UN, Opaque Moves, Of Skeletons in Closet, Balkan Demands, Cafeteria
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, September 4 -- As the UN empties out, some moves make sense
and others, not so much. The UN Treaty section moved from the
Secretariat building, slated for gut rehabilitation, over to Madison
Avenue, complete with its safes full of treaties. But then UN
Procurement, based not in the Secretariat but already across First
Avenue on 45th Street, also moved to Madison. Already opaque,
distance may lead to even less accountability.
chief Michael Adlerstein, returned from his vacation, has yet to
address these issues. While he had told Inner City Press it could
attend a future Town Hall meeting, he personally reversed the policy
and ordered the Press out. The questions are not limited to
relocation, or the so-called "whistleblower
Adlerstein and his Department of Management boss are building for
press over the library. They include follow up on litigation pending
against a previous Adlerstein job in Sandy Hook, New Jersey.
in his role as a US Park Service administrator, is alleged to have
improperly awarded a lease of Fort Hancock to real estate developer
James Wassel. After ten years of nonperformance, the Park
has finally canceled the 60 year lease. In the run-up, Philip G.
Jr. charged that "I am stating that Mr. Wassel, in
coordination with the chairman of the selection committee, Michael
Adlerstein, changed the outcome of the selection committee."
interviewed, Adlerstein advised that although there was specific
evaluation criteria listed in the RFP, the RFP also stated that NPS
would be selecting the "best proposal." Adlerstein advised
that the questions listed under the evaluation criteria were not the
minimum requirements of the RFP. Adlerstein described that the
criteria within RFP was "desired" by NPS but was not
"required." Adlerstein acknowledged that the wording within
the RFP was "gray" with respect to the questions listed
under the evaluation criteria. According to Adlerstein, NPS selected
the developers who were the best of the respondents to the RFP, not
necessarily the perfect response. Adlerstein stated that WRG was
chosen as the best, not because they were perfect, but because they
were better than the others. According to Adlerstein, NPS was not
looking for perfection."
at the UN
Capital Master Plan, Adlerstein is apparently neither looking for nor
Boxed up and ready to move out of UN, transparency
Meanwhile a vicious circle is occurring in
the UN cafeteria. With fewer people in the building, there are fewer
customers. This leads Aramark, beyond the layoffs already reported
on, to earlier and earlier in the day put away the salad dressing,
and now the by-the-ounce entrees. By 7 p.m. on September 3, all that
was offered was the UN's Ramadan meal, for a total of nine dollars.
Many staff threw up their hands.
fighting footnote: At the UN things are very genteel and classy, the
revolving door is velvet, until the gloves come off. On the night of
September 2 there was a reception for a long time journalist going
over to the dark side as some put it, to work for the Bosnian
mission. There was Mumm champagne and cheese cubes and crackers. The
Deputy Permanent Representative of a Balkan country spoke, praising her
hire. And then around seven she left.
is relayed to Inner City Press by the security personnel involved.
The DPR as they call her went through the General Assembly or
Visitors' Entrance to try to exit at the 46th Street gate. But it was
closed, locked up at seven on the dot. She returned to the South
Lobby, four blocks south, and she was steamed. She demanded to know
why the north gate had been locked. The timing was explained to her.
changed, and she demanded to speak to the supervisor. He is in
the back, she was told, past the UNFCU and Chase ATM machines. No,
she demanded, have him come out here. Passersby gawked. She demanded
to know who made it illegal to smoke. And then in a puff of smoke she
was gone. "Write about it," it was suggested.
* * *
At UN, of
Brass Knuckles and Fire Hazards, Shared
Printers and Costly Two Month Digs
Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, August 31 -- An
employee of the UN's
general contractor Skanska was stopped entering the UN with a pair of
brass knuckles with spikes on them, multiple sources have confirmed
to Inner City Press. The UN Capital Master Plan, which previously
tried to downplay safety incidents in which a person was hit in the
head with a cement bar, and where a Siamese connection to provide
water to the Fire Department was blocked, has yet to speak on this
brass knuckles incident.
Meanwhile, a recent
workshop presentation by
the UN Development Program's Jan
Vandemoortele in basement
Conference Room A was so over-attended that fire code occupancy was
wildly exceeded. The UN's reaction was simply to bar any more people
from entering. Is that what the law requires? Or is the UN claiming
that, as international territory, it is not subject to the fire code
notices posted on its walls?
The overall trend without
question is that the
UN Headquarters building is emptying out. But in some cases people
are moving in, a result of lack of planning. On the 13th floor, for
example, vacated space is being filled by the Department of
Peacekeeping Operations, sources say, and money is being spent and
wasted on renovating offices for them which will only be used for a
On the 17th floor, a team from
ERP -- Enterprise
Resource Planning -- has set up shop, with a single printer, sources
say. People have to wait to exchange a USB plug to print documents.
CMP / Skanska-ites breaking, the brass knucklehead
Over in the Albano Building
swing space, a form of
crackdown has begun. Since one has to have a differently coded ID
card to go enter each floor, collaboration has been become nearly
impossible, people say. They tape the doors open so they don't lock,
but then face a crackdown, including on small refrigerators they
brought to save time and money on lunch. Many such fridges, then,
have been left abandoned on the vacated floors of the Secretariat
building. Can you say freon, and lack of recycling planning?
