Con Edison wants a judge to give it the green light to evict the would-be developer of a controversial community center and mosque near Ground Zero, arguing he doesn’t have a prayer of paying the $1.7 million he owes in back rent.
At a hearing in Manhattan Supreme Court today , Con Ed lawyer Scott Mollen portrayed Sharif el-Gamal as a deadbeat slumlord who’s far too cash-strapped to pay back all the money he owes the utility.
“They’re $1.7 million in arrears, and they have not come close to demonstrating they have the ability” to pay up on the rent at 51 Park Place, Mollen told Justice Richard Braun. Mollen was trying to convince the judge to lift a restraining order barring Con Ed from giving Gamal the boot from the site.
The lawyer noted that Gamal is currently being sued by four banks for failing to pay loan guarantees, and also owes $230,000 in back real estate taxes – and he also hasn’t paid up on a $30,000 power bill.
He said another indication of Gamal’s money woes is that three of the buildings he owns currently have 754 building code violations, 80 percent of which are for “extremely hazardous” or “hazardous” conditions. If Gamal had the money, Mollen suggested, he’d simply pay to fix the problems.
“There’s a mountain of evidence that shows a person in significant financial distress,” Mollen said.
Gamal’s lawyer, Mattthew Hearle, said his client “has the means” to pay the rent, but they believe the amount is tremendously overinflated and they plan on challenging the utility’s figures. They maintain the actual back rent they owe is closer to $250,000.