January 4, 2010 / 10:49 PM / 10 years ago

New digs for U.N. chief Ban amid renovations

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon attends a news conference at the Presidential Residence in Helsinki May 26, 2009. REUTERS/LEHTIKUVA/Heikki Saukkomaa/Files

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon started the year on Monday with new offices in a temporary structure on the U.N. grounds as a renovation of the world body’s skyscraper gathers pace, the United Nations said.

“The office of the secretary-general has relocated from the 38th floor of the secretariat building to the third floor of the temporary North Lawn building,” spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

Ban and 272 staff are expected to occupy the temporary structure until at least 2012, as part of a much-delayed $1.9 billion project to make the U.N.’s Manhattan headquarters safer, greener and more comfortable.

The “swing space” assembled last year is a white, virtually windowless metal box by the East River and still smelled of fresh paint on Monday as workers laid finishing touches.

The U.N.’s iconic blue-tinted glass and steel 40-story skyscraper, called the secretariat building, has been progressively emptied of personnel as renovations geared up.

Completed in 1952, it was designed by French architect Le Corbusier and Brazil’s Oscar Niemeyer and has been increasingly showing its age.

It has water dripping through its roof, toxic asbestos lining its ceiling tiles, no sprinklers in case of fire and erratic heating and cooling systems, leading to friction with New York City authorities.

Reporting by Basil Katz; Editing by Bill Trott

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