UN Renovation, Stealth Long Leases and No
Right to Return, Adlerstein's Rules
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, May 20 -- When the UN began its Capital Master Plan
renovation, it rented office space into which staff from its
Secretariat building would be temporarily relocated for the three
years of construction. An entire structure on 46th Street, the Albano
Building, was rented. Since then, as exclusively reported by Inner
City Press, bedbugs
have been found in the building, the elevators
and often heating and air conditioning don't work.
May 20, Inner
City Press asked CMP chief Michael Adlerstein about these problems,
about a leaked
memo, and to confirm that the UN has in fact rented the Albano
at least ten years, much longer than the construction project at the
this mean that
the UN staff in Albano, from the Department of General Assembly and
Conference Management, would not have a "right to return"
to their offices in the Secretariat? By implication, would the press
corps not return to the third and fourth floor, but perhaps remain in
the "whistleblower free zone" in the cubicles over the UN
library? Video here,
from Minute 32:05.
confirmed that the lease the UN signed on the Albano Building is for
at least ten years, and that it is not certain that DGACM staff will
return to the Secretariat. There are discussions, he said, with every
Under Secretary General, which will be resolved in thirty to sixty
to the press
corp, Adlerstein first said that there would be a right to return,
somewhere between the first and seventh floors. Video here,
Minute 48:39. After more questioning, he said the press would return
to the third and fourth floors. Video here,
from Minute 55:35.
that most equipment in the Albano building is new, and therefore
should work. He said the elevators might have to be replaced. While
he did not address the bedbugs, he alluded to a town hall meeting
that Inner City Press has asked UN spokesman Martin Nesirky about.
(Transcript is below.)
learned, not from the UN spokesperon's office but meeting participants,
during the session it was admitted that the UN signed a contract with
cleaners that had no provision for recycling. Staff asked for bike
racks, including under a New York City law. In fact, the question of
inadequate bike racks at the Secretariat building has been raised of
late to Spokesman Nesirky, who says he has spoken with USG Kane.
has asked Adlerstein's CMP office how long the leases at the Teachers
and Innovation Luggage swing space buildings are, and will report the
answers later. An official of the UN Advisory Committee on
Administrative and Budgetary Questions approached Inner City Press
later on Thursday and expressed concern about the "stealth"
long lease on the Albano Building, adding that he's heard the CMP is
over budget. Adlerstein says he'll report in the Fall. Again, we'll
Adlerstein on Thursday mentioned the creation of a CMP Advisory
Committee. While little has been said of this new body, a UN photo
(below) shows its leader, Kent Barwick. What do he and the other
undepicted members think of the long leases and the right to return?
UN's Ban, Kane and Adlerstein and Kent
Barwick, advise on right to return not shown
after his press conference, Adlerstein accompanied four reporters
including Inner City Press to the space outside the Security Council,
which in April was contested regarding where the press could and
could not go.
apparently never heard how it was resolved. He said to Inner City
Press, not joking, that "I don't want to be giving prerogatives
for you to be wandering around just because I'm here. It's an abuse
of the invitation to come here and understand your needs...not to
give you an opportunity to wander around. I do feel it's abusive."
where Inner City
Press was walking is an area permitted to the Press. Apparently
Adlerstein thinks or wishes it were not so -- for the three, or five,
or is it ten years, it's Adlerstein's UN. Given what Robert Moses did
with unaccountable public authorities, one wag could only imagine what
will be done with an immune international body.
Adlerstein was asked to "take
down this wall" to allow greater transparency as to who is
entering the Security Council. I can't promise anything, he
responded. Why are we not surprised? We will continue to follow the
CMP -- watch this site.
May 19 transcript:
City Press: you never got back to me on the Albano building. I
understand there was a town hall meeting yesterday about not only
bedbugs but various construction problems within the building. There
was some criticism of Skanska’s performance and Ms. [Angela] Kane
and a number of them participated. And they also had said that the
Albano building has been leased for 10 years, even though the rehab
here is supposed to only take five. I am just wondering, I mean, I
can break this down into questions, or I am wondering if, following
the memo that came out of Mr.Shaaban Shaaban, do you have anything on
this? Is there a UN description of why these staff concerns are
Nesirky: Actually, to the contrary, staff concerns are taken
extremely seriously. I know that there was indeed a staff meeting, a
town hall meeting — however you would like to describe it. I do
not have a readout from that and I am sure that we can get something
City Press: Some people working there, they said that when they moved
to Albano they thought they would be returning to the Secretariat
building where they always worked, and that they have now essentially
been told that they will stay in Albano even after the building is
fixed. So this is obviously, and I know in the press corps not to
get too… there are some concerns that the press will remain above
the library and never return to the third or fourth floor. Who is
actually making the decisions of how space will be allocated in the
building when it is fixed?
