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United Nations General Assembly Returns To NYC, With COVID-19 And Climate Front And Center

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Security is tight on Manhattan's East Side as world leaders arrive for the United Nations General Assembly.

It is meeting for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A web of street closures is already causing gridlock. First Avenue is closed to vehicles from East 42nd Street to 48th Street, and 44th, 45th, and 46th streets are closed from First Avenue to Second Avenue.

Web Extra: Click here for list of UNGA street closures

This as President Joe Biden tries to reclaim the United States' position as a global leader while the body deals with climate change, superpower polarization and the pandemic, CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported Monday.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the American ambassador to the U.N., got a COVID test at a mobile van outside U.N. headquarters, sent by the city to provide tests and free vaccine shots.

"This is the U.S. showing the power of our example, so I wanted to make sure that everyone saw that I got tested. I don't see myself as an exception. I see myself as being part of what we are hoping everyone takes the leadership to do and that is do everything possible to mitigate against getting COVID," Thomas-Greenfield said.

Her comments were a direct shot at leaders like Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a COVID skeptic who vowed to defy the U.N.'s vaccination requirement.

Officials are worried the meeting could turn into a super-spreader event. Last year, the meeting was virtual. This year, some 100 leaders are attending in person, including President Biden.

Despite the controversial pull out from Afghanistan and a controversy over providing nuclear submarines to Australia, Biden is hoping to re-establish America's position as a global leader following Donald Trump's "America first" isolationism.

Street closures are causing gridlock -- "diplo-lock" to some -- and security is tight.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hosted a climate meeting ahead of the U.N. Climate Summit in Glasgow in November. He's hoping to raise money to help countries phase out coal and gas-powered vehicles and turn to a green economy.

"So its $100 billion a year that we need to raise," Johnson said.

Meanwhile, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul spoke at a climate week event, announcing green energy projects to cut New York City's dependence on fossil fuels with wind, solar and hydropower from upstate and Canada.

"This is going to be transformative, Most importantly, it's going to start weening New York City from the polluting dirty power plants in use right now. Too many in low-income neighborhoods. People are suffering. They have asthma and this is a public health crisis as well," Hochul said.

President Biden speaks at the U.N. on Tuesday and on Wednesday he'll convene a virtual COVID meeting on the sidelines of the General Assembly.

During the week, Biden will also meet separately with the prime ministers of Australia, Britain, India, and Japan.

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