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Inside New York's Panic-Room Boom: A Fortress Amidst the City's Uncertainties

Panic room hidden within a staircase
Panic room hidden within a staircase

In a city perpetually on edge, where uncertainty lurks around every corner, the ultrarich are taking drastic measures to fortify their homes against perceived threats. Bridget Read's recent feature for NY Mag's Curbed delves into the burgeoning industry of panic-room builders, revealing a world where security measures are becoming increasingly elaborate and sophisticated.

Bill Rigdon, a veteran in the panic-room business, offers an array of services catering to the paranoid elite. From electrified door handles to ballistics-grade walk-in closets, Rigdon's clientele seek refuge from potential dangers, real or imagined. Rigdon's experience spans decades, originating from building bunkers for the cautious residents of Nevada. However, his recent surge in business mirrors a broader trend in New York City, where the wealthiest denizens are fortifying their abodes like never before.

David Vranicar, owner of Fortified Ballistic Security in Florida, echoes Rigdon's observations, noting a spike in demand for panic rooms among New York's elite. This surge in interest coincides with a growing sense of insecurity fueled by events such as the anti-police-violence protests and an uptick in violent crime, despite official statistics indicating a decline in such incidents.

The allure of panic rooms extends beyond the realm of the rich and famous, encompassing Fortune 500 CEOs and other ultrawealthy individuals wary of potential threats like home invaders, thieves, and kidnappers. Security features once reserved for government officials and embassies now find their way into the homes of New York's affluent.

Despite the hefty price tag — with luxury apartment fortifications costing upwards of $1 million — demand remains robust. Builders like Rigdon and Humble of Creative Home Engineering cater to clients' desires for both security and aesthetic continuity, seamlessly integrating panic-room features into the existing architecture.

However, the proliferation of panic rooms raises questions about the city's psyche and the broader implications of such fortress-like structures. While some view them as a prudent precaution in an uncertain world, others see them as a symptom of deeper anxieties and inequalities.

In a city where space is at a premium and historical continuity matters, the rise of panic rooms reflects not just a desire for security but also a reflection of societal anxieties. As the wealthy barricade themselves behind fortified doors and bulletproof windows, the true cost of this fortress mentality remains to be seen.

Read the full article on NY Mag's Curbed here.


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