Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ground Zero 'Imam' a no-show in NJ court to answer slum conditions of his buildings so dangerous to tenants that police must stand guard

9/15, "While the Imam behind plans for a mosque near Ground Zero was jetting around the globe and advocating for his Downtown project, a pair of dilapidated apartment buildings he owns in New Jersey fell into such disrepair that
  • cops have to stand watch in the event of a fire.
The fire watch, at taxpayer expense, was revealed during a court hearing today when Union City lawyers asked to have two buildings owned by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf placed into receivership so that rent s could be used to fix
  • dozens of violations, including inoperable alarms and sprinklers.
Rauf skipped today’s hearing as did his wife Daisy Khan. Their lawyer, Tomas Espinosa, said he didn’t know why the Imam didn’t come to court.
  • “There have been a lot of stress on these people,” Espinosa said when asked after the hearing to explain why Rauf was a no-show “The legal process will show that my client is an honorable man that has taken care of his property.”...

But Union City officials insist Rauf is a slumlord.

Christine Vanek, a lawyer for Union City, said cops were put on fire watch rather than evict tenants from 16 apartments in one of the buildings after a Sept. 7 inspection determined there was an imminent hazard.

  • Rauf, she said, did not respond to an order to hire a private fire patrol.

The city immediately put a police officer there and sent a detail officer, which means we have to pay over-time,” Vanek said of putting an

  • extra cop on duty just to watch Rauf’s building.
  • She did not say how much it is costing Union City, and other officials did not return calls for that information.

Espinosa, however, said he was told a fire alarm contractor has been working at the building and is putting together a plan to fix the alarms and sprinklers.

  • But Judge Thomas Olivieri bristled when Espinosa said

he had no documents to show what work was done or what might be planned and then asked the judge for more time “to come here with a total picture of what has been done.”

  • “The allegation here is that nothing has been done,” Olivieri said. “The city is spending taxpayer money to put a fire person, man or woman, at the building that is occupied to monitor it so that there’s not a fire that occurs.”

Olivieri then blasted Espinosa for coming to court empty-handed.

"There is no reason whatsoever, none, in the last 48 hours why your client could not have submitted something to you that you could have submitted to the court. this is serious. I am somewhat suprised that I have nothing from the defense -- nothing

  • "And I reject that you were busy and they were busy," the judge said.

But Olivieri didn’t immediately appoint a receiver to run the building, as the city requested. Instead, he gave Espinosa a Sept. 23 court date to produce plans and evidence of Rauf’s efforts to address all the building violations, or then face loss of control over the apartment buildings.

Union City filed its lawsuit against Rauf on Monday, charging that

  • he has refused to comply with dozens of building violations, some dating back to 1996 for two properties he owns at 2206 Central Ave.

One of the buildings has been vacant since a 2008 fire that erupted a year after fire inspectors slapped a dozen safety violations against the property. The second building as 16 families living there."


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