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China-U.S. Skyclub At One World Trade Sued For Allegedly Stiffing Contractor

On the 89th floor of the United States' tallest building, a center meant to promote U.S.-China relations is the subject of a lawsuit lobbed by its American contractor against its Chinese operator and its landlords.

One World Trade Center, in Lower Manhattan, is at the center of a million-dollar lawsuit launched by Plaza Construction for nonpayment.

Plaza Construction filed a suit in New York Supreme Court Tuesday alleging that China Center New York owes it $1M over unpaid work at One World Trade Center. The suit named building owners the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Durst Organization as co-defendants.

The China Center, owned by Chinese real estate giant Vantone Holdings, announced in 2016 plans to open the China-US Skyclub, a 33K SF private business center at the tower, which is owned by a joint venture of the PANY and Durst.

"Serving as a platform for developing Sino-U.S. synergy, the China-US SkyClub will provide a premier, private venue for business leaders from the U.S., China and around the world to strengthen trade relations and spark growth opportunities," a Vantone announcement read, declaring the club would open in spring 2018.

Plaza was enlisted as the contractor for the SkyClub in 2017, according to the suit. It claims to have wrapped up work in 2020, after which it never received its final payment of $950K. 

“To date, CCNY has failed without explanation to pay Plaza the remaining balance due and owing for services performed and materials furnished,” lawyers for the construction firm wrote in the suit.

With interest, Plaza claims CCNY owes it slightly more than $1M, which it is seeking to recoup in a trial. Plaza is also asking a state judge to approve a foreclosure sale of its $950K mechanics' lien against CCNY and to compel Durst and PANY, as CCNY's landlords, to pay the remainder if the foreclosure doesn't cover the full amount.

Spokespeople for Durst and Plaza Construction didn't immediately respond to Bisnow’s requests for comment.

The CCNY was touted at the time as an important step forward in U.S.-China diplomacy. It is owned by Vantone Holdings, the successor of the Beijing Vantone Industrial Co., which in 2010 was the first tenant to commit to opening an office at One WTC. It leased floors 64 through 69 for 23 years, The New York Times previously reported

“Our dream with the center was to try to present the new China, especially coming into the 21st Century,” Charlie Jiang, CEO of Vantone Holdings, said in a 2015 interview with Leaders Online. “CCNY needs to adapt to the demand of the new market, foster meaningful collaborations, and provide a deeper understanding of the U.S.”

But the relationship between the two countries has soured considerably since the SkyClub's construction began, especially after 2018 when then-President Donald Trump placed tariffs on $50B in Chinese exports and made a series of anti-China remarks.

The U.S.-China relationship is today at one of the worst points in its history, following actions taken by the U.S. to thwart an alleged Chinese spy balloon over Montana and China's deepening ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.