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Trump Spurned in Bid for Proposed NYC Islamic Center

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Donald Trump
Real estate investor Donald Trump. Photographer: Jeremy Bales/Bloomberg

Sept. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Donald J. Trump was spurned in an offer to purchase the site of the proposed Islamic community center near New York City’s Ground Zero for the price paid plus 25 percent.

Trump’s offer is “just a cheap attempt to get publicity and get in the limelight,” said Sharif El-Gamal, chief executive officer of Soho Properties LLC, who signed the deed to purchase the property in July 2009. He commented in an e-mail statement.

As part of the bid, any community center built would be located at least five blocks farther from the World Trade Center site, Trump said. The offer was made in a letter dated today and included in a statement received by e-mail.

“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,” Trump wrote in the letter to Hisham Elzanaty, a businessman who’s said he provided the majority of the financing for the two buildings where the center would be built.

Trump, founder of Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc. and host of the NBC television series “The Apprentice,” didn’t return a telephone call and e-mail seeking further comment.

The proposed Islamic center is two blocks north of where the World Trade Center’s twin towers were destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Book Burning

Trump’s offer was made public shortly before Terry Jones, a pastor from Gainesville, Florida, announced he was canceling plans to burn copies of the Koran on Sept. 11. He said the Islamic center’s developers agreed to discuss moving to a different location.

El-Gamal said there is no deal to relocate the center.

“It is untrue that the community center known as Park51 in lower Manhattan is being moved,” he said in his e-mail. “The project will proceed as planned.”

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s office is unaware of any change in plans for the center, said Jessica Scaperotti, a spokeswoman. The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, chairman of the Cordoba Initiative, the center’s sponsor, didn’t respond to an e-mail and phone message seeking comment.

New York City records show the property at 45 Park Place sold for $4.85 million to 51 Park Place LH LLC in July 2009. The same entity paid $700,000 for 49-51 Park Place, listed as belonging to Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corp.

Offers Received

Elzanaty said his partnership already has received offers of three times that much for that parcel, according to an Associated Press story earlier today.

“Develop it, raze it, sell it,” Elzanaty said. “If someone wants to give me 18 or 20 million dollars today, it’s all theirs.”

Elzanaty didn’t respond to telephone messages requesting comment.

To contact the reporters on this story: John Gittelsohn in New York at johngitt@bloomberg.net; Esmé E. Deprez in New York at edeprez@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kara Wetzel at kwetzel@bloomberg.net.

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