Inner City Press

Inner City Press -- Investigative Reporting From the Inner City to Wall Street to the United Nations

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis

  Search Search WWW (censored?)

In Other Media-eg Nigeria, Zim, Georgia, Nepal, Somalia, Azerbaijan, Gambia Click here to contact us     .


Home -

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis


Subscribe to RSS feed

Video (new)

Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

Reuters AlertNet 7/14/07

Support this work by buying this book

Click on cover for secure site orders

also includes "Toxic Credit in the Global Inner City"




Bank Beat

Freedom of Information

How to Contact Us

As UN's Bed Bugs Spread, Incoming Diplomats Warned of Itching, No Answers, Talk of Gaddafi's Tent

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 18 -- As diplomats from all over the world descend on the UN General Assembly Hall on First Avenue and 45th Street, in the UN's "swing space" building one block west another form of infestation has for a second time been concerned, as spreading -- bed bugs.

   An internal UN directive issued after Inner City Press' first exclusive report on the infestation urges calm, saying that bed bugs' "medical significance is mainly limited to the itching and inflammation from their bites, and in some rare cases, allergic reaction."

Inner City Press exclusively reported the first find of bed bug on the ninth floor of the UN's Albano Building, where during the UN's Capital Master Plan the documents for UN meetings are prepared, on September 11 and 16. Now, the "infestation" has spread to other floors, according to the internal UN directive of September 17:

"Pest control contractors have confirmed an infestation of bed bugs on a number of floors in the Albano Building. On the advice of the specialized contractor and in line with industry best practice extermination measures for the entire Albano Building are being taken over the weekend of 19 and 20 September and follow up measures will be taken two weeks later."

   This is the UN's busiest week of the year, worst possible time for a bed bug infestation at the UN. Yet the UN internal directive tries to downplay the dangers and problems posed by bed bugs:

"A common concern with bed bugs is whether they transmit diseases. Although bed bugs can harbor pathogens in their bodies, transmission to humans is highly unlikely. For this reason, they are not considered a serious disease threat. Their medical significance is mainly limited to the itching and inflammation from their bites, and in some rare cases, allergic reaction."

  Yet people spend thousands of dollars trying to get bed bugs out of their houses. If bed bugs are brought home from the UN, who will pay? Even on the health issues, the source of the UN's medical advice is not clear.

   It is understood that the bed bugs were introduced by the UN's moving contractor, which also works other jobs with beds and furniture. This same company went to the other swing spaces, on Madison, Third and Second Avenues, and also has already come back and forth into UN headquarters carrying boxes.

    "Gaddafi's tent sounds pretty good now," one wag said, referring to the Libyan leader's rejected proposal to stay in a tent on the UN's North Lawn or even Central Park.

UN Capital Master Plan, bed bug infestation not shown
    The internal UN directive says there may be bugs in other UN premises beyond the 46th Street Albano Building:

" A broadcast email will provide specific guidance to all affected staff in the Albano Building on how to leave their workspace when they finish work before the weekend and regarding their return to work after the weekend. With the assistance of the pest control experts, the Facilities Management Service is checking other buildings for possible infestations and will take other measures as appropriate."

  Inner City Press reported the bed bugs on September 11, and published a leaked internal confirmation on September 16. On September 17 there was no UN noon media briefing, only a scripted briefing by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at which no such questions were allowed or answered.

  There ostensibly was a mid-day UN media briefing on September 18, but it was scheduled for only 15 minutes. Spokesperson Michele Montas arrived with only nine of the minutes remaining, read out loud a series of press releases and then said that no questions could be asked. She said to Inner City Press, "I will answer you questions later." Video here, from Minute 9:38.

   But while Inner City Press submitted a simple question about the bed bugs to Ms Montas and her Associate, no answer has been given, and the response appears to be that no answer will be given. If and when the UN's actual response on and plan to deal with the now confirmed bed bugs is received, we will publish it. For now, watch out, and watch this site.

* * *

At UN, Bed Bug Infestation Confirmed, Spread to General Assembly by Documents Possible, Bug Experts Say

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 16 -- Bed bugs infested the United Nations' so-called "swing space" on 46th Street, where all the documents for the General Assembly are prepared, Inner City Press exclusively reported on September 11. Now on September 16, all UN workers in the UN's Albano Building on 46th Street have been informed by e-mail that

"As you might be aware of the recent case of bed bugs infestation on the 9th floor and the fumigation that took place over the weekend. PES has made an arrangement with the exterminator to come in today starting at 6:30pm with a dog to go through the entire building and make sure that there are no other cases. Please inform your staff who will be here after 6:30pm. I will follow up with PES and ask for a report of what if anything they found."

  This confirms, in writing, that the UN has suffered "bed bug infestation." Since there are no, or at least few, beds in the UN, it is understood that the bed bugs were introduced by the moving company which the UN contracted to move office equipment and belongings from the Secretariat building to the swing space, between 1st and 2nd Avenue, so that the Secretariat was be gut rehabilitated under the UN's Capital Master Plan.

