Birthplace of the United Nations – and Israel
Favorite thing: Depending on whom you ask, this is could be a claim to fame or a skeleton in Flushing’s closet: Flushing is the birthplace of the United Nations.
When World War II was over and the world had its fill of bloodshed (for the time being), President Theodore Roosevelt’s dream of an organization dedicated to “world peace” was set in motion. The United Nations was formed on October 24, 1945, with 51 member nations signing the charter.
New York was chosen as the headquarters for the new organization, beating out San Francisco and Philadelphia. But New York is a big place. Narrowing down the search, New York Mayor William O’Dwyer hit on what he believed was the perfect solution: Flushing Meadow Park, the site of the 1939-40 World’s Fair.
After the fair, the wreckers’ crews had marched in and laid waste to it all (even as a kid I could never understand why grown-ups would spend millions of dollars to build fabulous attractions that were promptly mowed down). So Flushing Meadow Park was basically sprouting weeds. One of the only things left standing was the New York City Pavilion, which was being used as an indoor ice-skating rink.
This rink was replaced with seats and became the UN assembly hall where some of the organization’s most historic votes took place – one of them being the establishment of the State of Israel. On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly approved the creation of Israel by a vote of 33-13.
Flushing remained the headquarters of the United Nations until 1956. For some reason, the powers-that-be decided that the land purchased by Rockefeller for $8 million near the East River in Manhattan, occupied at that time by slaughterhouses, was a better location.
From Vlissingen to Flushing
Favorite thing: Moving to a new land is an adventure, but nostalgia for what you left behind seems to be part of human nature.
Take the Israelites, who were slaves in Egypt and led to freedom by Moses. True, they spent a lot of time wandering around in the desert (forty years is nothing to sneeze at), and they were not exactly well treated in Egypt. But when the going got rough, they moaned and complained. “We remember the fish that we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and the garlic. Now our gullets are shriveled. There is nothing at all!” (Numbers 11:5-6).
The first Dutch colonists in America were traders. They settled at the tip of Manhattan Island and built up a roaring fur trade. Back in 1624, it was a wild, forested place, probably very different from Holland, but they named it “New Amsterdam.”
In the 17th century, Vlissingen, a city in the Netherlands, was the main port of the Dutch East India Company. So again why wrack your brains to think up new names when you can recycle the old ones (and reminisce, in the bargain). One of the first colonies in the New World was named Vlissingen.
So what does Vlissingen mean? There are many theories, but one of them is that a 7th century Christian saint named Willibrord came to this region in southwestern Holland to spread his faith. He shared his bottle (fles = bottle) with some beggars, but a miracle occurred. They drank and drank, but the bottle was still full. You can see this legendary “bottle,” actually a silver-tipped leather flask, in the Vlissingen museum.
In 1664, the Dutch colonists surrendered to the British. New Amsterdam was renamed New York, in honor of the Duke of York, and Vlissengen became…Flushing.
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Favorite thing: i loved walking around chinatown, and just experiencing the life of the local community. There are plenty of herbal shops, and "desert" shops with the customary tapioca drinks.
Fondest memory: definety going to the local supermarket, and commenting on the many different "delicacies"
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