Press Conference on Work of Capital Master Plan

20 May 2010

Press Conference on Work of Capital Master Plan

20 May 2010
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on Work of Capital Master Plan


Michael Adlerstein, Executive Director of the Capital Master Plan (CMP), provided an update today on the work of his office as it entered the construction phase of the Secretariat and Conference buildings.

At a Headquarters press conference, he outlined current and upcoming changes for both pedestrians and vehicles in accessing the Secretariat campus, and stressed that safety and health were paramount in the work of his Office.  With last week marking the second anniversary of the CMP launch, there were now three years remaining in the five-year project.  There had been some significant achievements, including the leasing, designing and fitting out swing space for almost the entire United Nations Secretariat, some 6,000 people.

Many were in swing spaces nearby, while others were working on Madison Avenue or Long Island City, he continued.  Some had been relocated to basement swing spaces while their workspaces were renovated, and others — such as the media — were in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library.  Swing space had been built for all conference rooms and all functions outside the Conference Building had been relocated, he said.

Mr. Adlerstein said a new state-of-the-art data centre had been constructed in the basement of the North Lawn Conference Building and the migration of data from the Secretariat was now well under way.  The infrastructure work in the basement was very complicated and in close proximity to many staff, but approximately 60 per cent of infrastructure and system work in the basement had fortunately already been completed.

He said he was deeply engaged in discussions with all departments and offices about reoccupation of the Secretariat, so that the programming of each floor of the tower could be completed on schedule in the next month.  During the project’s relocation phase, many adjustments had had to be made in order to ensure the Organization’s smooth operation.  Some of that work had taken longer than expected, he added.

However, significant time savings found in Secretariat construction planning would bring CMP back on the original scheduling, he said, projecting that the Secretariat Building would be completed on schedule and departments would commence reoccupation more or less two years from now.  That would allow the end of the most disruptive portion of CMP — the timely relocation of staff from swing spaces.

He said work on the Conference Building would also be completed in 2012, and the General Assembly would return to its renovated home in 2013.  Another important accomplishment was the Secretary-General’s establishment of the Capital Master Plan Advisory Board, the first meeting of which had taken place earlier in the week.

During the remainder of May, work in the Conference and Secretariat Buildings would be wrapped up significantly, as both buildings would become more active “construction areas”, he said.

Almost all floors in the two buildings would be closed to all but authorized construction personnel, he explained, adding that most of the Conference building’s functions, including all meetings and conferences, had already been relocated to other locations.  Last month, the Security Council had commenced work in its temporary home in the basement of the General Assembly building, where it would meet for the duration of the renovation work in the Conference Building.

He said all art works and gifts from Member States had been removed from the Conference Building and most of it now decorated the walls and halls of the North Lawn Conference Building.  The Secretariat building was nearly empty, with only some information technology staff remaining on the eighteenth and nineteenth floors to maintain computer systems and manage the migration to the new data centre.

On the east façade of the Secretariat Building a hoist had been constructed for an external freight elevator that would be used to remove demolition debris and hoist new equipment and materials, he said.  Later in the month, a separate scaffolding system would be erected on the west façade, facing First Avenue, to be used in installing the new glass curtain wall system.  That system had been ordered more than a year ago, and the parts were being made in numerous countries.  It was now being assembled for delivery in August, he said, adding that installation would start on the upper floors working its way down, and continue for about 14 months.

In order to execute the renovation work, the circle in front of the Secretariat had been closed for all but construction vehicles, he continued.  Walls and barriers had been installed today to reroute traffic in the compound.  The 42nd Street staff entrance would remain open to all badge-holders, including accredited media, and would be the main entry point from First Avenue for individuals seeking to access the Library and the South Annex Building.  The northern portion of the Secretariat lobby would be closed, as would access to the Conference Building by the end May.

Accordingly, the Secretariat lobby and Conference Building would no longer be in use as an indoor thoroughfare between the north and south ends of Headquarters, he cautioned.  Instead, a covered walkway along the East River would connect the North Lawn Conference Building and the South Annex Building, he said, adding that badge-holders could continue to use the sidewalk on First Avenue.

He said vehicular traffic into and out of the parking garage had also been impacted, noting that the garage ramps surrounding the circle had been closed since 15 May.  Diplomatic vehicles continued to enter at 44th Street, but were routed north to access the delegates’ entrance of the General Assembly Building.

The 45th Street vehicular gate would remain open as an exit lane, he said, adding that the 48th Street entrance was the main access for parking.  All vehicles should exit the garage through the southern gate of the service drive onto 42nd Street.  Further, when the Secretariat and Conference buildings were completed, work in the basement would also be far advanced, which would allow the return of much of the vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian movement to pre-CMP routes.

Asked whether the project was proceeding within budget, he said CMP was still “very close” to being on budget and a full report on that would be submitted to the General Assembly in the fall.  The associated costs might not be fully absorbed, he cautioned, saying that would remain to be resolved towards the end of the project.

Mr. Adlerstein also allayed concerns about asbestos as the work progressed, underlining that absolutely no asbestos or materials containing asbestos were being used in any of the renovation work now under way or planned.  “Our foremost objective is to keep all the occupants of the compound safe at all times — staff, press, visitors and delegates.  It’s extremely important to us, and we’ve been very successful, and I can assure you that we’re not using any asbestos in the project.”

He said guided tours of the United Nations would continue throughout the project, noting that they had been planned in such a way that those sections not undergoing renovation at any particular time remained open for tours, while work continued in other areas.

Asked to comment on allegedly “inhuman” conditions in the Albano building swing space, he said the problems identified in the building were being addressed seriously and some had in fact already been resolved, especially those relating to air conditioning and heating systems.  Admitting that the building had “certain problems”, he nevertheless asserted that it would be “in good shape” in spite of them.  “We are now in a very constructive dialogue with the landlord that we’re hopeful will lead to these problems being fixed,” he said.

Regarding who would return to the renovated Secretariat Building, he said that was still under discussion with all the Organization’s top leadership.  It would take some time to resolve all space-related issues, since the Secretariat currently had office space for less than half the number of people needing it, and therefore only half could be in the building, with the other half elsewhere.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.