Niagara Gazette — The intriguing behind-the-scenes story of the race to host the United Nations is meticulously told in “Capital of the World,” by Charlene Mires (New York University Press, 319 pages, 2013). She is an associate professor of history at Rutgers University.
It’s important to note that Niagara Falls was just one of more than 200 cities and towns in pursuit of the lofty dream. While the big cities like Chicago, San Francisco, St. Louis, Denver and New Orleans were confident of their chances, the Black Hills of South Dakota and many small towns across the U,S, waged vigorous campaigns for the host role.
When its Headquarters Committee determined that the site should be in the U,S., it was obvious that the Niagara group had to shift its strategy from the Canada-owned Navy Island to Grand Island. The site committee ultimately rejected the Niagara proposal, pointing out that nearby Buffalo was “not sufficiently a cultural center.” (No mention of the weather factor, professional sports teams or a signature bridge).
The ultimate choice, of course, was New York City. Officials had been confident all through the debate that they would win. After a frantic search for available parcels, John D. Rockefeller Jr. provided $8.5 million on Dec. 10, 1946, to acquire a six-block site on the East River in Manhattan. It was owned by developer William Zeckendorf whose initial plan was he build a city within a city (e.g. a Rockefeller Center-style project).
A FINAL WORD: Imagine the impact on the area economy had the site committee chosen Niagara Falls as the headquarters for the UN: A world-class airport. Thousands of hi-tech jobs. UB’s 20-20 plan completed in the 1970s. Legalized casino gambling as just another state-run attraction, not a critical funding source for communities to survive. Millions of more tourists. Maybe even another 100 restaurants featuring Indian food.
Enjoy Independence Day!
Contact Reporter Don Glynnat 282-2311, ext. 2246.Contact Reporter Don Glynn at 282-2311, ext. 2246.