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A Worldly Affair    by Pamela Hanlon order for
Worldly Affair
by Pamela Hanlon
Order:  USA  Can
Fordham University Press, 2017 (2017)
* * *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

In the 1940's, when the United Nations was looking for a permanent home, then Mayor Fiorello La Guardia was determined that New York was the perfect location. The story of how New York was finally chosen is a fascinating one, since many other places were preferred by the United Nations Preparatory Commission.

After the Commission decided that the site would be somewhere in the United States, temporary headquarters were set up in New York City, while a search continued for a site where enough buildings could be erected to provide the many offices that would be needed for employees from fifty countries, as well as housing for them and their families. Meanwhile the employees of the world body were temporarily assigned offices in various buildings, wherever space could be located. Finding housing for them and their families in post-World War II New York was a different problem. Soldiers returning from the war were also trying to find housing, and they didn't appreciate losing out to UN delegates who might not even be in the city permanently.

While the search for a permanent home for the world body was going on, the number of nations that belonged was growing, and there was still so much racial prejudice in the U.S. at that time that delegates from Africa were not welcome in a lot of places. Some African delegates wore the costumes of their countries to distinguish themselves from black Americans, but that didn't always help either. There was also a worry on the part of landlords that if the UN left the city, they would not be paid for the apartments that they had rented to these foreigners. After all, parking tickets were ignored and unpaid for several years by those claiming diplomatic immunity.

Pamela Hanlon does a good job of telling the history of the UN in New York as a story rather than a dry repetition of facts and names. The various people who participated in the original job of getting the city chosen come alive for the reader. There are protests by New Yorkers when they feel that their concerns have not been met as well as efforts by many people to accomplish the difficult task of bringing the city and the world body into agreement on the permanent site, architectural plans, nearby parks, and the ongoing problems that developed over time up to the present.

The United Nations has brought great monetary benefit to New York City as well as providing a world class location for a place where the nations of the world can meet, discuss and sometimes even resolve problems, and A Worldly Affair provides the reader with an excellent overview.

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