It gets ever more intriguing to watch the unfolding priorities of the imam behind the Ground Zero mosque project, Feisal Abdul Rauf. Having returned to New York this month after a summer spent largely incommunicado in Malaysia and the Middle East, Rauf over the past fortnight has found time to appear on CNN and ABC TV, speak at the Council on Foreign Relations and write an op-ed for the New York Times, all in service of touting his vision of a $100 million-plus high-rise Islamic complex near Ground Zero (including, as we have all heard by now, a swimming pool, basketball court, auditorium, cooking school, and mosque).
But Rauf seems to be paying rather less attention to properties where he already has a track record. When Union City, New Jersey, held a court hearing Wednesday to address the mess at a pair of rundown apartment buildings Rauf owns there, he was a no-show. According to a dispatch by the New York Post‘s Tom Topousis, the buildings are so dilapidated, with disrepair including “inoperable fire alarms and sprinklers,” that the local cops — at taxpayer expense — “have to stand watch in the event of a fire.” As the Post story further details, “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.”
Union City Mayor Brian Stack, in a press conference Tuesday, deplored Rauf’s local record as a landlord. Stack said the lawsuit has nothing to do with the controversy over Ground Zero; it has to do with “Trying to send a message here, not only to Rauf, but also to other slumlords… .” You can read about this in a story from the Jersey Journal: “Union City mayor heaps scorn on imam for being ‘slumlord.’ ‘” And you can find yet more on the business dealings of Rauf and his partners in this lengthier piece on “Feisal Abdul Rauf’s Repellent Record as a Property Developer,” by Stephen Suleyman Schwartz, on the Hudson New York web site.
Rauf’s wife and Cordoba House partner, Daisy Khan, didn’t bother to show up at the Union City hearing either. The NY Post reports that the absent peace-making bridge-builders were represented by their lawyer, Tomas Espinosa. He turned up saying that Rauf has a contractor working on a plan to repair the fire alarms and sprinklers. But Espinosa had no evidence to back up his claims. The judge set a Sept. 23 court date for Espinosa to return with the goods.
And, as reported by the NY Post, here comes the line we’ve been hearing for months about Rauf — self-described healer, outreacher, harmony-maker and bridge-builder. Rauf’s lawyer, Espinosa, said he is sure the legal process will show Rauf has “taken care of his property.” Why? Because “He is a man of peace.”
Golly. This is “peace” redefined to mean whatever your lawyer wants to pull out of a hat. Rauf with his Cordoba House plans for the edge of Ground Zero has provoked a load of confrontation — targeting Ground Zero as a testing ground for “tolerance,” a test in which he demands the tolerance of others, but seems to exempt himself from any need for compromise. In his public statements Rauf has been promising financial “transparency,” but along with dodging or ignoring reasonable questions about such matters as his offshore finances, he’s neglected to mention such awkward items as his New Jersey property problems. What are the priorities here? When he’s promoting his own interests, he’s a Man of Peace. When it comes to accommodating the interests of others, he’s racking up a record as a No-Show.