It is an age of vast inequality, and those who stand out, or stand above, are finding places to lay low.
With any number of riots, protests and grumblings on the ground level, elites, VIPs, military commandos and foreign dignitaries are preparing to bunker down.
With vitriol and scrutiny directed at Wall Street bankers, corrupt politicians and misdirected notoriety for celebrities and public figures, the consequences of a growing divide, discontent and general unrest seem to be serious enough for people of means to beef up security and looking for escapes and safe places.
“I know hedge fund managers all over the world who are buying airstrips and farms in places like New Zealand because they think they need a getaway,” he said.
“I think the rich are worried and they should be worried. I mean inequality, why does it matter?” Wallis continued.
But it’s not just elite retreats on private islands, secret getaways and remote countryside farmhouses – where many figures, fearing economic meltdown, civil unrest and more – have already been hedging second and third homes at.
The New York Times profiled the urban chic Secure, Safe Rooms Hidden in Plain Sight that are increasingly being installed by the rich, even as they live in Manhattan penthouses and upscale homes among the populations of the largest metropolitan locations around – putting another layer of security between them and unwanted attention – just in case of, well, almost anything:
“It looked like any old walk-in closet,” [former Senator Bob] Kerrey said of the 8-feet-by-12-feet bulletproof space inside the third-floor master bedroom (a space the former Navy SEAL said he had little use for).
“There was nothing about it that gave it away as anything but a place to hang your clothes.”
That is the point. For centuries, the best way for the wealthy to feel protected, or at least give the impression, was from behind a moat, a gate or an army. Such options are impractical in Manhattan, even for those who can afford them, yet a number of these property owners are finding ways to feel safe even in the event of a home invasion. When an alarm or a doorman is not enough, advances in designs and materials have made it possible to enjoy the safety of Fort Knox amid the comfort of a Four Seasons suite.
The reality of today’s safe rooms is far cozier, and, rather than behind fake bookcases or trap doors, they tend to hide in plain sight. If there are cinder blocks, they are covered by mahogany paneling or smooth plaster, sandwiched between steel plates and Kevlar sheets. Some people fortify bathrooms or closets, others reinforce entire bedroom suites.
With six figure plans just for a small, unassuming room inside a large apartment in a tower (or the like), many of these elites are preparing not just for a breakdown of society, a temporary emergency (like a natural disaster), but for some serious blowback.
This upscale prepping is definitely more than just contingency for disruptions – the overtones are concern for a sharp divide with the masses, and a fear of being targeted for their status, wealth, power or privilege:
“The world is a very scary place right now, especially for people of means; they feel cornered and threatened,” said Tom Gaffney, the president of Gaffco Ballistics, which has installed a number of safe rooms around New York City. “When you have so much to lose, and you can afford to, you put a premium on your safety.”