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U.N. SCHEME RISKY FOR N.Y. (NEW YORK POST OP-ED) By ANNE BAYEFSKY 05/17/05)Source: http://www.nypost.com/postopinion/opedcolumnists/46606.htm NEW YORK POST NEW YORK POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
May 17, 2005 -- THE scandal-wracked United Nations is making a fresh bid for New Yorkers´ tax dollars.

The gambit is a plan to leverage $650 million in bonds guaranteed by state taxpayers to cover a $1.2 billion renovation and expansion of U.N. headquarters.

The United Nations had hoped to get the guarantee passed quietly — but state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and his colleague Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn) had too many problems with the U.N.´s scheme.

The plan originally included the taking of a Manhattan park and children´s playground so that the U.N. could expand over the Queens Midtown Tunnel — but the U.N. is prepared to give up that option if it can just get the bonds to start reconstruction.

Fixing the serious ills that plague the United Nations is not the Legislature´s job. So Bruno has rightly made no reference to the Oil- for-Food mess, or the General Assembly´s long service as a global platform for anti-Semites. (It has only convened 10 emergency sessions in its history — and six of those occasions were to batter Israel. Not one GA emergency session was held to condemn the genocides in Rwanda or the former Yugoslavia or, now, in Sudan.) Nor does he bring up the scandals in which U.N. peacekeepers raped and abused the very people they were sent to protect.

No: Bruno´s questions turn on exposing New York to substantial financial risk — for very dubious possible returns.

Under the plan, the United Nations Development Corp. (UNDC), a state- created public authority, would issue some $650 million in bonds to pay for the expansion project — without any review by the state Public Authorities Control Board (PACB). The bonds would supposedly be paid off by future fees from the U.N.´s member nations.

New York developers ask why the pricetag is so high — market prices, they say, would bring the project in at far less than $1.2 billion. Donald Trump, for one, told the media he could pull off comprehensive renovations for $500 million.

But Bruno´s big concern is default: The U.N.´s promise of future fees is questionable, given that 40 percent of member states (including the United States) are now in arrears on payments to the world body´s budget. Moreover, Oil-for-Food surely leaves the U.N. Secretariat with a poor name for fiscal responsibility and oversight competence.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan, after all, is stonewalling various probes of the Oil-for-Food program. U.S. Senate investigators believe that Iraq´s deposed tyrant Saddam Hussein skimmed more than $10 billion from the program away from food and medicine for Iraqis — and that the U.N. was complicit in the crime.

Bruno has also asked the question that would occur to any city resident: "How can we trust the U.N. nations to pay the fees to pay off this debt when they don´t even pay their parking fines?" The city is owed $195 million.

From the West Side Stadium to the Brooklyn waterfront, New York City puts considerable energy into reviewing large development proposals. In the various approval processes, neighborhoods at least get a chance to protest. Why should the U.N. be exempt?

Let the United Nations finally begin to understand that it too is part of this city. If it wants our tax money to build a new edifice, it will be expected to participate in the same open and deliberative review process. Only in that way can we be reasonably sure that our tax dollars won´t be sucked up by yet another U.N. sting.

U.N. administrators warn that unless they get their way they will move to Geneva, Paris or Brussels. Is a simple call for transparency really so great a threat?

Anne Bayefsky is a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute and a visiting professor at Touro and Metropolitan colleges. (Copyright 2005 NYP Holdings, Inc. 05/17/05)


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