It's reached a point, some say,
where some say that CMP, rather
than Capital Master Plan, stands for Cannot Manage Planning. Watch
* * *
UN Relocates Some Get Taxis, Others Pay, Closing Post Office But
Temp Building to Remain?
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, August 15 -- The UN in New York is becoming a vacant shell,
literally. Each week fewer people work here, each week there is less
press. Unit after unit is moved out for the Capital
Master Plan. This
week there was talk of disparate treatment. Those sent to Long Island
City to work for the UN Office of Information and Computer
Technology, it's said, will have to pay their own transit fare to
travel back and forth under the East River to headquarters.
it's said that those from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations,
sent to Madison Avenue and 47th Street, will have the use of taxis,
that DPKO budgeted for a van but not for gas and a driver. Would the
driver have to possess a commercial license, someone asks. With the
UN it is always about exemption for U.S. law.
UN post office
in the Secretariat building basement appears on a list for USPS
offices to be closed. But what of the UN stamps, which are sold and
sent from there? Inner City Press asked CMP chief Michael Adlerstein,
who while noting that he is not in every loop said that, yes, the
post office might be closed during the whole Capital Master Plan.
Files head to Madison, some to return to taxis while
what of the
Delegates' Lounge? A visit during the day on August 14 found the air
conditioning off and the barristas hot and complaining. Returning in
the evening, the crowd was the smallest in recent memory. When the
free food came -- this time it was sushi, followed by fried plantains
-- the platters were hardly finished. In the cafeteria these days,
there are more and more empty seats. Aramark workers with less
seniority face layoffs. The UN is offering no training.
design of the Request for Proposals for the next food service
contract, applicants are reportedly told there will be two Vienna
Cafes, the existing one by Conference Room 4 -- which will
temporarily become the Security Council -- and the other, apparently
ongoing, in the "temporary" building on the North Lawn.
Some in the process read this as an admission that the temporary
building will remain.
questions is why, in this time of fiscal crisis, the UN bulled
forward with its billion dollar plan. Given that it seems to be
happening, how could the UN justify spending months to erect a
conference building, and then just tearing it down? Watch this site.
* * *
UN, Construction Accidents and Fire Hazards Subject to Secret
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, July 31 -- The day after the UN's
Capital Master Plan sealed
off an area in front of the Security Council balcony with red
"Asbestos" tape and then afterwards quickly declared the
area safe, CMP chief Michael Adlerstein barred the Press from a "Town
Hall" meeting about the plan and safety.
Adlerstein, when Inner
City Press was previously blocked from covering such a meeting,
promised to allow entry in the future. But on July 31 he shrugged and
his spokesman argued that the offer had been only for the next
meeting, and that the presence of the Press would change the
has been provided with several blow by blow accounts of the meeting.
The fallen ceiling and testing for asbestos was raised. But another
controversy, which perhaps explains Adlerstein's desire for secrecy,
was an incident discussed in which concrete hit a workman on the UN
construction site in the head. This was written up as a violation,
along with the UN's general contractor Skanska blocking access to the
Siamese connection carried water to put out fires.
concerned UN staff that Skanska is appealing. The staff, at least as
sampled by Inner City Press, were not convinced. Adlerstein was asked
to put on the UN's web site all information about violations. He said
he would check with the Office of Legal Affairs. Given his exclusion
of the press and public from his "Town Hall" meetings,
Internet posting of safety violations seems unlikely.
grilled about bad conditions in the UN's "swing space" in
the Albano Building on 46th Street. Russian staffers of the
Department of General Services and Conference Management complained
of freezing air being thrust upon them from badly designed vents
directly above their workplaces.
City Press was invited and
confirmed this, as well as the lack of air conditioning at the Arabic
DGACM unit lower down in the Albano Building. One wag jokes that this
was a form of profiling, and that the Arabic group, if and when the
UN compound is finally fixed, are not assured of a right of return.
messengers' unit, meanwhile, says it is forced to work in cramped
quarters with the whole Albano unit using a single toilet, and
without access to the various floors of the Albano Building which
they need to visit or service. Inner City Press' invited visit
reveals some floors with fire doors blocked or taped open, others
sealed up tight. Some complained that when Secretary General Ban
Ki-moon visited this week, he went to only two floors. The issues
raised at Friday's closed door meeting and below, these staffers say,
are not understood or taken seriously by Ban Ki-moon.
UN's Ban in hard hat, workman hit in head and
short walls not shown
complaint was the lack of sound proofing cutting into the ability top
work. This is a theme with Adlerstein, who along with Department of
Management chief Angela Kane is insisting on changing a previously
commitment to the UN correspondents that their "swing space"
would be similar to what they have, with the ability to make phone
calls and, in the case of investigative journalism endeavors like
Inner City Press, to meet confidentially with whistleblowers.
Kane and Ban's advisors have decreed that walls will be only seven
feet tall, and paper thin at that. In an attempt to divide and
conquer, wire services will be able to request taller walls after a
week, while other media like Inner City Press and the Washington Post
-- which is mulling closing its long time UN bureau, as Inner City
Press exclusively reported, as picked up by the Daily Beast -- can
only make such a request after four months in a "Whistleblower
City Press' visit on July 30 -- after a demand
to delete a photograph of the police taped "Asbestos" zone
on the floor -- to Adlerstein's office in the basement under the
library found that he has full floor to ceiling walls, hard and sound
proof. Secrecy reigns at the UN, with safety and sanity seeming to
take a back seat. Watch this site.