- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 4, 2006

NEW YORK — The man in charge of renovating the U.N. headquarters buildings quit yesterday, citing frustrating delays in funding for the $1.6 billion project.

Louis Frederick Reuter took issue with the U.N. budget committee, whose deliberations had caused a series of costly delays.

The most recent setback struck in April, when the United States held up agreement on a $100 million appropriation for the next phase of planning.

Five weeks after deadline, it agreed to release $23 million for immediate needs with the remainder to come over time.

At the time, Mr. Reuter praised the compromise, saying it would enable his office to continue working on the plan, but U.N. officials said privately that he was chagrined to keep running into interference.

“I have been frustrated by a number of factors, all working together, including the lack of clear support by many major stakeholders and difficulties of working within U.N. practices as it applies to a large building project,” Mr. Reuter said yesterday.

The U.N. headquarters, with its blocky tower and sloping domed General Assembly, has been a New York City skyline fixture for more than 50 years.

But the building is riddled with asbestos, its fire sprinklers do not work and the structure is starting to deteriorate. Maintenance and repairs have been deferred because of the impending construction.

Mr. Reuter, 62, confirmed yesterday that he is weighing several job proposals but declined to be more specific during a brief interview in his office, which is located two blocks away from the headquarters.

“There will be a rapid effort to find a successor,” Mr. Reuter said before retreating into an empty office.

Mr. Reuter, an architect and university instructor, has been approached by Lincoln Center about a renovation, and New York Weill Cornell Medical Center, with whom he previously has worked.

“I’m sad about Fritz Reuter’s resignation,” said U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who accepted the architect’s resignation at a meeting yesterday morning.

“He has brought lots of energy, professionalism and creativity to the task.”

U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton also said he regrets Mr. Reuter’s departure at “this critical time.”