  The difficulty, bug experts tell Inner City Press, is that full extermination of bed bugs is difficult and expensive to accomplish and ascertain.

UN's Ban and map of Capital Master Plan, bed bug infestation not shown

 It is not unforeseeable that bed bugs will be carried back from the swing space into the Headquarters building, particularly given the volume of documents that will be processed in the Albano Building for use at next week's meetings in the General Assembly hall and basement conference room.

  So while Venezuela's Hugo Chavez famously said at the General Assembly podium, giving a speech after George W. Bush, that the place smelled like sulfur, it may have a different smell next week. Watch -- and smell? -- this site.

* * *

At UN, Bed Bugs But No Medical Service in the Swing Space, Skanska's Closed Bid Openings

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 11 -- With the UN's human resources office moving out of the Headquarters and to Madison Avenue, stories flow in to Inner City Press about a total lack of security on Madison, about a staff member stuck for an hour in an elevator in the Albano Building swing space on 46th Street, and in a new low, bed bugs in the swing space.

  They were introduced by the moving trucks used to relocate office equipment there, and now fumigation has been called for. The UN is bugged, as one wag put it, in at least two ways.

The question of the week is who handles emergencies at the UN and its swing space? On September 10, Inner City Press asked

Question: On the Medical Service, it’s been reported that now, whereas people in the past, if people were injured in the building they’d call the Medical Service. Now everyone is being told that they should only call 911 if they’re injured either in this building or in the swing spaces. I wanted to know if you could confirm that and also the Fire Department has apparently said that they haven’t been informed of any change in procedures, such that they can with ambulances and other things access both this building and the swing spaces. What is the status of that?

Deputy Spokesperson: The change in procedure, to call 911 first in an emergency, is only a change for the UN Secretariat building. The procedure to call 911 first has always been the case for UN workplaces other than the Secretariat building.

The reason for the current change is the ongoing move of staff out of the Secretariat, including the imminent move of UN medical services to a Capital Master Plan renovation swing space location where they’re no longer co-located with the majority of UN staff. So that is the reason for that. It is obvious that an expectation for medical staff to respond on foot to emergencies scattered across the various swing space buildings is untenable, and would only be a waste of precious time. The reason for the updated procedure was included recently in an internal staff announcement. Further, any emergency procedure should be valid for all times and circumstances. The UN Fire and Safety Unit is manned 24 hours a day, and after calling 911, it is the appropriate party to know of an emergency; they are responsible to ensure site access for 911 responders. If it is appropriate for the location and circumstances of the incident, the Fire and Safety Unit will also activate a medical services response, for which we’re equipped and ready. And so, that is the reason given by the Medical Service on that.

Question: On the same question, given the shrinking of the Medical division’s functions, does the Secretariat anticipate the budget continuing to be as reported, $38 million over every two years, or is the budget going to shrink if they’re no longer responsible for medical emergencies in the Secretariat building?

Deputy Spokesperson: Budget issues, as you know, are up to the Member States, so I can’t answer on that.

   On the budget, the Secretary General is responsible for making the budget proposals. And on the evening of September 10, an ambulance was belatedly called for a person on the ground just inside the UN's fence on First Avenue between 42nd and 43rd Street.

UN is emptied out en route to swing space, bed bugs not shown

  A question posed on September 10 to the UN's Associate Spokesperson about the incident was not given any response, by close of business on September 11, when the S-G did not even issue a statement about 9/11/01, while his Secretariat is implicitly accused by his former Under Secretary General Robert Fowler of harboring Al Qaeda sympathizers, click here for that.

   And to go full circle about Skanska, while it's now said that they open bids for sub-contracts on a delegated basis from the UN, Skanska claims that its bid openings are closed to the press and public. But watch out for the bugs...

* * *

At UN, Opaque Moves, Of Skeletons in Closet, Balkan Demands, Cafeteria Conflict

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED 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.

  Capital Master Plan 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 free zone" Adlerstein and his Department of Management boss are building for the press over the library. They include follow up on litigation pending against a previous Adlerstein job in Sandy Hook, New Jersey.

 Adlerstein, 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 Service has finally canceled the 60 year lease. In the run-up, Philip G. Crifasi 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." Investigators stated that

"When 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."

   Now at the UN Capital Master Plan, Adlerstein is apparently neither looking for nor delivering transparency.

Boxed up and ready to move out of UN, transparency not shown

  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.

Fancy 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 new hire. And then around seven she left.

   What happened next 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.

  Shifts 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

By 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 few months.

 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 not shown

 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 this site.

  Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Feedback: Editorial [at]

UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540

  Search  Search WWW (censored?)

Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

            Copyright 2006-08 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at] -