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Imam at center of controversy named in lawsuit

From Laura Batchelor, CNN
In 14 years, Union City officials "responded to no less than 30" health and safety complaints, the lawsuit claims.
In 14 years, Union City officials "responded to no less than 30" health and safety complaints, the lawsuit claims.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Feisal Abdul Rauf's company, Sage Development, is defendant in law suit
  • Lawsuit filed in Hudson County Superior Court regarding two rental properties
  • Among complaints cited in lawsuit: mold in apartments, garbage issues and bed bugs
  • Fire officials issued 12 fire code violations in the year prior to a fire, filing says

New York (CNN) -- The imam whose proposed Islamic center near ground zero has stirred a passionate controversy is now the defendant in a lawsuit, according the paperwork filed Tuesday at Hudson County Superior Court.

The lawsuit alleges Feisal Abdul Rauf's company, Sage Development, which owns two buildings in Union City, New Jersey, failed to properly maintain the buildings and apartments. One building contains 32 residential units and the second contains 16 units, according to the lawsuit.

"From 1996 to 2010, the city responded to no less than 30 complaints from tenants predicated upon various health and safety concerns, including lack of heat, mold inside apartments, garbage issues, bed bugs, foul odors, dirty hallways and the lack of utilities/heat," the filing says.

The larger of the two buildings has been vacant since a fire damaged the property on February 8, 2008. According to the lawsuit, Union City Fire Officials issued 12 fire code violations over the year prior to the fire. In the second apartment building, more than two units were found to be infested with bed bugs after complaints of improperly stored garbage.

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Rauf has been at the epicenter of the national controversy surrounding Park 51, the proposed Islamic center that is to be built two blocks from ground zero. The project calls for a 13-story community center including a mosque, performing arts center, gym, swimming pool and other public spaces. It is collaboration between the American Society for Muslim Advancement and the Cordoba Initiative.

Rauf, 62, founded the American Society for Muslim Advancement in 1997, and has headed the Masjid al-Farah mosque -- about 12 blocks from ground zero -- since 1990. Calls to Rauf's representatives for comment were not immediately returned.

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