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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Did Owner Of Site For Ground Zero Mosque Violate Lease With Con-Ed? (Update: Public Financing?)

That is a possible consequence, now that it appears The New York Post has found The mosque developers are tax deadbeats:
Sharif El-Gamal, the leading organizer behind the mosque and community center near Ground Zero, owes $224,270.77 in back property tax on the site, city records show.

El-Gamal's company, 45 Park Place Partners, failed to pay its half-yearly bills in January and July, according to the city Finance Department.

The delinquency is a possible violation of El-Gamal's lease with Con Edison, which owns half of the proposed building site on Park Place. El-Gamal owns the other half but must pay taxes on the entire parcel.


The lease agreement, obtained by The Post, specifies that El-Gamal's company pay taxes on the property and submit receipts to Con Ed.

The utility said it would have to review any possible lease violations. [emphasis added]
Questions about Sharif El-Gamal's finances go even further. The Daily News reports that Park51 developer Sharif El-Gamal has a history of run-ins with the law. This includes a case of assault in 2005 on barber Mark Vassiliev who ended up suing El-Gamal in 2007--which provides an insight, and further questions, into El-Gamals finances:
El-Gamal eventually settled the civil case for $15,000 - and the 2008 negotiations provided a glimpse into his finances.

Vassiliev's lawyer, Erik L. Gray, said there was no indication El-Gamal had assets beyond a $1.1 million upper West Side pad he owned with his wife.

Even after El-Gamal inked the deal, he was slow to pay and the matter ended up in mediation - where his lawyer, Marshall Isaacs, told Gray there were money problems.

"He had told me [El-Gamal] was struggling financially and was having trouble coming up with the payment," Gray said. "It was based on the fact that he was in real estate and the real estate market was depressed."

El-Gamal agreed to fork over $1,360 in interest and fees but paid up in installments, Gray said.

If his 2008 cries of poverty were genuine, El-Gamal experienced a dramatic reversal of fortune a year later, scoring a $39 million mortgage to buy a W. 27th St. commercial building.

He had a partner, Egyptian-born businessman Hisham Elzanaty, who co-signed the loan. Elzanaty denied to discuss his dealings with El-Gamal.

In a deposition for the Vassiliev suit, El-Gamal testified he worked as a waiter from 1997 to 2001 when he "moved onto greener pastures."

In 2002, he became a commercial real estate broker and started his own company, Soho Properties, a year later.
Apparently, the closer one looks at the people closest to the Ground Zero Mosque, the more questions arise--questions that really need to be answered.

Hat tip: Maggie Haberman (Politico)

UPDATE: Reuters is reporting Ground Zero Muslim center may get public financing
The Democratic comptroller's spokesman, Scott Sieber, said Liu supported the project. The center has sparked an intense debate over U.S. religious freedoms and the sanctity of the Trade Center site, where nearly 3,000 perished in the September 11, 2001 attack.

"If it turns out to be financially feasible and if they can demonstrate an ability to pay off the bonds and comply with the laws concerning tax-exempt financing, we'd certainly consider it," Sieber told Reuters.

Spokesmen for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor David Paterson and the Islamic center and were not immediately available.
Based on the articles in The Daily News and New York Post, it is not clear if the funds to pay off such bonds are available either.

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