Imam of mosque near ground zero sued in NJ

September 14, 2010 3:22:22 PM PDT
The Imam at the center of the controversial mosque and Islamic center near ground zero is experiencing some legal problems.

Union City, New Jersey has filed a lawsuit against Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf.

The lawsuit says he has repeated refused to fix problems in two apartment buildings he owns there.

2206 Central Avenue has been home for Cindy Balko for 20 years.

She says she pretty much hates the place.

"The lights turned off, bed bugs, mice, leaks," said tenant Cindy Balko.

Paola Leiva showed Eyewitness News the hole in her bathroom ceiling, caused by a water leak she says still isn't fixed.

"He said he would fix it, but it's not fixed," Leiva said.

They lay the blame for the problems, squarely at the feet of Faisal Rauf, the Imam planning the mosque near ground zero.

He owns their building and the Mayor of Union City calls him a slumlord.

"He's a slumlord, one of the very worst in the city," Brian Stack, the Mayor of Union City said.

The city has had to post a police officer outside the building around the clock since Friday, at a cost of $4,500 so far, because the fire alarm system throughout the building is broken.

Also, units with young kids have no security rails at the windows.

Rauf's building around the corner caught fire two years ago, and tenants haven't been allowed back since.

"He's the problem because he didn't use the insurance money to make repairs," Mayor Stack said.

The city has filed suit, asking the courts to allow it to take temporary control of the building, collect rents, and use the money to repair all of 2206.

"When you allow a building to decay, it hurts the tenants and the whole neighborhood suffers," Stack said.

The city goes to superior court Wednesday to ask a judge for permission to go ahead with the plan.

Rauf could face thousands of dollars in fines and penalties.

If he does not pay the penalties, he could loose the properties.

The lawsuit identifies Rauf as sole officer of building owner Sage Development LLC. One building has been vacant since a 2008 fire. The other contains 16 apartments.