The man in the middle of the controversy surrounding the Islamic Center near Ground Zero has a new firestorm growing around him.
An imam at the center of a dispute over plans to build a mosque near ground zero is being sued by a northern New Jersey community where he owns two apartment buildings -- allegedly for fire hazards and unkempt conditions.
Newark's The Star-Ledger reports the lawsuit was filed Monday in state Superior Court by Union City, and charges Feisal Abdul Rauf with failing to address complaints by tenants and orders from the city to correct code violations.
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.
Rather than addressing the violations after the fire, the city says Rauf boarded up the building, barring residents from their apartments, the newspaper said.
One tenant told NBCNewYork that he feels Rauf's focus on the proposed Islamic Center near the World Trade Center has overshadowed complaints about the building.
"He's paying so much attention to the mosque while deglecting his tennants," the resident said.
In addition, the lawsuit says the landlord ignored dozen of complaints from tenants about various other problems in the two buildings during the past two decades -- including issues with mold and utilities.
"He’s a terrible landlord who’s unresponsive to the residents who live in his building," said a spokesman for the city's mayor Brian Stack. "City officials and inspectors have reached out to him to express the urgency in correcting problems in his buildings, and it’s unfortunate that it’s gotten to this point, but it’s our responsibility to insure that residents receive the care that is needed," the spokesman told the paper.
The newspaper says repeated calls to Rauf's home telephone in North Bergen were met with busy signals.