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Ground Zero Mosque Project Update
NY Post (with thanks to Kendra):
The developers of the controversial mosque proposed near Ground Zero own only half the site where they want to construct the $100 million building, The Post has learned.
One of the two buildings on Park Place is owned by Con Edison, even though Soho Properties told officials and the public that it owns the entire parcel. And any potential sale by Con Ed faces a review by the state Public Service Commission.
“We never heard anything about Con Ed whatsoever,” said a stunned Julie Menin, the chairwoman of Community Board 1, which passed a May resolution supporting the mosque.
Daisy Khan, one of the mosque’s organizers, told The Post last week that both buildings on Park Place are needed to house the worship and cultural center. But she claimed ignorance about the Con Ed ownership of 49-51 Park Place and referred questions to Soho Properties, which bought the building at 45-47 Park Place in 2009.
Rep. Peter King, who opposes the mosque, said the developers seemed to be “operating under false pretenses.”
“I wonder what else they are hiding,” said King (R-LI). “If we can’t have the full truth on this, what can we believe?”
Sharif El-Gamal, the head of Soho Properties, first came forward in 2006 seeking to buy the empty building at 45-47 Park Place, said Melvin Pomerantz, whose family owned the property.
Pomerantz said El-Gamal eventually raised $4.8 million cash for 45-47 Park Place. El- Gamal paid an extra $700,000 to take over the lease with Con Ed for the building next door. The lease expires in 2071.
The two buildings were connected years ago — common walls were taken down — and housed a Burlington Coat Factory store.
Con Ed said El-Gamal told the utility in February that he wanted to exercise the purchase option in his $33,000- a-year lease for the former substation.
The utility is now doing an appraisal to determine the property value, and it would be up to El-Gamal to decide whether to accept the price, the utility said. The price is estimated at $10 million to $20 million.
“We are following our legal obligations under the lease. We will not allow other considerations to enter into this transaction,” Con Ed said.
The sale proposal will go to the Public Service Commission, where it could possibly face a vote by a five-member board controlled by Gov. Paterson.
El-Gamal told The Post his long-term lease was equivalent to ownership and that it even allowed him to demolish the building. Still, he said, he was determined to buy the property. “The cost is not an issue,” he said...
In other news the Simon Wiesenthal Center has joined the ADL in opposition to the mosque. Jewish Week (with thanks to RG):
The latest Jewish organization to weigh in on the Ground Zero mosque controversy is opposed to the project, siding with the Anti-Defamation League in what had been a lonely stand against the proposed $100 million Cordoba House on Park Place.
The executive director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Museum of Tolerance in Manhattan, Rabbi Meyer May said on Thursday it was insensitive to build the center near the site of the 9-11 terrorist attacks. “Religious freedom does not mean being insensitive...or an idiot,” May told Crain's New York Business, which reported the organization's position on Friday. “Religion is supposed to be beautiful. Why create pain in the name of religion?”