|Queens Was The
Of The United Nations
the ashes of World War I, there rose a Phoenix of hope and
international cooperation – the United Nations.
United Nations met at the
New York City building at Flushing Meadows
from 1946-56. It was here that the U.N. created the State of Israel.
the first time, since the failed League of Nations, there would be
established an instrument where nations and peoples could settle their
differences in the diplomatic arena rather than on the bloody fields
follows a brief history of how the United Nations, still the greatest
hope for world peace, was founded in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in
the most ethnically diverse county in the country – Queens.
Roosevelt’s dream of a “United Nations” was the first order of
business of a war-weary world picking up the pieces from the greatest
conflict in human history. In San Francisco on Oct. 24, 1945, the
charter of this new international organization was signed by the 51
member nations. Eager to not repeat the isolationist mistake that
doomed the League of Nations, President Harry S. Truman committed the
American people to this peacekeeping body.
infant United Nations needed a home and the U.S., now at the pinnacle
of world power, was selected as the host country. San Francisco and
Philadelphia made strong bids to become the site of the U.N. and so
Mayor William O’Dwyer formed a committee of 12 prominent New Yorkers
to prepare a proposal that would insure the selection of New York City
as permanent headquarters of the world organization.
Moses was named chairman of this committee, which included such
notables as Nelson A. Rockefeller, Former Roosevelt advisor and
postmaster-general James Farley, N.Y., Times publisher Arthur
Hays Sulzberger and former Fair president Grover Whalen. After
extensive-research and planning, the panel issued a report contained
in an impressive book with sketches and designs for a magnificent
World Capitol, which the city would provide to the United Nations. The
site they chose was Flushing Meadow.
Harry Truman delivers the opening address at the United Nations at
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in 1946.
believe that we have in Flushing Meadow Park in Queens a very
accessible site in every way suited to the present and future
requirements of the United Nations for working space for the World
Capitol in surroundings which insure protection from all unfavorable
influences,” Mayor O’Dwyer stated in his introduction to the
proposal offered to donate most of the central body of the park for
U.N. use and future expansion. Architects’ renderings detailed huge
structures for the various agencies of the organization surrounded by
lagoons and amphitheaters. A residence for the Secretary General would
be located on the site. “I urge that those officials of the United
Nations charged with the final responsibility for selecting the
permanent site of the World Capitol give full and serious
consideration to Flushing Meadow Park. If they do, I believe that they
will find nothing else comparable to it.” O’Dwyer said.
the strength of that proposal, New York City was chosen as the home
for the World Capitol by Secretary General Trygve Lie and the U.N.
However, the donation by the Rockefeller family of over $8 million for
the purchase of a property in the Turtle Bay section of Manhattan
along First Avenue by the East River made that the permanent location.
A maze of slaughterhouses and slum dwellings, the Manhattan site would
be reclaimed in a mini-version of the dump to glory sage of Flushing
Meadows. The architect who would design the permanent glass tower for
the U.N. was Wallace K. Harrison – the man who had designed the
Trylon and Perisphere a decade before.
the new structure was built, however, the United Nations world has to
meet the challenge of keeping the peace in a fragile world. They would
need a meeting place and they selected the New York City building in
the park as that place. The world had returned to Flushing Meadows.
ice rink was covered over and replaced by the seats of the delegates
of the countries that made up the U.N. Among those delegates were
Adlai Stevenson, Dag Hammerskjold, Golda Meir, Andrei Gromyko and
Eleanor Roosevelt who saw her late husband’s dream of a world
peacekeeping organization come true at the very site in which he had
envisioned it eight years before when FDR first visited the
of October, Trygve Lie convened the first session of the General
Assembly in the New York City Building. Robert Moses and Mayor Vincent
Impelliteri handed over the keys of the building to the U.N.
Truman came to deliver the opening address. “All nations large and
small are represented here,” the President stated. “This Assembly
is the world’s supreme deliberative body. The highest obligation of
this assembly is to speak for all mankind in such a way as to promote
the unity of all members in behalf of a peace that will be lasting
because it is founded upon justice. It must be everlasting,” said
Truman and he quoted the scriptures. “Swords shall be beaten into
ploughshares, and nations shall not learn war anymore.
