Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Urban Renewal, Gentrification, or call it what you will

we all watched the opening ceremonies from Beijing and where amazed to see what 1 billion people advised to work can do. Well, Azerbaijan doesn't have the population of China but it is able to mobilize and direct a work force for infrastructure projects on an enormous scale.

I guess this is a good thing. Puts people to work but since independence, the country is clearly trying to shake off any signs of the former occupiers, the Soviet Union. This includes tearing down the crumbling buildings that house multi-generations. (Azeris live in small apartments or houses with families that include grandparents (both sets perhaps), and other immediate or visiting relatives.

The government can tear down buildings in record time by having hundreds of men (no women construction workers here) with hand tools, in flip flops with no safety equipment. In place of the apartments they build highrises of 15+ stories. This is exactly how my 15 story building came into being four years ago. I wonder about the people being displaced..but I'm told "oh, don't worry they are paid"...yeah, but where do they go?

So I tried to capture some of this renewal that is happening less than 200 yards from my windows. The guy in the photo is a scavenger...trying to reclaim anything that he can from his former dwelling...Oh yeah, check out the bags of cement mix that's sitting in my lobby...Azeris never finish a building before letting people move in...so many floors in my current building are still being built.

And, yes, I know urban renewal continues in the US...but it ain't quite like this.

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