‘Ground Zero mosque’ developer sued over illegal rental

Written By kom nampuldu on Minggu, 05 April 2015 | 20.49

The developer behind the "Ground Zero mosque" has been told to hit the road. Again.

Sharif El-Gamal, who sparked global controversy with plans for a 13-story mosque and community center less than two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center attacks, illegally rented a Tribeca gallery for months, racking up safety violations from the city and causing at least one resident to leave, the landlord alleges.

El-Gamal and his brother Adham El-Gamal are "sophisticated" real-estate players who should have known better, landlord GG1 LLC claims in a Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit.

Instead, the El-Gamals "knowingly" used the ground-floor retail space at 69 Leonard St. for religious gatherings and "loud parties," and even stuffed "religious classes" for children into a basement that didn't have proper fire exits, prompting the FDNY to issue violations, GG1 charges.

In the past, hundreds of worshipers would gather for Friday prayers on Park Place, the site of El-Gamal's planned mosque and community center, which was known as Park51.

But that space has been boarded up as El-Gamal prepares to demolish it and build a 39-story condo tower and downsized mosque.

The El-Gamals used the retail space at 69 Leonard St. for illegal religious gatherings, according to the building's landlord.Photo: J.C.Rice

In their pursuit of a temporary worship space, Park51 sublet an empty storefront at 49-51 Warren St. last August. But by Sept. 18, the building's condo board issued a ­legal notice telling them to leave by month's end.

The condo contended that Park51 wanted to use basement space at the building that was off-limits for gatherings.

Park51 gave up on Warren Street and the El-Gamals rented the space on Leonard, under the name "Prayer Space Inc."

GG1 claims it is nothing more than a "front" company "to shield their own personal liability with respect to their illegal conduct," according to the legal filing.

GG1 says it was never informed a religious group was using its building until the El-Gamals were there.

Gallery 69 owner Steve Cornell, who held the original lease for the space, was paying less than $5,500 a month rent when he sublet to the El-Gamals for a whopping $9,000 a month, according to the lawsuit.

The group "frequently caused unreasonably large and loud gatherings . . . to convene at all hours in and near the premises" for "late-night parties," "large prayer groups and other social gatherings," uses that violated
the lease, the building's certificate of occupancy and fire codes, GG1 says.

At least one resident of the five-story mixed-use building, where a three-bedroom apartment rents for nearly $8,000 a month, "abruptly terminated" his occupancy "due to the excessive noise," GG1 claims.

The El-Gamals finally left

69 Leonard St. last month, after GG1 declined to let them lease the space directly. Now the landlord wants more than $372,000 in damages for back rent, safety violations and other costs.

Sharif El-Gamal denied renting space in the building. Cornell did not return a message seeking comment.


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