As President Obama prepares to head to New York for the United Nations General Assembly later this month, his NYC living quarters are changing. The President will be staying at the New York Palace Hotel, as rumors and earlier reports have borne out.
The problem: The Waldorf-Astoria, the NYC home of U.S. presidents for decades, was sold to Chinese company Anbang Insurance Group for $1.95 billion last year. The NY Times has more details:
The White House and the State Department, while vague about the reasons for the change, cited several factors, including security concerns.
Why else “would you not stay at the Waldorf?” said a senior State Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk openly about the new arrangements. “Who would make that choice for any other reason?”
The hotel’s owner, the Anbang Insurance Group, may not be a household name in China or the United States, but it is highly connected in China. Its chairman is the husband of the granddaughter of Deng Xiaoping, who was China’s leader from 1978 to 1992. Its board of directors includes Chen Xiaolu, a former officer in the People’s Liberation Army who is the son of Marshal Chen Yi, a revolutionary military commander who later served as foreign minister.
Further, Anbang had plans for a "major renovation, raising concerns in Washington about whether it would remain a secure location for official functions, despite the fact that its previous owner, Hilton Worldwide, agreed to manage the hotel for the next 100 years."
The U.S. has been trying to crack down on Chinese spies. This past week, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that they have many U.S. targets, like "national security information, sensitive economic data and intellectual property." He added: "Although China is an advanced cyber actor in terms of capabilities, Chinese hackers are often able to gain access to their targets without having to resort to using advanced capabilities."
When Obama and his daughters were in New York this past summer, they stayed at the ONE UN New York. Just wait—we're sure Malia will be lobbying for a set-up at the Wythe.