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August 25, 2010

Developer Behind Ground Zero Mosque Was A Waiter Just a Few Years Ago (So, where did he get the money?)

Topics: Political News and commentaries, Understanding Islam

Although Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf has dominated headlines about the proposed cultural center and mosque near Ground Zero in lower Manhattan, developer Sharif el-Gamal, 37, is actually the central figure behind the project- and he's not talking about where he got the money, or how he managed to go from waiting tables at a trendy restaurant to being a real estate mogul that paid $4.8 million in cash for the building where the GZ mosque is to be built:

Here's Megan Kelly reporting on el-Gamal:

Via MyFox New York:

[...] Naturally, we wanted to talk to Sharif el-Gamal to learn more about the man and his plans, but apparently he didn't want to meet us. We made repeated requests for a sit down interview with him, left him multiple voice mail messages and he never returned any of our calls. We even went to his office and talked to colleagues, but we were turned away. He left us with no choice: We had to go find him.

El-Gamal is an American Muslim reportedly born to a Polish mother and an Egyptian father. He was raised in Brooklyn.

Today, el-Gamal's company, Soho Properties, owns the building where arguably the most controversial mosque in the world will be built. He bought the old Burlington Coat Factory building at 45 Park Place, two blocks from the World Trade Center site, for $4.8 million in cash in 2009.

We asked him where he got the money to put down on the property, but he stayed silent when we approached him.

His newfound notoriety was an extraordinary leap from his not-too-distant days as a waiter at Serafina, a trendy Upper East Side eatery, and at Michael's, an upscale celebrity-filled restaurant packed with a veritable who's who in media.

Worthy of note is that people that know el-Gamal well are have no clue about where he could have gotten the money to buy the properties he's plopped down millions for:
[...] Ken Brandman, president of N.Y. Commercial Real Estate Services, knows el-Gamal well. He, too, was a bit surprised to hear el-Gamal is the developer in the mosque near Ground Zero.

"I don't think he has a lot of money," Brandman said. "I'm sure he didn't buy it with his own money."

Soho Properties bought the site for the mosque for $4.8 million in cash. Just four months later, with Manhattan's real estate market collapsed, el-Gamal made an even bigger deal.

With credit super tight, and prices plummeting, he paid $45 million for a 12-story commercial building in Chelsea that sold three years earlier for $31 million.

"It seems like a lot of pay in a downturn, considering it went for considerably less during the boom," said Stuart Elliott, the editor of Real Deal magazine.

El-Gamal, the waiter turned mogul, plunked down another $5 million as down payment on the Chelsea building.

"Something's up with that deal," Ken Brandman said. "Unless someone gave him a lot of money, or he won the lottery, than somebody else put up the money."

Fox 5 News has learned that el-Gamal did have help from a man named Hisham Elzanaty. Mortgage documents show that Elzanaty is the guarantor on the $39 million loan el-Gamal's company secured to buy the building.

We repeatedly asked El-Gamal where he raised the money, where it was coming from, but he refused to answer our questions and run from us. He also did not answer the question of whether he would consider relocating the mosque.

Is the Hisham Elzanaty that gave el-Gamal money to buy the Chelsea building - this Hishm Elzanaty that's a consistant donor to Democrats? It's clear that el-Gamal didn't have the money to buy all these properties on his own. Who else is putting up the money, and why?

Related video: FOX News verifies that Sharif El-Gamal was a NYC waiter in 2002 and somehow came up with $4.8 million in cash, and talks about the controversy, and that the building was purchased one year ago..

Ground Zero Mosque Developer: Mosque Could Accommodate 1,000 Worshippers
Moderate Muslims Are Not the Answer

Posted by Richard at August 25, 2010 2:54 PM

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