In this Aug. 22, 2010 file photo, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf addresses guests at an iftar dinner hosted by the U.S. Embassy's deputy chief of mission Stephanie Williams, at the U.S. ambassador's residence in Saar, Bahrain, west of the capital Manama. Rauf is now in the midst of a polarizing political, religious and cultural debate over his plans for a multi-story Islamic center that will feature a mosque, health club and theater about two blocks north of ground zero in New York.
The imam who hopes to preside over a controversial Islamic center two blocks from Ground Zero is also reportedly a landlord in New Jersey-- and his tenants aren't singing his praises.
Feisal Rauf, who will be the spiritual leader for the Park51 project, or the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque," already owns property in Union City, according to reports in the Jersey Journal and the Bergen Record.
The papers talked to some of Rauf's residents and they painted a picture of an absentee landlord who doesn't address problems.
"He can't even repair the bells in the hallway," Cynthia Balko, 48, a "longtime" tenant at one of Rauf's properties on Central Avenue and Monastery Place told the Record. "He doesn't take care of his properties and he's going to take care of a mosque?"
Ydalia Pena, 54, lives in another Rauf building on Central Avenue and 22nd Street in Union City. "When I cook, sometimes the mice they come here to the stove and try to eat the food," told the Journal. "I pay for the heat, but I waste money because the [kitchen] window is broken."
According to the Record, from the late 1970s to the mid 80s, Rauf bought five residential buildings in Union City, along with one in North Bergen and one in Palisades Park.
And even though he received government subsidies to help with upkeep of the buildings, local health records showed recurring maintenance complaints, from failure to pick up garbage, to rat and bed bug problems, to no heat and hot water, the Record reported.
Rauf is currently touring the Middle East on an U.S. government sponsored outreach mission, but his wife and Park51 spokesperson Daisy Kahn, told the paper that since he doens't get paid for being an imam "he invests in real estate... to secure one's future and provide an income stream.
"Unfortunately people make mistakes - including those who are hired to fix and maintain the apartments, and have to come back, and from the time some people just cannot be made happy," she added.