|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
PRESS CONFERENCE ON CAPITAL MASTER PLAN
Assistant Secretary-General Louis F. Reuter IV provided correspondents with a progress report on the United Nations Capital Master Plan, saying that construction of the new Headquarters building could start in mid-2007.
Everything was being done to make that a reality, and things were moving “full speed ahead” on the “pros and cons” of the project, he told a Headquarters press conference this morning.
[The Capital Master Plan was approved by the General Assembly in December 2002 when, by the terms of its resolution 57/292, it expressed concern over the hazards and deficiencies of the United Nations Headquarters buildings and endorsed modernization of the existing complex, and construction and lease purchase of a new United Nations building south of 42nd Street on First Avenue.]
Mr. Reuter told a questioner that a strategy being worked on might involve a significant commitment of money to be made as early as April 2006 for commercial space, which would keep the project on track to 2007. Most of the money required would have to be committed by then. The Assembly would be informed accordingly for that commitment. The strategy would be a management and a real estate one.
He said a United States loan, as well as other financing mechanisms, involved political and diplomatic issues. He was asking the Assembly to allow the United Nations Development Corporation (UNDC) to proceed on those strategies in parallel, putting the diplomatic burdens on the Assembly and the other technical issues on him. He was providing, as the Assembly had asked for, a high-powered, internationally acceptable financial consultant to evaluate all the proposed funding mechanisms, including the United States loan offer.
Mr. Reuter said hopes about the Plan began to falter around August, when the Corporation’s plans for a “DC-5” complex between 41st and 42nd Streets along First Avenue did not receive approval by the New York State Legislature in Albany. In addition, real estate and construction costs had begun to rise. It took a little while for those involved in the project to absorb the “body blow” to their plans, he said.
The Corporation had literally scrambled to see whether another location could be found in the commercial real estate market in New York, he said. It had been determined that new sites could be found, but at relatively higher costs. A detailed review was being carried out on the design drawings, and he anticipated that by 1 December the Corporation would have managed to reduce most of the new construction costs. A project originally estimated at $100 million would now cost about $500 million. He explained that there had been a sudden increase in construction costs in New York City.
The report being prepared for the Assembly about what happened and what could be done about the project would cover three areas: a project management strategy, which would cover how costs could be controlled; a real estate strategy, which concerned all aspects of acquisition of sites, among others; and financing of the project. There were lots of questions about a United States loan, but there were many other loan offers, as well, he said. The main concern was to deliver the project in a timely manner. He had met with the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) and that would be followed by a written report in November. He expected a debate on the strategies and the opportunities that had been discovered. He also expected intensive discussions with the Committee in late November and December.
He told a questioner that the UNDC project should be revived and completed. To wait would be more costly. His office was working with the City authorities, he said, adding that the Mayor’s Office was interested in the project. He observed that the Albany Legislature had not helped the New York Jets football club either with their efforts to acquire land for a new stadium.
He was asked how the “oil-for-food” scandal had affected the ability of the United Nations to gain approval for the construction of new buildings and whether he was looking for another philanthropist like the Rockefellers in earlier years to help the Organization with its housing problems. He said there were a number of non-profit organizations that were interested in the United Nations. “The United Nations belongs to the world, and works for the world. It is an architectural heritage that is exceptionally unusual.”
He also said a new book just published explained how the architectural spaces of the Headquarters building had made delegations collaborate and work together. “The design of the building and the kinds of spaces we have had contributed to the work of the Organization over the years. Neither architectural historians nor UN historians would want to abandon the felicitous nature of those spaces. They worked towards the United Nations mission very well.”
Responding to questions on the state of the present Headquarters building, he said it was being maintained, although with difficulty, at a cost of $35 million a year. “So we are not abandoning the building. It’s not rapidly deteriorating. It was being taken care of just like the Statue of Liberty”, he said.
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