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Annan urges States to adopt cost-effective refurbishment of deteriorating UN complex

Annan urges States to adopt cost-effective refurbishment of deteriorating UN complex

Toshiyuki Niwa
Responding to the deterioration of the United Nations Headquarters building in New York, Secretary-General Kofi Annan is calling on Member States to adopt a cost-effective planned refurbishment effort.

In a new report on the initiative - referred to as the capital master plan - Mr. Annan carries forward earlier proposals aimed at replacing the current "reactive" approach to repairing the 50-year old complex with an overhaul that would bring it up to local codes while increasing energy efficiency.

The new report, which comes in response to a General Assembly request for more details, reiterates that conditions are now unacceptable, pose serious health, safety and security problems and require unreasonably high resources for emergency repairs and energy. If repairs are made only on an ad hoc basis, costs would be "prohibitively high" and would leave the Headquarters with "serious deficiencies in building and safety codes, security, hazardous materials, universal accessibility and energy efficiency," the report notes.

In response, Mr. Annan is calling for implementing the capital master plan, which could cost between upwards of $1.1 billion. Of various options, Mr. Annan recommends one which would run for five years or less - from late 2004 to late 2009 - because it minimizes possible delays and cost overruns, poses no disruptions to the work of the UN or the construction, and avoids perceived environmental risks stemming from removal of hazardous materials.

To achieve this, the UN would require "swing space" to conduct its work while the Headquarters is renovated. Responding to the UN's request for help, the City of New York has proposed the construction of a new building on the site immediately south of 42nd Street where Robert Moses playground now stands, according to Assistant Secretary-General Toshiyuki Niwa.

"This is a 'dream' solution for the UN. Aside from the inherent benefits of the first approach just cited, it is next door and on the same side of First Avenue and makes consolidated security measures possible," he told reporters today, adding that the new building would eventually be used to consolidate UN offices currently spread around midtown Manhattan. In order to compensate New York City for the loss of the park, the Secretary-General is proposing that the UN provide a bikeway/esplanade along the East River connecting to an existing path a bit farther downtown. That effort would cost between $10 million and $12 million, Mr. Niwa said.

Member States should act quickly on the proposals, he said, noting that some $35 million is lost each year there is a delay in the plan's implementation while the need for emergency repairs progressively increases. "It is the wish of the Secretary-General that the General Assembly takes a firm decision on the proposed direction for the refurbishment and resolves the issue of financing on a priority basis," he said.

Proposals for financing include cash payments through special assessments, deferred payments through interest free loans and commercial borrowing, as well as voluntary contributions from public and private sources.