The New York Times has some information from an anonymous source on the developer behind the ground zero mosque-swimming pool:
His late-blooming real estate career came after a difficult youth: Mr. Gamal pleaded guilty to at least six misdemeanors in his late teens and early 20s, including charges related to disorderly conduct, drunk driving and attempted shoplifting. He was once arrested for soliciting a prostitute in Manhattan, according to a law enforcement official.
In 2005, Mr. Gamal was arrested after he punched a man who owed rent to his brother, who is also a property owner. Mr. Gamal later settled the matter for about $15,000.
More: "Mr. Gamal plans to buy the land from Con Edison, the current owner, which has said the transaction would proceed as long as Mr. Gamal agrees to a price set by an appraiser."
These guys don't even own the land yet! More: "Representatives of the real estate concern run by Sharif el-Gamal, the developer on the project, said they had delayed the payments while negotiating with the city for a lower tax."
Non-profits in New York are usually exempt from property tax; the negotiations apparently refers to an outstanding property tax bill on the site.
I haven't posted much on this whole flap, but it strikes me that one excellent way to resolve it would be for someone to offer Con Edison a higher price for the property than the mosque-swimming pool operators. Con Edison, as a public company, would presumably have some kind of fiduciary responsibility to accept a higher offer. This would have the advantage of being a market-based solution rather than a government-imposed one.
As for the negotiations "with the city for a lower tax," it's one thing for the mayor to argue that these guys have a constitutional right to freely exercise their religion (though where the swimming pool fits in there, I'm not sure I follow). It's another thing to give them a special tax break that other property purchasers do not get.
And as for the prostitution solicitation, the Times report on it fails just about every test of journalistic ethics. It's based on an anonymous source, and the Times doesn't tell us how the matter was resolved — was he convicted? Acquitted? Plenty of people are arrested for crimes they did not commit. Even so, something reminds me of the "Why They Hate Us" post about the Florida-based mother of the Al Qaeda operative saying his son complained about "women wearing skimpy clothes."