Friday, January 31, 2014

#719 United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY, USA
Built in 1952, this collection of buildings on the bank of the East River in New York City serves as the main offices of the United Nations, supplemented by other offices in Geneva, Vienna and Nairobi. Due to a treaty with the United States, the territory is under sole administration of the UN, but in exchange for police, fire and other services, they do comply with US and NY laws. This means it has 'extraterritoriality status' though with limitations -- don't try and commit a crime here -- unless you have diplomatic immunity of course! It was not a quick or simple decision to built it in this location, and the process of securing the site and the construction took several years from the organization's origins in 1945.

I think this is a pretty amazing place -- where else in the world is so purely international? I think the things that happen here also make it amazing -- we are living through an age of unprecedented cooperation and internationalism. The globalization (good and bad) can be focused here.

Cool facts:

  • Only one film has been filmed here with permission: The Interpreter (2005).
  • Alfred Hitchcock filmed Cary Grant in North By Northwest illegally and using a matte painting.
  • The Amazing Race had one episode here using the flags.
  • The building appears in the game Grand Theft Auto IV but is called Civilization Committee Building.
  • A 2001 telephone poll revealed that 67% of callers were in favor of moving the UN Headquarters out of the country.
  • When the US failed to pay its UN dues, Russian diplomats suggested moving the headquarters to St. Petersburg.
  • It is located in Turtle Bay in Manhattan.
  • All 15 of the UN's specialized agencies' headquarters are located in other countries.
  • The Rockefeller family estate was offered as an alternate location but was rejected because it was too far from Manhattan.
  • A Board of Design Consultants made up of representatives from 12 countries was responsible for its design.
  • The property was originally a slaughterhouse before it became UN headquarters.
  • The UN originally dreamed of an independent city for itself but realistically downsized its plans.
  • The building met some, but not all of the city's fire and safety codes.
  • The office of the Secretary General is on the 38th floor.
  • Diplomatic Immunity of UN staff can be (and has been) waived by the Secretary General.
  • All mail sent to the UN is sterilized.
  • The General Assembly hall has a capacity of 1800 people and it is the largest room in the complex. Each delegation has six seats with three seats behind them.
  • The complex has undergone several renovations, including to install sprinklers, fix leaks and remove asbestos. -- All 193 UN member flags are flown in alphabetical order along with the UN flag.

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