Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ground Zero Imam sued for decades of safety violations in his NJ buildings, mold, bed bugs, no heat, fire, even after he was given $2 million

Reports on September 5th and earlier of the Imam's many years as a slum lord in New Jersey. On Monday, September 13, a lawsuit was filed against the
  • Ground Zero Imam over disposition of 2 of his buildings.
Imam Rauf was given $2 million in US taxpayer money to repair his buildings but they remain full of violations, including utilities unpaid. "The suit, filed today (9/13) in state Superior Court in Jersey City, identifies (Imam) Rauf as the sole officer of Sage Development LLC, a company based at his home address in North Bergen and listed as the owner of the two buildings. The suit also alleges that
  • Sage’s corporate status was revoked by the state in March 2005, for its failure to file annual reports.

The buildings occupy the same lot at 226 Central Ave., one containing 32 apartments and the other 16. The larger building 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 Rauf ignored.
Rather than addressing the violations after the fire, the city says Rauf boarded up the building, barring residents from their apartments.
  • A spokesman for Mayor Brian Stack said he could not immediately say what had become of the displaced families.

"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."

  • Repeated calls to Rauf’s home telephone were met with a busy signal. No number was listed for Sage Development.

Late tonight, no one answered the doorbell at Rauf's North Bergen residence.

Apart from the fire-related issues, the lawsuit says the landlord ignored dozen of complaints from tenants about various other

  • problems in the two buildings during the
  • past two decades.
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.

"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 odors, dirty hallways and
  • the lack of utilities/heat," the lawsuit states.

Feisal Abdul Rauf is the well-known author, activist and imam of the Masjid al-Farah. Rauf and his wife, Daisy Khan, have been at the center of the international controversy over plans to develop a proposed Islamic Center and mosque two blocks from the World Trade Center site.

  • Opponents have criticized the plans as insensitive to victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks, perpetrated by Islamic extremists who hijacked commercial planes and flew them into the twin towers....
Last week, The Record reported that Rauf received more than $2 million in public money to renovate low-income apartments he owns in Hudson County,
  • including those mentioned in today’s lawsuit, after winning support for the projects from officials, including

the disgraced former County Executive Robert C. Janiszewski, and U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, who was mayor of Union City at the time.

The Record also reported that Rauf had ties to local waterfront developer Fred Daibes,

  • and was sued by a Daibes associate who had charged the imam with
##### Sept. 5, 2010, from The Hudson Reporter, by Tricia Tirella and Lana Rose Diaz, "According to The Record (NJ), which spawned many spinoff reports quoting the paper, and the Hudson Reporter’s own searches of property records, Imam Feisal A. Rauf, a North Bergen resident, owns four properties in Union City, and one in North Bergen. There are numerous allegations the Union City properties have not been well-kept over the past several years....
  • After a siege of media attention, residents at the buildings owned by Rauf, 61, in Union City were weary of cameras and news trucks.
At 2206 Central Avenue, those willing to talk withheld their names for fear of repercussions....
to"" talLast year, the resident said the boiler broke and the tenants in the building went without hot water for two weeks.
The resident said he does not know the owner of the building and never heard the name until news reports last week.
  • One woman said she pays her rent to a man named “Adolfo” but does not know his last name.
Residents said it can take upwards of six months for their issues to be resolved. They said their current problems include rats and bedbugs. ...
  • Union City spokesman Mark Albiez confirmed last week that Rauf still owns properties in Union City with
multiple health violations, including some within the last few years."...
  • (article has photos of exterior of some of Rauf's buildings)
"Alleged mortgage fraud, housing funds According to The Record, Rauf met with U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) when he was mayor in Union City, and also requested the help of former Hudson County Executive Robert C. Janiszewski around 1991. After falling on tough financial times, he allegedly made a pitch to them for state funds to renovate three of his properties.
  • He reportedly received $80,000 in city funds, $384,000 from the Union City’s Community Development Agency, $1.3 million in construction loans from the Hudson County’s affordable-housing trust fund, and $630,900 from the state.
Phone calls and emails to Menendez’s office asking for comment were not returned.
  • The Central Avenue property also had its problems. Rauf’s one time business partner James Cockinos sued him in 2008, alleging fraud, according to his Attorney Richard Rosa.
According to Rosa, 14 years ago Rauf received a $250,000 mortgage for the building from Cockinos, which he paid dutifully for 11 years. The suit alleged that without telling Cockinos, Rauf transferred ownership to Sage Developments and obtained a $650,000 mortgage on the same building. Then after the building was damaged by a fire, Rauf and Khan stopped making payments and Cockinos tried to foreclose on the property, only to learn the building’s ownership had changed.
  • Rosa said that due to a fire, the couple was no longer able to pay the mortgage. He said it was an honest mistake that a bank’s title search would have discovered, if it had been done. The two parties settled out of court. ...
"Controversy hits close to home, Ground Zero mosque Imam is North Bergen resident, Union City property owner,"
  • Main story via Lucianne.com. Hudson Reporter 9/5 article via commenter at Atlas Shrugs, 9/14/10.

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