Works stops on shrine at World Trade Center after payment default

The owner, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, is facing a deepening financial crisis

(Credit: back photo by Harvey Barrison; Pixabay)
(Credit: back photo by Harvey Barrison; Pixabay)

Construction ground to a halt this month at the World Trade Center’s Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox National Shrine after the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America defaulted on construction payments.

Designed by architect Santiago Calatrava (the same architect behind the World Trade Center’s transport hub, better-known as the “Oculus”), the shrine replaces a church originally built in 1916 and destroyed on 9/11. Though a lease between the city and the Archdiocese was only ironed out this year, Architect’s Newspaper reports that construction began in 2014 with the shrine reaching its full height last year under the direction of the lead construction company, Skanska USA.

The shrine was expected to open in 2018, however, as of December 5, Skanska’s project manager Thomas Perry notified employees and subcontractors of the work stoppage in a statement distributed on site which said Skanska had “terminated” its contract with the Archdiocese due to unpaid bills.

“Skanska is continuing its pursuit of payment,” Perry wrote in the statement, published in full by The Pappas Post. “We will advise you when there is progress toward a resolution.”

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Since construction stopped, the Archdiocese has retained PricewaterhouseCoopers and BakerHostetler to investigate how the organization’s funds were spent. The organization is coming under fire following the leak of an email written by treasurer Michael Psaros which charges that the Archdiocese “lacked even the most basic internal controls with respect to expenditures, vendor and travel management, and other basic matters of basic corporate governance.”

An anonymous source told The Papas Post almost $4 million earmarked for construction on the shrine was diverted to cover costs unrelated to the project.

Psaros’ email confirmed the alleged conduct was widespread, though no specifics were noted: “To fund the deficit over the past two years, segregated/restricted accounts were invaded,” he wrote.

The Archdiocese manages national ministries at churches spread throughout Boston, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Denver and San Francisco. In New York, the organization directly manages about 60 parishes along with the construction of the shrine.

[Architect’s Newspaper] — Erin Hudson