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UNderstanding the UN: How It All Started

United Nations Skyline

Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons


The United Nations 74th General Assembly kicks off on September 17th . You can expect to hear representatives from around the world talk about issues like climate change and rising tensions between Iran and the United States. But first we’re here to tell you a little bit about the history of the UN. 


What is the United Nations?


The United Nations is an organization made up of 193 countries! 


What are the main functions of the United Nations?


The United Nations has a few main functions:


  • To maintain peace and security
  • To ensure universal human rights
  • To end poverty through development


When was the UN created?


The United Nations was created in 1945.


Why was the United Nations created?


The United Nations was created after the second world war to prevent another world war.


Why is the United Nations in New York?


The United Nations found its home in New York in 1946. While there was possibility for the UN to end up in Europe, Europe was still recovering from some heavy wartime destruction. 


After deciding to come to the United States, the UN began looking for a home in the north-east region of the nation. While the UN had various temporary locations such as Rockefeller Center, what is now the Queens Museum, and the Hudson Hotel, the first official United Nations site was in the Hunter College gym in the Bronx where the first security councils were held. However, first UN secretary general, Trygve Lie, realized that a gym was not going to support the UN’s long-term goals and thus began searching for a permanent home. 


While New York City was big enough to put the UN anywhere, there were a few bumps in the road. 


New York real-estate developer William Zeckendorf suggested to New York’s mayor, William O’Dwyer, that they place the UN near a slaughter house. When O’Dwyer told Lie of the proposal, Lie said unless they could find a different spot the UN would be headed to Philadelphia. 


Prominent New York developers stepped in, ready to do whatever it took to keep the UN in New York. When the Rockefeller brothers heard that the UN was still without a home, they offered to buy property along the East River from none other than William Zeckendorf. 


Zeckendorf intended to use it for hotels, apartments, offices, and other business space as a rival to the Rockefeller center.  However, Zeckendorf agreed to sell the property to the Rockefeller brothers and the rest is history.