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The Ground Zero Mosque’s Strange Background


The New York Post has been digging around the financial background of the Ground Zero mosque. What they’ve discovered is that, far from being clear and transparent, the sale had plenty of oddities. For instance, mosque developer Sharif El-Gamal paid just $4.8 million for the building — despite the fact that another developer had offered $18 million in 2007. More from the Post:

Some 30 offers showered on the Pomerantz family in what was an overheated downtown real-estate market in 2007, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.

Yet Mitani previously told The Post the building, a former Burlington Coat Factory store that was damaged in the 9/11 attacks, was a tough sell. She said she was in debt and desperate to unload it after her husband’s death and insisted she had no buyers other than El-Gamal.

Some of the offers were a mere flash in the pan, but others were legitimate, including a $17 million cash deal from one developer, the source said. …

But the Pomerantz family — for reasons that remain unclear — rejected the offers. …

Property in the area hovered between $250 to $290 a square foot. El-Gamal purchased the 45-47 Park Place property for the rock-bottom price of just over $100 per square foot.

If this wasn’t odd enough, the plot thickens in today’s story:

The owners of the former Burlington Coat Factory near Ground Zero — who sold the site for a song to the developer of the proposed mosque there — wound up investing in a $45.7 million deal with him four months later, city records show. …

It is evident that after the Pomerantz family accepted El-Gamal’s lower offer, several of the family members were eager to do business with him again.

When El-Gamal’s company, Soho Properties, plunked down a total of $45.7 million for a commercial building at 31 W. 27th St. in Chelsea, Mitani and two other family members chipped in some of the capital.

The widow invested $200,000, her late husband’s estate coughed up $500,000, and the couple’s son, Seth Pomerantz, 25 kicked in $200,000, real-estate records show.

And if the Ground Zero mosque is built, congregants better hope that El-Gamal isn’t the one managing the place. The Post reports that El-Gamal’s apartments aren’t exactly run with a safety-first philosophy:

The developer behind the planned Ground Zero mosque already has a lousy record with the city Buildings Department — racking up $24,650 in fines for safety and construction violations at a Washington Heights apartment building that his firm owns.

The violations involve some of the department’s more serious charges, from cracks running the height of the six-story, brick walk-up to blocked exits and fire escapes, falling mortar and an unstable chimney, city records show.

“Every time it rains, I set a pan on my bed and another one on the floor,” said Don McCants, 61, a truck driver and longtime tenant of the building owned by mosque developer Sharif El-Gamal and his firm, Soho Properties.

“It’s no drip, drip, drip, either,” he lamented. “It comes down fast.” …

The city Department of Housing, Preservation and Development also has issues with the property, slapping it with 47 violations involving health and maintenance issues.

The violations, all of which are still open, range from unabated lead paint to plumbing malfunctions to problems with falling plaster and missing floorboards.

El-Gamal’s in good company here — last week, NRO’s Dan Foster visited Imam Rauf’s apartments and found similarly dismal conditions.

At any rate, it’s becoming clearer why some Democrats support the mosque — tracking El-Gamal and Rauf’s building violations probably creates jobs for several bureaucrats!


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