Rats, Bedbugs Infest Buildings Owned by Ground Zero Mosque Developer

Cleric behind Park51 ignores low-income tenants' pleas, residents say.

ByABC News
August 30, 2010, 3:49 PM

Aug. 30, 2010— -- The Muslim imam who plans to build a controversial Islamic center near Ground Zero should first take on a smaller project, like ridding his New Jersey apartment buildings of rats and bedbugs, angry tenants told ABCNews.com.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf owns buildings across the Hudson River in several New Jersey cities, including Union City, North Bergen and Palisades Park, which he reportedly renovated with tax dollars.

Residents, many of whom are immigrants and most of whom are working-class Hispanic Catholics, say they have complained about unsanitary conditions for years. The imam, however, has done little to make repairs or exterminate vermin, they claim.

"There are bed bugs and a lot of rats," said Jane Thane, 17, who has lived at 2206 Central Ave., Union City for three years, after her former home, also owned by Rauf, burned down. "Last week we catched six rats in the apartment."

Thane said five other family members share the three bedroom apartment and many of their neighbors have been forced to throw away mattresses and linens because of bed bug infestations.

Thane said her parents have complained to the building's superintendent and Rauf's wife Daisy Khan, but nothing has ever been done.

"We call, but they don't do anything about it. The super says he can't do anything either. Sometimes they say they take care of things, but no one believes them anymore," she said. "We don't trust them."

New Jersey newspaper The Record first reported the conditions at Rauf's apartment buildings after pouring through "page after page of municipal health [that] show repeated complaints ranging from failure to pick up garbage, to rat and bedbug infestations and no heat and hot water."

The paper's investigation shows that the controversial $100 million cultural center and mosque called Park51 and slated to be built just two blocks away from Ground Zero is not the first real estate project with which the imam has been involved, but it is far and away the largest.