After 10 Years and 3 Plans, U.N. Renovation Is in Sight - New York Times


After 10 Years and 3 Plans, U.N. Renovation Is in Sight - New York Times:

"Cruise ships, barges, islands, tent settlements, a 30-story annex, a Wal-Mart-size building, even Brooklyn.

All of them have been proposed by increasingly desperate United Nations officials as the place to locate thousands of employees and delegates while the organization’s stylishly timeless but dangerously antiquated 39-story headquarters are refurbished.

This decade-long search has ended now with a decision to begin a five-year, $1.876 billion renovation of the complex in the spring and to house the 2,600 people who must move out in rented space in Manhattan, across the East River in Long Island City and a temporary conference building on the United Nations campus.


Those failings are serious, as Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg underlined in October by demanding that the organization immediately improve its fire safety plans with sprinklers, smoke detectors and exit signs or he would prohibit visits by city students to the building and alert the public to the danger. The United Nations has pledged to make the adjustments in the coming months.


The elaborate rehabilitation plan, which the General Assembly is expected to approve soon, is the third in a decade. Like many other urgent items on the United Nations agenda, the mission has met with repeated delays.


The first plan was halted in 2005 when the New York State Legislature, angry about diplomats’ unpaid parking tickets, mismanagement of the Iraq oil-for-food program and what lawmakers viewed as the United Nations’ anti-Israel bias, refused to pass enabling legislation to construct a new annex on an underused city playground next door.

The second was abandoned a year later after its architect, Louis Frederick Reuter IV, a veteran of large project management in New York, grew tired of fighting persistent objections from Congress and United Nations bureaucrats. He resigned.

The author of the new plan is Michael Adlerstein, 62, an affable Brooklyn-born former National Park Service architect involved in the preservations of Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, the New York Botanical Garden and the Taj Mahal and a man with 20 years of experience dealing with lawmakers in Washington.


“I took the job because it’s an ideal challenge for an architect at this point in my career,” he said. “It’s an iconic building of great stature in the world. You can show a picture of this building to people in remote, rural locations in the world and everyone will know it.”

While the famous exteriors will be unchanged, the insides will be brought up to 21st century standards of efficiency and security and reconfigured to consume 40 percent less energy.

The glass curtain wall will be replaced by a heavily laminated one that appears identical but is far stronger and able to withstand the blast of a bomb attack.

Energy-saving additions include sensors that turn off lights in unoccupied rooms and solar power systems.


“Ten years from now there will be no way to tell that the U.N. was renovated unless you look at the Con Ed bill,” Mr. Adlerstein said. He said that he was well aware of the bribery scandals that have scarred the reputation of the United Nations procurement department but that Skanska, the Swedish company that is the construction manager, and his own people would make sure nothing like that recurred.


The cost of the project will be borne by the 192 member states in supplementary annual dues over the five-year period, with the United States responsible for 22 percent, or $413 million. The United Nations has leased office floors in a building at 305 East 46th Street and is negotiating for space nearby and in Lower Manhattan and Long Island City."

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