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UN Renovation Struggles To Stay Within Budget

Aerial view of UN Headquarters on the East River in New York City.
Aerial view of UN Headquarters on the East River in New York City.
When the famous New York developer Donald Trump proposed a decade ago to do the entire United Nations complex renovation for $700 million, the price tag raised eyebrows.

Now, at almost triple that number, a whopping $1,87 billion, the UN is working hard to stay within budget.

During a briefing this week on the progress of the UN’s Capital Master Plan, its chief, Michael Alderstein assured reporters that things are going as planned. He specifically emphasized that no over-budgeting costs are imminent at this point.

The capital renovation plan is expected to continue through 2013 and it envisions bringing up to the 21st century safety and technical standards the entire UN headquarters complex located on Manhattan’s East side. An architectural landmark built between 1949-52, the glass-and-steel UN secretariat building still looks imposing but has aged considerably. The renovation aims to turn the iconic 39-story structure into an exemplary green building with efficient use of air, electricity and water.

The relocation of many UN bodies in the complex has brought its own measurement of drama and suspense. The UN Security Council chambers, for example were moved from their spacious quarters on the second floor of the secretariat building to a windowless basement location. The move has initially resulted in media restrictionswhich have since been resolved.

The UN accredited reporters had to compete for a limited media space in the Dag Hamarskjold Library building adjacent to the secretariat.

Even if the UN stays within its capital renovation budget, many of its staff won’t be occupying the same offices they once did. In fact at least one-third of the UN secretariat personnel will be located outside of the secretariat.

-- Nikola Krastev

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