Nesirky: Let’s find out. I do not know the specific answer to
that. Some of these matters could indeed be raised with Mr.
Alderstein tomorrow, although, obviously, he has a mandate to fix the
building rather than to allocate space after that.
City Press: To the degree that he can’t answer about this, what
they are calling restacking or how space will be allocated, maybe Ms.
Kane could come or give another briefing.
Let’s find out what we can do. I fully appreciate the interest
that there is in the building and the virtual headquarters that is
across different parts of Manhattan at the moment.
* * *
UN Memo Shows Shaaban Protest of Bedbugs and No Right to Return by
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, May 17 -- A rift has emerged among senior UN officials about inaction on
the bedbug infestation and the "right to return"
to UN Headquarters once it is renovated. In a memo leaked
City Press by a whistleblower, Under Secretary General Shaaban
Shaaban on May 11 told USG Angela Kane that his staff won't long stay
in the "uninhabitable" Albano Building.
that Shaaban has been told that his staff, of the Department of
General Assembly and Conference Management, may not as promised be
allowed to return to their offices in UN headquarters.
UN press corps
has been told this as well. Their spots on the third and fourth
floor, it now appears, may be given for another use. This would leave
the press corp in the "whistleblower free zone" above the Library,
where all conversations can be heard. Complaints have been made, but
thus far with as little effect of the UN's fumigation on the bed bugs.
The press has
been given until the end of May to argue against losing the spots
they had for fifty years, and against the imposition of rent, which
is again being threatened.
would be to drive smaller and
more independent press out of the UN, even as the UN gets less and
less press coverage, and fewer and fewer reporters attend the UN noon
At the noon
briefing of May 12, Inner City Press asked
City Press Press: It’s come to my attention, Inner City Press has
received a copy of an intra-UN e-mail indicating that in the Albano
Building swing space, that up to 90 per cent of the building is
infected by bed bugs; that this problem that began earlier during the
move there has not been fixed and has in fact gotten worse. I’m
wondering: what steps is the UN taking? Why is it that, months after
they were first discovered, the bed bugs remain in the UN swing space
and what steps are being taken to protect the people that work there?
Martin Nesirky: Let me find out about that. Clearly, if there are
any concerns about staff health or safety they need to be taken very
seriously and looked into. So, let me find out.
The next day,
Nesirky's office replied
your question on bedbugs in the Albano building
Spokesperson - Do Not Reply
Date: Thu, May 13, 2010 at 12:02
To: matthew.lee [at] innercitypress.com
months after the fumigation of the whole Albano building, as is
standard practice, the bug sniffing dog returned to examine the
building on 6 May. The dog found evidence of bugs on a number of
floors. However, the dog is not able to distinguish between alive and
dead bugs that may remain from the previous infestation. As a
precautionary measure the whole building was fumigated again on the
weekend of 8-9 May.
Monday 10 May a staff member reported a bug found in their office.
This was examined in the lab and found not to be a bedbug, further
analysis to determine what the bug is continues. Preliminary advice
indicates that the insect found is a clover mite which does not bite
note that since the fumigation in November last year one staff member
reported a suspicious bite but this turned out not to be from a
continue to monitor the situation very closely and urge any staff
member who experience suspicious insect bites to seek medical
confirmation whether a bedbug was the cause and to advise us, and to
advise us if any bugs are found in the building and we will
investigate. For the moment though there have been no more confirmed
cases of active bedbugs in the Albano building since the fumigation
in November 2009.
copy of which Inner City Press is putting
online here, complains of
the failure to deal with the bedbugs on which Inner City Press first
reported, on problems with the elevators and heating and air
conditioning in the Albano Building.
these issues represents a serious lapse on the part of the
organization's responsibility," Shaaban wrote, "but all
three together border on a situation making the building
UN's Ban and Shaaban, Nambiar, bed bugs and
right to return not shown
my meeting with Mr. Adlerstein five weeks ago, I never agreed that
the Albano staff will be stacked there... So, in the stacking
proposal you sent to Mr. Nambiar on 4 May 2010... I read in the
appendix twice that 'based on initial consultations with DGACM,
agreement has been made to retain the use of the Albano Building,'
which does not reflect my discussion with Mr. Adlerstein."
organizing a congratulatory cocktail reception for Capital Master
Plan chief Michael Adlerstein. One images that the bedbugs and
disputed right to return will be raised there, and at a press
conference with Adlerstein scheduled for May 20. Watch this site.
Shaaban himself is the subject a damning UN Dispute Tribunal ruling,
that his behavior in denying promotion to an underlying was so
outrageous as to militatate for him personally paying damages of
$20,000. Ban Ki-moon has filed what some call a knee-jerk appeal. Now