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Trygve Lie Plaza

Trygve Lie Plaza

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

Trygve Lie Plaza honors the memory of Norwegian statesman Trygve Lie (1896-1968), the first Secretary-General of the United Nations. The park was acquired by the City of New York in 1948 in connection with the widening of First Avenue and named for Lie in 1998. It is one of three parks in Turtle Bay named for former UN officials. 

Lie was born in Oslo, Norway on July 16, 1896 and educated at the University of Oslo. Upon receiving his law degree in 1919, he went into practice. Lie married Hjørdis Jørgensen in 1921, and they had three children—Sissel, Guri and Mette. A member of the Labor Party since he was a teenager, Lie quickly rose within the party ranks. He was an assistant to the secretary of the party from 1919 to 1922, legal adviser to the Norwegian Trade Union Federation from 1922 to 1935, and national executive secretary of the party in 1926. 

After a Labor Party government was formed in 1935, Lie served as Minister of Justice from 1935 to 1939 and Minister of Trade and Industries in 1939. At the outbreak of World War II, he salvaged 85 percent of Norway’s merchant fleet for the Allies. Lie served as Foreign Minister of the Norwegian government in exile in London. He was also elected to the Norwegian Parliament twice, in 1936 and 1945. As World War II and the Nazi occupation of Norway came to an end, the Labor Party organized a new government, and Lie was once again named Foreign Minister. 

Lie headed the Norwegian delegation to the United Nations’ founding conference in San Francisco in 1945 and served as chairman of Commission III, which drafted the charter of the Security Council. On February 1, 1946, Lie was elected the first UN Secretary-General and was re-elected, over Soviet opposition, in 1950.  Resistance from the Soviet bloc triggered his resignation in 1952. Lie was succeeded by Dag Hammarskjöld of Sweden, whose eponymous park is located six blocks to the north. 

After leaving the United Nations, Trygve Lie served in a number of official and honorary positions, including Governor of Oslo and Akershus and Chairman of Norway’s Board of Energy. He died in Geilo, Norway on December 30, 1968.

In 2016 the plaza was reconstructed with new bluestone and concrete pavement, and the retaining walls were cleaned, repaired, and repointed. New trees, shrubs, perennials, and vines were added throughout the site, and new planting beds replaced formerly paved alcoves. New benches line the walkway, and the original perimeter fence with a pattern based on the United Nations symbol was restored.

An artwork dedicated to Trygve Lie’s life and legacy was also erected through the City of New York’s Department of Cultural Affairs Percent for Art Program and NYC Parks, with support from the Government of Norway, the Ford Foundation, the Zeckendorf family, and others. The Peace Clock (2015) by Norwegian artist Lina Viste Grønli (b. 1976) is an abstract kinetic sculpture that functions as a clock whose hands form the peace sign twice a day at 4:30. The international peace symbol is visible from the United Nations across First Avenue, connecting the organization’s ongoing mission with Lie’s lifelong aspirations of universal peace and freedom.

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