New York City has plenty of closely guarded doors, from the velvet rope-blocked thresholds of the Meatpacking District’s nightclubs to the elite gates of the city’s private high schools.
But the toughest doors of all may belong to the city’s private clubs, elite institutions that cost thousands of dollars to join and whose member lists are often kept secret.
Click here to read about the most exclusive clubs in New York City >
Some, like the Metropolitan Club, have been around for over 100 years, cater to old money, and have strict membership requirements.
Others are much newer and cater to a different breed of wealthy New Yorkers. They are also more “democratic” about their membership.
According to a recent New York Times profile of the Core Club, one such institution:
It is open to all — or at least, in an essential way, to all those in the top 1 per cent of United States households: families with earnings the Tax Policy centre estimates will be $3,061,546 on average this year for a family of four, as well as those from an even more-elevated category that the nonpartisan, nonprofit group calls the “ultra rich.”
The estimated income this year for households occupying that particular niche — a mere 0.1 per cent of all United States households — will be $13,719,746, according to the Tax Policy centre.
Old or new, these private clubs are places where the city’s power players come to relax, talk business, and network.
Norwood opened its members-only doors in 2007 at 241 West 14th Street, with a supposed annual membership fee of around $1,000, and annual dues of $750. Joining this place is not so much about how much money you can dish out (fees are low relative to other clubs in the city), but more who you are and who you know.
'It's limited to creative types' who are recommended from the inside, says one member. Norwood has a restaurant, three lounge bars, a 45-seat screening room and event space, as well as a private dining room for up to 24 people. And a walled garden.
The Yale Club is a private spot at 44th Street and Vanderbilt Avenue for alumni and faculty of the New Haven university. The 22-story clubhouse is the largest in the world.
Though membership is restricted to alumni, faculty, and full-time graduate students, the club also offers legacy admission to Yale-affiliated members' children and grandchildren. With over 11,000 members worldwide, this place is a serious networking epicentre.
Membership at the Core Club, five floors in a nondescript building at 66 East 55th Street, is pretty exclusive and will set you back around $50,000 for the initiation fee. After that it's about $15,000 annually. This is all once you've been invited, that is.
The Core Club was started in 2005 by Jennie Saunders, with over 100 founding members putting in $100,000 each. These included venture capitalist Vivi Nevo, Blackstone Group chairman Stephen Schwarzman, and developer Aby Rosen and his wife, Samantha Boardman. Members have included Harvey Weinstein, William Lauder, Ron Burkle, Bill Clinton, and fashion designer Tory Burch, according to Page Six Magazine.
Membership at the exclusive Soho house in the Meatpacking district runs from $900 to $2,400 annually. The club is home to a 24-room hotel and a screening room, library, spa, and dining room. The roof has a large pool with views of the West Village.
Applicants are accepted, rejected, or left in waiting-list purgatory based on a committee decision. Some famous VIPs have included Nicole Kidman, Graydon Carter, Salma Hayek, Uma Thurman, and Robert DeNiro.
This is the members-only NYC home base for the Harvard elite to rub elbows and network. Anyone who has attended the university may apply to become a member. According to the club website, 'once you have submitted your application, you are required to Interview with Admissions Committee Members.'
New York City is the largest base for Harvard alum and they make sure to keep in touch via frequent visits to this iconic clubhouse at 44th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues.
Founded in 1852, the Harmonie Club was originally a singing and dining association for New Yorkers of German Jewish descent. The club is currently located in a grand building on E. 60th Street. Amenities include squash courts, private dining, and a barber shop.
Today, it has around 1,000 members, most of whom are Jewish.
Mayor Bloomberg famously resigned from the Harmonie Club in 2001 in protest of the club's lack of diversity.
The Metropolitan Club, at 60th Street and 5th Avenue, was started in 1891 by J.P. Morgan as a protest against the exclusive clubs that would not allow one of his friends to join.
Annual membership is said to cost $5,000, and members have included Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, and Salman Rushdie. Though the club was rare in allowing access to women, the ladies were relegated to a special annex until the 1940s. Formal dress (jackets and ties) is required to this day.
The second oldest club in New York, the Union Club was founded in 1836 and has been located in a prominent spot at 69th St. and Park Avenue ever since. Like the Metropolitan, annual fees are set at $5,000, though this place keeps to a no-girls-allowed policy for its members.
They have included Dwight Eisenhower, Ulysses Grant, William Randolph Hearst, John Jacob Astor IV, and Harold Vanderbilt.
The Colony Club is a women-only club located at Park Avenue and 62nd Street. It was founded in 1903 and members have included numerous Whitneys, Morgans, and Astors. The fee to join in 1903 was $150 with $100 in annual dues.
New members looking to get in must be recommended by current members, but once you get in, the Colony is known for its lush interior design, pool, and sulfur and mud baths. In recent times memorial services for two top New York society ladies -- Brooke Astor and Nan Kempner -- were held at the Colony Club.
The Century Association, located at 43rd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, was founded as an upscale hangout spot for artists and writers in 1847 by newspaper editor William Cullen Bryant. Its members have included Winslow Homer and Franklin D. Roosevelt, and in recent years, Mayor Bloomberg, Tina Brown, Brooke Astor, Robert Caro, Henry Kissinger, Robert Morgenthau, David Rockefeller, Andy Rooney and Arthur Schlesinger Jr.
Women were first admitted to join in 1988, and have included Jackie Onassis and Toni Morrison. The Century works hard to keep a low profile and has a reported annual fee of around $2,000.
The Knickerbocker Club, informally known as 'The Knick,' was founded in 1871 by several former members of the Union Club, who thought that group's admission standards had fallen too low. The club now occupies a brick building on 62nd Street and 5th Avenue.
The club at one point considered rejoining with the Union Club, but that plan never took shape.
The highly exclusive group is still men-only.
The Belizean Grove is an elite, women's-only club located on East 89th Street.
Founded in 1999 by Susan Stautberg, a former Westinghouse Broadcasting executive, the Belizean Grove has around members from the military, financial, and diplomatic sectors.
Notable members of the Belizean Grove include former General Services Administration Administrator Lurita Doan and U.S. Army General Ann E. Dunwoody. High-level executives from Goldman Sachs, Victoria's Secret, and Harley-Davidson also belong to the Grove, as do some ambassadors.
Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor resigned from the club in 2009 after Republican senators questioned the group's membership policy.
The University Club, located on West 54th Street, bills itself as New York's 'premier social club.'
Its origins date back to the autumn of 1861 when a group of college friends, mostly Yale alumni, founded the club in an effort to strengthen their collegial ties. The building is known for its architectural features and renowned art collection.
Members must don coats and ties, and the club keeps its fees and member list under tight wraps.
One of the city's newest private clubs, the Setai Club opened its doors in mid-2009.
The club, located on Broad Street in the heart of the Financial District, is private, though anyone can make an appointment at its spa.
Membership includes unlimited health club access, access to a private cocktail lounge, and breakfast at Michelin star-rated SHO Shaun Hergatt.
Membership is limited; those interested can start by applying on the club's website.
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