Creation Of The State Of Israel
the eastern rim of the Mediterranean there is a small section of earth
that, although only half the size of New Jersey, had been the very
center of the universe for the mapmakers of antiquity, the destination
of all the roads. Palestine.
the converted ice skating rink at the N.Y. City Building in Flushing
Meadows-Corona Park in the late fall of 1947, the delegates of 56 of
the 57 members of the United Nations General Assembly would be called
upon to decide the future of that sliver of land.
fledgling United Nations had been meeting at Flushing Meadows for over
a year, when in November of ’47 its members participated in a debate
that stirred unparalleled emotions. Each of its members could in some
way trace a part of its spiritual heritage to Palestine. In the
post-war world and the wake of the Holocaust, they would decide on a
proposal that called for the splitting of that ancient territory into
two separate states – one Arab, one Jewish.
the end of World War II, the Jewish people came face to face with an
overwhelming and ghastly reality. Six million Jews had been
systematically killed. Their cry was, “Never Again.” Their
preoccupation was now with the task of gathering the survivors of the
Holocaust into Palestine as quickly as possible and constructing a
strong and self-reliant society so that such a horror could never take
it was at Flushing Meadows in Queens that history came to a crucial
that autumn of 1947, the Jews – and most of the world – had
beseeched the United Nations to grant a Jewish state. The debate in
the cavernous grey hall was intense.
the Arabs – and above all for the 1.2 million Arabs of Palestine –
the partitioning of the land in which they had been a majority for
seven centuries seemed an injustice imposed upon them by Western
imperialism for a crime they did not commit.
Britain – the nation that had administered Palestine for 30
difficult years – the debate offered an end to a nightmare; two
years after the end of World War II it was the only place on the globe
where British soldiers were still dying in conflict.
a direct order from the White House, President Harry S. Truman told
the U.S. Delegates at Flushing Meadows to “damn well deliver the
partition or there will be hell to pay.” Yet, on the date originally
set for the crucial vote, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 1947, the prospect of
defeat hung heavy over the hall.
two-thirds majority was needed to pass the resolution. To offset the
votes of the Arab-Moslem nations alone, the Jewish Agency, which
represented the Zionist movement, needed 22 votes, more than a third
of the General Assembly. After a 2,000-year wait, the Jewish people
concluded they would have to wait a little longer to find the votes
needed to secure the partition’s passage.
a long debate, at five o’clock, Assembly president Oswaldo Aranha of
Brazil gaveled down the last speaker and solemnly informed the
gathering at New York City that the vote would be taken. An aide
handed Ranha a basket containing 56 slips of paper, each representing
a nation in the hall. He extended his hand and slowly drew the name of
the country whose vote would begin the roll call. He unfolded the
paper and stares at the delegates assembled before him.
“Guatemala,” he announced.
fell over the hall. Even the press gallery was hushed as delegates,
spectators and newsmen sat in awe of the solemn decision which was
about to take place. As the delegate from Guatemala rose, a piercing
Hebrew cry as old as time sounded from the silence of the Assembly
hall. From the spectators gallery an old man shouted, “Ana Ad
Hoshiya,” – “O Lord, Save us.”
thousand miles away from the New York City Building, in the midnight
blue of this November night, the people of Jerusalem waited for the
decision that a handful of men would soon make that would decide the
fate of their land.
a crackling radio, Golda Meir sat alone, noting each vote on a notepad
that brought her closer to a lifetime’s dream.
the Arab sector, a Palestinian leader declared that “a group of old
men at Flushing Meadow will not decide the fate of our people.”
after sundown, the vote was over. The United Nations had voted to
create the State of Israel.
as Paris had lived its liberation night, and London and New York had
celebrated the end of the war, Jewish Jerusalem now erupted into an
explosion of joy as doors were flung open and neighbors called out to
each other in the dark, “We have a state!” At the White House,
Truman declared, within moments of the vote, that the United States
formally recognized the new State of Israel.
in front of the City Building in Queens the crowds danced around the
United Nations’ circle of flagpoles and later broke into the singing
of the Hatikva. On Nov. 29, 1947, the past and future of a great and
sacred land were joined as the destiny of a new nation and an ancient
people was decided at Flushing Meadows.