First some facts. Fact One: Abu Dhabi announced last March that it was going to build "worker housing" for 400,000 people by the year 2010.
Fact two: Tuscon, Arizona has a population of something in the neighborhood of 400,000 residents.
So Abu Dhabi is in effect building another City of Tuscon in two years. The original has been around for about 300 years. So things move fast in Abu Dhabi, though they'll probably skip some of the intermediate steps, like the gunslinger era. Those new public housing units probably will have central air conditioning and running water, indoor plumbing and no resident Gila Monsters.
Fact three: The population of public housing in New York City is about 400,000, or the same as the entire population of Tuscon, or the population of the new housing projects in Abu Dhabi.
Most of the New York projects are pretty sturdy places on the surface. Ugly, depressing in the hallways, but decent inside. If you can get there. They've been having a lot of elevator problems lately.
When you live in a rent controlled place with a private landlord, chances are you experience elevator problems, too. That's one of the ways the landlords get rid of the low-rent tenants so they can't charge what they call "market value," and what the rest of us call outrageous. Surely there are private contractors you can hire to help make your low-rent tenants' lives miserable. People who will set fires in the basement, cripple the laundry machines, destroy the lobby and hall lights, and disable the elevators.
In public housing, they don't do that. If the tenants don't do it, the shoddiness of the machinery will take care of it by itself.
The elevators in the projects? Try schlepping a week's worth of groceries up 20 floors worth of stairs. The prime space used to be near the top of the buildings. Nice views. Less noise. Fewer break-ins. No more. The prime space in the buildings is no higher than the third floor.
There are risks. But they're worth it because you can walk up three flights a whole lot easier than you can 20. The city's going to fix the elevators. Any year now.
By the way, you can bet that in Abu Dhabi and in Tuscon, the elevators work.
--Bills used to arrive near the first and 15th of any given month. No so anymore. They come in a steady and unrelenting stream, sometimes a steady and unrelenting flood.
--The Internet has put a lot of people out of business. It's not just newspapers. It's the makers of letter openers -- no one's making them anymore, not even the cheap plastic ones with "Eat at Joe's" or "Robert Feinbaum, DDS" printed on them.
--We were shopping at a Target the other day when the lights went out. Think that stops 'em? Nah -- there's a back up generator so you can see your way to the register -- which also works on emergency power.
I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(sm)
(C) WJR 2008