Trump deal to move proposed mosque deniedBy ANTHONY M. DESTEFANO
September 10, 2010
Developer Donald Trump Thursday offered to buy out one of the investors in the controversial Islamic center as a way of ending public rancor over the project - but the characteristic Trump gesture was quickly rebuffed.
In a letter to investor Hisham Elzanaty, Trump said he would give the Roslyn Heights businessman a 25 percent profit on top of whatever he paid for the Park51 venture if supporters of the center agreed to move it at least seven blocks away from Ground Zero.
"I am making this offer as a resident of New York and citizen of the United States, not because I think the location is a spectacular one (because it is not), but because it will end a very serious,inflammatory and highly divisive situation that is destined, in my opinion, to only get worse," the letter said.
"Not happening," said a spokesman for Soho Properties, the company that controls the property centered on 45 Park Place, in rejecting Trump.
Elzanaty didn't return calls for comment. But developer Sharif El-Gamal, who wants to build the center, said in a statement that the project would not be moved. "The project will proceed as planned," he said.
Trump's offer was apparently sparked by a report earlier in the day in which Elzanaty, 51, who runs a Bronx medical rehabilitation facility, told The Associated Press if someone wanted to give him $18 million or $20 million for his stake he would take it. Elzanaty has an investment in the Park Place property that was purchased for $4.8 million in 2009 but officials for Soho Properties won't say how much he put in.
Before Trump's announcement, Soho Properties said in a statement it controlled the real estate and that Elzanaty was one of eight investors.
"I give Trump credit for being involved," said Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) an opponent of the center. "If that is what it takes for keeping the mosque from being built and giving it a soft landing that is fine."
One Muslim leader also saw merit to Trump's gesture. "I think it is gracious and appropriate for somebody like Trump to try and come up with a solution," said Dr. Saud Anwar, co-director of the nonprofit American Muslim Peace Initiative.
Anwar said 9/11 Families, center organizers and politicians should sit down and discuss what is "sacred ground," something that isn't easy to define.
Opponents of the center think it is insensitive to 9/11 families to have a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero.