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U.N.’s 65th anniversary marked at Flushing Meadows

The United Nations is turning 65 this year and to celebrate its anniversary, an advocacy group held a big bash right where it all started: Flushing Meadow Corona Park.

The United Nations Association of the USA hosted the celebration at the Queens Museum of Art, the original home of the U.N. General Assembly from 1946-51, Saturday that included a look back at the assembly’s early work and its impact on Queens.

Margaret Shannon, president of the Queens chapter of the nonprofit, said not too many people know the historical significance of the Flushing Meadows building and she wanted to use the anniversary to help educate young learners.

“The U.N. has expanded so much. It started with 51 nations and now we’re up to 192,” she said.

After treating themselves to a birthday peace cake, students from New Commerce High School in Long Island City and other guests watched a slideshow that showed the birth of the U.N. and its stay in Queens.

After the U.N. was officially ratified in 1945, New York, San Francisco and Chicago placed bids to be the host of the new organization, but the city won and decided to use the space used for the 1939 World’s Fair for the General Assembly building.

During its half-decade tenure in the borough, the U.N. tackled several important issues that would shape the rest of the 20th century, including the war between India and Pakistan and the creation of Israel. The slideshow showed images of several dignitaries coming to Queens to conduct business, including former President Harry Truman and former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

Shannon remarked at how the dynamics of the U.N. have evolved since those early days.

“At the beginning, it was the Cold War and it was one bloc against another. Now everyone has their own aims,” she said.

The assembly eventually moved from Queens to its current location on the East Side of Manhattan after construction of that building was completed in 1951.

The United Nations Association was created at the same time as the body of nations and its aim is to inform the public about the U.N. and raise awareness of its issues. The group also showed another slideshow that featured 60 different ways the U.N. helps the world’s nations, including protecting the environment and preventing nuclear proliferation.

John Tandana, vice president of the association’s Queens chapter, said too many people take the U.N. for granted and underestimate its power.

“The system is not perfect, but without it, it would be much worse,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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