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UN Opens Temporary Office During Asbestos Renovation


As part of a major renovation of the United Nations headquarters, a new three-story, $140 million office and conference building opened on the north lawn in New York City.

The building is part of a larger renovation project estimated to be completed in 2013. The original 57-year-old building currently violates several New York City safety and fire codes, but more importantly, is filled with asbestos, a toxic fiber
once used in construction.

Asbestos exposure has been linked to a variety of serious health complications, including mesothelioma, a rare but deadly form of acting lung cancer that can often take 20 to 30 years to develop. Asbestos removal is a time consuming and often dangerous process that should only be performed by licensed professionals.

Around 1,300 U.N. staff are currently working in the 39-story Secretariat building, where more than 20 asbestos removal projects have already taken place. The U.N. Staff Union, an organization representing more than 5,000 staff at U.N. headquarters criticized the renovation efforts for starting on the asbestos removal before the building was emptied. Employees are expected to be out of the building by late March, according to the L.A. Times.

Because of the extreme expense associated with asbestos related diseases, such as mesothelioma or asbestosis, many individuals who have been exposed to the deadly asbestos fibers have opted to contact a mesothelioma lawyer to review his or her legal rights. In order to achieve proper monetary compensation for out-of-pocket expenses, an often lengthy mesothelioma lawsuit may ensue.

Union President Stephen Kisambira was disappointed in the U.N.’s actions, writing that “The staff is being compromised to compensate for cost overruns.”

The temporary building was built with a utilitarian purpose, with minimal comforts and little privacy for the 272 U.N. staff including the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his top team. Although the majority of the building was designed to be cost-effective, several conference rooms and room frequented by visiting dignitaries and VIPs have been carpeted and decorated.

More than 7,000 other U.N. staff members are working from rented office space in Manhattan. Build with an utilitarian purpose, the temporary building has minimal comforts like carpet and escalators and little privacy for employess.

After renovation is complete and the asbestos has been removed, U.N. staff members will be allowed to return to the headquarters. The temporary building “will be dismantled, its components recycled or reused, and [the] beautiful north lawn will be restored,” according to Ki-moon.

The renovation is expected to be a $1.9 billion project.

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