -- have been known to impose on friends with suburban attics, cram more things under the bed than would seem possible or pay extra for basement storage space in their building.
Manhattan building contractor Dominique Perret recently built a 30-foot long closet -- with 10 doors -- for a client in a high-end Manhattan apartment.
But for his own possessions that don't fit in his closet-challenged Greenwich Village apartment, Perret rents two storage closets in a warehouse four blocks from home and visits them almost every day. One space is filled to the brim with furniture.
"We dream about a house in the country. We have it all furnished already," he said. "We just don't have the house.
More than one New Yorker makes the best of the city's closet shortage. Workers at City Closet Storage will arrive at the door with a six-foot by six-foot (two meter by two meter) closet, fill it up with clothing and haul it away. They'll bring it back with the change of seasons, ready to deposit fresh clothes and leave with the out-of season frocks.
For $225, a company called Garde Robe will take up to 50 items, dry clean them, mend them, store them and post their photographs on an Internet site. Clients then can go online, click on the item they want and have it delivered within 90 minutes -- twenty-four hours a day.
But some New Yorkers claim closets are over-rated.
"I don't have a closet. It's great not having a closet," said Stephen Larkin, of the Corcoran Group real estate. "They're nothing but big messes.
"I'm very streamlined," he said. "I have a whole wall that I wouldn't have otherwise."
Closets tell us a lot about ourselves, Hilfer said. People always think they will find time to make order of their possessions, and they hang onto things to stay in touch with the past, he said.
"I still have my tie-dyed shirts," he said. "I don't wear them anymore. But every once in a while when I'm rummaging through the closets, I see them and I kind of smile."
Large Closet Space a New York Status Symbol, by Ellen Wulfhorst, Dec 18, 2003.