Developer More Interested in Money Than Mosque: Trump
The developer of an Islamic community center near the former site of the World Trade Center is a "low-level" real estate investor more interested in money than a mosque, real estate magnate Donald Trump told CNBC.
Speaking days after he offered the developer, Hisham Elzanaty, 25 percent above the price paid for his stake in the Park Place property just a year ago in exchange for moving the mosque elsewhere, Trump said "these are not the finest apples in the barrel."
Elzanaty reportedly has rejected Trump's offer for the building, with his lawyer calling it "a cheap attempt at publicity."
"This isn't about a mosque," Trump said. "This is about a mosque being used to get this guy more money. That's only my opinion, but this is an opinion that's well formed as a deal-marker, well formed after speaking to the principal."
Someone Trump described as an associate of Elzanaty told him the sellers of the building a few blocks north of Ground Zero "were stupid people to sell at that price."
Elzanaty and his partnership paid $4.8 million for a half-stake in the property last year.
"I said immediately, 'Were the sellers stupid people or where they even worse than that?'—a word you're not allowed to use anymore. He said they were stupid people to sell to me for that price," he said. "I said, 'I don't think they're stupid people.'"
"I'm saying to myself, 'Wait a minute, this is a man of great faith, this is a man of religion, and he's calling the seller stupid,'" Trump added. "Frankly, he should be very happy about the seller. If it's really worth the $18-to-$20 million that he said, he should be very happy."
Trump said he made the offer to end the controversy over the Islamic center, which public opinion polls show is strongly opposed by New Yorkers and elsewhere as an insult to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
"It would be great to end this thing, because there's going to be a lot of problems, there is tremendous anxiety, tremendous problems going on with this site," he said. "If I could buy it and give him an immediate 24-hour, immediate all-cash offer for much more than he paid, but I don't think he wants it."