31 March 2011
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by Executive Director of United Nations Capital Master Plan


Despite a delay resulting from extra security measures, the construction overhaul of the United Nations compound — known as the Capital Master Plan — remained on schedule and was making headway towards closing its budget gaps, said the project’s chief officer today.


“We’ve gotten through most of the surprises,” said Michael Adlerstein, Executive Director of the Capital Master Plan, speaking at a Headquarters press conference.  He referred, among other things, to the security enhancements that had been added to the original construction plan, and which required extra structural work to the complex’s conference building.


While those improvements — which had arisen from a joint study by the Plan and the United Nations Department of Safety and Security — had caused a delay of several months, he said, the overall project remained on schedule.  Those enhancements were needed to keep staff, delegates and visitors safer, he added.


Nearly three years into the renovation, the Capital Master Plan had made significant progress towards its completion phase, which was scheduled to begin in mid- to late-2012, said the project chief.  Among other milestones, the construction of the temporary North Lawn building had been completed, “swing space” had been identified and staff successfully relocated, and extensive work had been done in the compound’s basement, which housed most of the United Nations critical technical support systems.  Renovation work had begun on the conference building, with new scaffolding systems placed on its east and west facades.  The scaffolding would allow for the replacement of the United Nations iconic glass “curtain wall”, with new glass panels matching the old ones almost exactly.


Other major accomplishments outlined by Mr. Adlerstein included the construction of a new, state-of-the-art data centre, which was now fully operational.  Plans for the reoccupation of the Secretariat building were also beginning to take shape, he said.


Approximately $1.5 billion, representing over 75 per cent of the project’s budget, had already been committed to various aspects of the renovation, he said, explaining that such a pay-as-you-go system was the most cost effective strategy.  Moreover, the Plan’s projected overrun had been narrowed from 10 per cent over budget in its first year to just 4 per cent — or about $80 million — over budget in the most recent financial analysis.


“We are closer to being on budget than we were last year,” he said, noting that the gap in funds had been narrowing incrementally since the project’s first year, 2008.  The General Assembly had authorized a donation programme for the Capital Master Plan, and several delegations had expressed interest in furnishing a specific room or space.  Donation commitments had already been made by the Russian Federation, Denmark, China and others, while countries that had made original gifts to the United Nations had agreed to update those.

Responding to a question about a $100 million voluntary fund that had been established specifically for the required security enhancements, he stressed that no other expenditures would be drawn from that fund.  Other costs, including those related to a United Nations loading dock and renovations on its library building, were instead part of the Capital Master Plan’s overall budget, he said.


Many questions related to the space that would be dedicated to journalists working within the United Nations compound.  Mr. Alderstein said that, like several other key spaces, the details of correspondents’ offices — which were planned for the third and fourth floors of the conference building — were “not yet resolved”.  The correspondents’ concerns about the space needed to be addressed by the United Nations Secretariat, which was working with the United Nations Correspondents Association to finalize the details, he added.


Following the press conference, correspondents were led on a walking tour of the Capital Master Plan’s construction sites.


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For information media • not an official record