UN to buy Manhattan playground for new building, US taxpayers could foot bill

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A story about a New York City playground that has been largely relegated to local newspapers could quickly become an issue of national importance.

The United Nations is in the final stages of obtaining approval to build a new high-rise on the Robert Moses Playground, located near the U.N. headquarters in New York City. The building, excluding the price of land and security, is estimated to cost $350–$475 million and would provide a home for U.N. offices that are currently dispersed throughout New York.

Heritage Foundation fellow Brett Schaefer points out that with America paying for 22 percent of the U.N.’s budget, taxpayers could be on the hook for a large portion of the new building’s cost.

“[C]onstructing a second U.N. building would likely have significant financial implications for the U.S. federal government, which pays 22 percent of the U.N. regular budget and would likely shoulder increased payments to the U.N. in future years resulting from costs associated with the project,” Schaefer wrote in a September policy paper. “Congress has yet either to hold hearings on or to examine the details of this plan. Nor is it clear that the Obama Administration has asked for or been provided detailed information on this project.”

While legislation permitting the playground’s sale has passed both houses of the New York legislature and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has given his approval, the plan’s last hurdle will arrive on October 10 when the city and the state must agree on a final deal.

In a recent poll conducted by the Friends of the East River Greenway, a coalition supporting the project, 73 percent of east-side Manhattan residents said they approved of proposals to sell the land. There are, however, detractors who are concerned about the fact that while local officials get to approve the proposal, taxpayers across the country will eventually have to foot the bill for the project. (RELATED: Abbas takes Palestinian case to the UN, calls for (Palestinians Spring’)

“The question, however, is why US taxpayers would pay a dime toward this project,” wrote Meghan Clyne, managing editor of National Affairs, in a New York Post editorial last week. “At a time when we’re hugely in debt, and the United Nations is busy pushing Palestinian statehood and fêting Iranian nut-job Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, why should we fork over millions of dollars — and a city park — to make the United Nations’ dream of nicer, more convenient offices come true?”

The U.N. is still in the middle of a nearly $2 billion renovation of its headquarters, which was originally estimated to cost $600 million.

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