Mosque developer in lawsuit over tenants` complaints

Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, the main developer of the controversial mosque near Ground Zero, is facing a lawsuit in connection with complaints from tenants who have rented buildings owned by him in New Jersey.

Last Updated: Sep 15, 2010, 20:36 PM IST

New York: Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, the
main developer of the controversial mosque near Ground Zero,
is facing a lawsuit in connection with complaints from tenants
who have rented buildings owned by him in New Jersey.

The suit by Union City, NJ against the landlord is
based on complaints that range from moldy bathrooms to fire
hazards, and Rauf is expected to appear in a court today for
the case, the local Star-Ledger newspaper reported.

"From 1996 to 2010, the city responded to no less than
thirty complaints from tenants predicated upon various health
and safety concerns, including lack of heat, mold inside
apartments, garbage issues, bed bugs, foul odours, dirty
hallways and the lack of utilities/heat," the lawsuit said.

The larger of the two buildings Rauf owns, has been
vacant since Feb 8, 2008, when a fire broke out there, one
year after the city says it issued 12 separate fire code
violations that he allegedly ignored.

Instead of addressing the violations after the fire,
the city says, Rauf closed the building and barred residents
from their apartments.

A spokesman for Mayor Brian Stack said he could not
immediately say what had become of the displaced families, The
Ledger reported.

"He`s a terrible landlord who`s unresponsive to the
residents who live in his building," said the spokesman, Mark
Albiez.

"City officials and inspectors have reached out to him
to express the urgency in correcting problems in his
buildings, and it`s unfortunate that it`s gotten to this
point, but it`s our responsibility to insure that residents
receive the care that is needed," he added.

The suit seeks to place the buildings into
receivership, in which a court-appointed receiver would
collect rents directly from tenants and use the money to make
necessary repairs and address hazards, pay delinquent utility
bills and settle fines imposed by the city.

Rauf was catapulted to national spotlight after his
proposal to develop an Islamic centre and mosque near Ground
Zero, met with opposition from Americans.

New Jersey authorities, however, said the two matters
were completely unrelated.

"We can only speak to local circumstances. This city`s
only in a position to talk about what happens in Union City,
and assuring that residents are looked after," Albiez said.

"I think the recent stories have brought Union City
into the picture recently, just because of his properties in
Union City".

The newspaper reported that calls to the Imam were met
by a busy signal.

PTI