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As Process Starts for a New UN Building, Would It Provide More or Less Access?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 2 -- Not unlike a Friday afternoon document dump, the first public hearing about the UN's proposed new building to take over the Robert Moses Playground south of 42nd Street was held on September 24.

  It was the first day of the just-concluded General Debate. President Barack Obama, pre-shutdown, spoke that day, just after Brazil's Dilma Rousseff slammed US spying.

  At the very time of the public hearing, UK foreign secretary William Hague and UN Sexual Violence in Conflict envoy Bangura held a stakeout. Inner City Press attended that, asking about 135 rapes in Minova by the UN's partners in the Congolese Army. Video here, from Minute 7:22. But now, this report.

  The building would be 36 stories tall, connected to the existing Secretariat Building by a tunnel. It would be developed by the UN Development Corporation, which did One UN Plaza (where Iran's Hassan Rouhani held his press conference last week) and the UNICEF building.

  The architecture of the so-called UN Consolidated Building, by FXFOWLE and Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki, is described as drab. There is, not surprisingly, local opposition to the loss of the playground. A Wikileaked cable from then-US Ambassador Susan Rice about the underlying security issues is online, here.

  Security can go overboard. Witness for example the unceremonious ripping-out on 44th Street and 47th Street this week of the CitiBike racks installed just months earlier. The heads of state are gone, but the bikes and even racks aren't back. (Click here for Inner City Press tweeted photograph, night of October 1.)

  The current $2 billion renovation of the existing UN is still not complete; the General Debate was held in a temporary building with no media seats, no nearby stakeout, and little access. Would this proposed new building offer more access? That is among the questions the Free UN Coalition for Access @FUNCA_info will be asking.

  The City's ULURP process can take some time; there is also the certainty of a new Mayor, and new City Council speaker, coming in. Watch this site.


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