Union City imam landlord complies with court order, gives papers on repairs to city officials
The attorney representing the imam at the center of the controversial proposal to build a mosque and cultural center near Ground Zero complied with a judge’s order yesterday to furnish proof to Union City officials that he is addressing tenant complaints in a building he owns here, according to The Jersey Journal.
City attorneys are reviewing hundreds of pages of documents the attorney for Feisal Addul Rauf turned over to the city yesterday regarding complaints at 2206 Central Ave., a 16-unit building where tenants have complained about issues ranging from a lack of heat to a bedbug infestation.
The city filed a lawsuit over the complaints against Rauf on Monday and, at a court hearing in Jersey City on Wednesday, Superior Court Judge Thomas Olivieri instructed Tomas Espinosa, Rauf’s attorney, to furnish the city proof by 4 p.m. yesterday that the issues raised by tenants, including a non-functioning fire-alarm system, was being addressed.
The next hearing in the case in scheduled for Sept. 23.
Albiez couldn’t say yesterday what problems the documents showed Rauf was addressing at the multi-family building.
Union City is seeking to put the building into custodial receivership, which would make an independent entity responsible for collecting rent and maintaining the building.
Read the full story in today’s Jersey Journal.
Kelly: Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf accused of more code violations on Union City building
Back in New Jersey, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf was taken to court.
Union City officials say they are so fed up with what they call Rauf’s foot-dragging to repair dangerous code violations at a low-income apartment building that they want a judge to step in and appoint a special “custodial receiver” to run the place.
It was a day of dueling realities – and the surreal mystery about Rauf and who he really is.
Rauf, who lives in North Bergen, may fancy himself as a spiritual leader who dreams of building bridges between religions with a proposed $100 million Islamic center two blocks north of Ground Zero. But his slummy apartment building on Central Avenue in Union City is such a fire trap that the police department has now assigned cops to stand guard round-the-clock until Rauf fixes the fire alarms.
“Blessed are the peacemakers,” said Rauf, speaking in a soft voice inside the Council’s plush Park Avenue auditorium to an audience that included former National Security Council staffer Richard Haass and Ted Sorensen, the former speech writer for President John F. Kennedy.
On Central Avenue in Union City, Mayor Brian Stack had a decidedly different description for Rauf:
“He’s a slumlord,” Stack said.
As The Record reported last month, Rauf’s 16-unit Central Avenue building has been targeted with dozens of tenant complaints, from rats and bed bugs to broken lights and leaks.
But in recent days the problems at the building appear to have worsened.
Last Wednesday, as Rauf granted his first interview in months to CNN, Union City officials slapped him with 17 new code violations on the Central Avenue apartments. The city accused Rauf of not only failing to fix a variety of nagging problems but of not being responsive – or available for calls.
“We reached the end of our rope,” said Stack’s chief of staff, Mark Albiez. “There is a lack of responsibility.”
Then, on Friday, on the eve of the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Union City officials rushed again to Rauf’s building. PSE&G had shut off the electricity in the hallways. The reason: Rauf failed to pay a bill of almost $5,000, Stack said.
Not only were the hallways dark, but the electric-powered smoke detectors and fire alarms were not working. In other words, the building was now a fire trap.
When Union City officials persuaded PSE&G to restore electricity, they discovered yet another code violation – the fire alarms were not working anyway, even with electricity.
So beginning Friday at 4 p.m., a Union City police officer has been assigned to sit in a car outside Rauf’s building so he can pound on tenants’ doors and guide them to safety in case a fire breaks out.
The city promises to send Rauf the bill – roughly $1,500 a day, said Union City police Capt. Richard Molinari.
“I’m sure it’s a lot cheaper to have your alarms updated,” said Molinari.
Molinari’s words are one of the more profound understatements about Rauf and his strange habit of ignoring poor tenants while he manages to find time to rub shoulders with religious and political big wigs. But those words also frame a perplexing question about Rauf: How could a man who wants to do so much good behave so badly as a landlord?
Rauf did not respond to a request for comment at his office on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Reached on her cellphone, Rauf’s wife, Daisy Khan, who is also a partner in his real estate ventures, said, “We’re resolving everything.”
Really? Khan said she was unaware that Union City had filed a lawsuit on Monday in Hudson County, asking for a judge to name a custodial receiver to manage the Central Avenue apartment building.
“Defendants are clearly not operating the premises in a fiscally, socially and legally responsible manner,” wrote Union City attorney Christine Vanek in a brief accompanying the lawsuit.
As Vanek was filing the lawsuit, Rauf did not even mention his slum problems as he spoke and answered questions at the Council on Foreign Relations. Indeed, what was curious about him was how he twisted his own reality.
“I am a typical New Yorker,” he began, not mentioning that he lives in a two-story home in North Bergen.
Then, when listing his occupations, Rauf mentioned he had been a “high school teacher, a salesman of industrial products and a struggling writer” – all true. But there was a major omission – that he has spent most of the last two decades as a real estate developer who, records show, was continually facing financial problems.
Was he being deceptive or just caught up in the hubris of the moment? Who knows?
“Let me begin by telling you my story,” Rauf told his Council audience, though he avoided any specifics about on-going negotiations end the dispute over his proposed Islamic Center.
Back in Union City, Yonaira Arias, who lives with her two sons and her mother in an apartment at Rauf’s Central Avenue building, said she was tired of stories – and promises and the talk about an Islamic Center. She just wants someone to plug the leaks in her ceiling
“Look at this,” Arias said, pointing to a water stain on the ceiling of her living room.
“And look at this,” she added, pointing to another leak in the bathroom.
“I heard he wants to spend $100 million in New York on his center,” Arias said as she gazed at a television that had been damaged by water. She turned and looked up again at the ceiling leak.
“He won’t fix anything here,” she said.
But Feisal Abdul Rauf wants to fix religious problems.
Filed under: Faiz Khan, Feisal Abdul Rauf, Ground Zero, Ground Zero Imam, Ground Zero Mosque, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Imam Rauf's NJ Tenement Buildings | Tagged: Imam Feisal Addul Rauf, Imam Feisal Addul Rauf New Jersey Tenement Building, Union City NJ Court Orders Imam Rauf To Produce Repair Documents |