Monday, September 20, 2010

18: Obama Accounting: Who Owns the Proposed Near Ground Zero Fitness Center/Mosque Site?

How did the Near Ground Zero Fitness Center/Mosque site story begin? Sharif El-Gamal is one of the major investors in Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf's Near Ground Zero Fitness Center/Mosque business project.

In 2006, while shopping at The Sharper Image store, El-Gamal noticed Francisco Patino on the Reality TV show "American Inventor". He hired Patino to find a Manhattan property for the Fitness Center/Mosque. Patino rode his bicycle around Manhattan and saw the Old Burlington Coat Factory building. 51 Park Place was scheduled to be shown the following day by Chase Manhattan Bank. 4 years later Patino works for Chase Manhattan Bank and said he could not comment about his role in finding the site to a NY newspaper reporter.

El-Gamal is the CEO of Soho Properties, incorporated in 2003. El-Gamal has other property holdings in NYC. El-Gamal purchased the 51 Park Place site for $5 million down and a bank loan on the remainder from Mr. & Mrs. Steve Witkoff.

In contrast to Imam Rauf, El-Gamal sometimes stresses the non-religious aspects of the project, the fitness club, culinary school. Imam Rauf wants to build a chain of Muslim Fitness Centers/Mosque modeled on the YMCA (Young Mens' Christian Association).

Hisham Elzanaty, an Egyptian, is a major investor in El-Gamal's $4.8 Million proposed Fitness Center/Mosque, his lawyer W. Starosolsky told Fox5News. Elzanaty owns a $2 million home in Roslyn Heights, and operates 2 NY Neurological & Rehabilitation Centers, 1 in Brooklyn and 1 in Tarryton, NY, which produce over $5 million after-tax income annually. Elzanaty was ordered to repay NYS $331,000 in Medicaid overpayments in 2004-2005.

Elzanaty also co-signed a $39 million mortgage for El-Gamal and Soho Properties. Elzanaty's parents died in the 1999 Air Egypt Flight 990 crash into the Atlantic Ocean near Nantucket. All 217 passengers aboard died. The crash was due to co-pilot error or mechanical failure.

Elzanaty also was in the news in 2008 for his 1999 $6 million donation to the Holy Land Foundation(HLF). Elzanaty, an Egyptian, said he was donating $500/month for Muslim orphans.

In 2008, 5 leaders of HLF were convicted of providing material support to Hamas. HLF is a front group for Hamas, the Muslim terrorist organization.

It is important to remember that Hamas is an Iranian-based Muslim terrorist organization, trying to control the Gaza Strip after forcing out the Palestinian organization, Fatah.

Egypt is at the western border of the Gaza Strip. What if Elzanaty is not simply an Egyptian businessman making a random questionable donation to a terrorist front group, but a representative of another international terrorist organization, an Egyptian organization, or an Egyptian coalition with Iran's Hamas? This creates another level of concern for allowing Middle Eastern terrorism connections to take land and property in NYC and America. What if rival Muslim paramilitary or terrorist organizations begin to fight over control of land and property here as they do in the Middle East?

Over the summer, El-Gamal and Soho Properties fell $224,000 behind on property taxes for 51 Park Place. In September, 2010, El-Gamal dropped off a check for about $35,000 and signed an 8-installment agreement to pay the property tax. El-Gamal said the payment delay involves disputed property assessment values. As noted in Blog 16 of this series, Rauf believes he was granted a lifetime non-profit, no tax exemption by the IRS for Islamic Center properties. As noted in blog 17 of this series, Rauf is pending a lawsuit by Union City, New Jersey for repairs to 2 apartment buildings.

Graphic: Chase's Calendar of Events, 2010.

References: AP, Yahoo!News9/18/2010, 9/2/2010, 9/3/2010,

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