NEW YORK - No one knows the giddy highs of New York's property market -- and today's groaning lows -- better than hot dog vendor Pasang Sherpa.
But when he set up his carts last week he discovered one location blocked for construction and the other unexpectedly invaded by rival hot dog sellers -- military veterans who don't have to pay a cent in rent.
Sherpa's huge investment suddenly looked less bright.
"I paid crazy money," the Nepalese immigrant, aged 50, said in halting English. "The economy is down, there are more vendors. My mind is not working now." For everyone, from hot dog men to millionaires, these are days of scary sobering up on the New York real estate market. Gone is the time when no price seemed too silly, when buyers came begging, and developers made Manhattan's spiky skyline their plaything.
Luxury apartments now sit unsold, empty storefronts are appearing in prime zones, and the Wall Street collapse has flooded the commercial market with inventory.
"We have a crisis of hope, because people don't see their way out of it," said Joseph Harbert, chief operating officer at real estate giant Cushman. Manhattan has traditionally been a real estate fortress, protected from wider trends simply by the facts that so many people want to be here and space on the island is finite. Not any longer.