United Nations in NYC

The United Nations headquarters, located in the Turtle Bay neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City, has been the UN’s official headquarters since 1952. Each year, over 1 million people visit the building, which houses the General Assembly, Conference building, Secretariat building, and the Dag Hammarskjold Library— some of the UN’s most important organs. The building operates as a center for maintaining international peace and security, promoting human rights, bettering living standards, and increasing social progress.

The Building of the UN in NYC

Planning for the building’s construction began in 1947, after much debate about where the headquarters should be located. Many delegates wanted the headquarters to remain in Geneva, home of the former League of Nations complex. But a determined group of New Yorkers — headed by businessman Nelson Rockefeller — successfully courted Coordinator of Construction Robert Moses and convinced him that New York would make the best location. After Nelson Rockefeller’s father, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., donated $8.5 million to purchase the land, the Manhattan site was selected. The facility was designed by a multinational team lead by American architect Wallace K. Harrison and financed by a U.S. government loan of $65 million.

The building maintains an extraterritorial status, meaning that it operates under the sole administration of the United Nations. In some instances, UN rules override those of NYC — but the UN acknowledges most local laws in exchange from local government protection and services. While the headquarters does belong to the jurisdiction of the United States, some UN staff members have diplomatic immunity and cannot be prosecuted by local courts unless granted permission by the Secretary-General.

The Popularity and Fame of the UN Headquarters

In the NYC area, the building enjoys a generally positive reception, as it is a major tourist destination. However, proposals to relocate the building do crop up from time to time. Some delegates complain about the difficulty of gaining visa entrance to the U.S.; critics of U.S. foreign policy would prefer the headquarters reside elsewhere. What’s more, many local residents resent the way the facilities affect road accessibility during high-profile events.

These high-profile events include some of the world’s most important peace, justice, and economic meetings. In addition to gatherings held for diplomats and delegates, the headquarters is also used to hold several other annual meetings. The Model United Nations, National Collegiate Conference Association, and International Model UN Association all hold session in the General Assembly chamber. Seton Hall University also holds a UN summer program in the facilities.

Visiting the UN

As a visitor to the UN headquarters, there are plenty of things to see and do. Tourists can participate in guided tour of the Security Council Chamber, the Trusteeship Council Chamber, and the Economic and Social Council Chambers. Visitors can also take advantage of the headquarters’ myriad exhibitions, which teach about issues including human rights, peace and security, and disarmament policies. The facilities are also located within close proximity to Grand Central Station and Bryant Park, two of New York City’s most prominent and revered landmarks.