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Author Topic: park 51 founder was a bartender once  (Read 1402 times)
lucid
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« on: Oct 16, 2010 09:25 AM »


ok, before you kill me for giba, read the following.  i was pretty disturbed that mr sharif el gamel freely admits that he was once a bartender, went to nightclubs and never graduated from college, and is intent on becoming a billionaire.  it kindof makes sense now, as the folks at park 51 seem awfully clueless.

http://therealdeal.com/newyork/articles/the-closing-sharif-el-gamal

The Closing: Sharif El-Gamal

Sharif El-Gamal is the chairman and CEO of Manhattan-based real estate investment firm Soho Properties. But he's now internationally known as the developer of Park51, a community center and Islamic prayer space planned two blocks from the World Trade Center site. The building -- labeled the "ground zero mosque" by critics, a name that El-Gamal says is incorrect -- has sparked a worldwide firestorm. Opponents denounce it, along with El-Gamal and Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam for the project, saying that an Islamic center has no place so close to where so many died on Sept. 11. But supporters argue Park51 promotes tolerance, and forcing it to move would go against America's commitment to freedom of religion. Politicians -- from Sarah Palin to President Obama to Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar -- have weighed in on the project, and many dignitaries have sought to meet with El-Gamal.

What is your full name?
Sharif Mohamed El-Gamal. It's a capital 'E' -- people have been spelling it with a lower-case 'e.'

Is it frustrating to see your name spelled wrong in the paper?
It is. But who would ever have expected that I would have gotten so much press for what I'm trying to do?

So you were surprised by the reaction to the project?
It's crazy. It's absolutely crazy. I can't believe that this is getting the amount of attention that it's getting. But I look at it as an opportunity on many different levels.

How so?
It's an opportunity to bring awareness about my religion, which is Islam; to bring awareness about my project and to get stakeholders, to get people emotionally involved.

I would say that's been accomplished.
Yes it has, on both sides of the fence. It really shows us that we've opened something up that needed to be addressed. I think we've brought something that was suppressed to the surface. I think that we are going to be a better country for addressing this.

What is your response when people demand that you move the project [away] from ground zero?
But why? Why should I have to? I'm an American. It's my right. This isn't about sensitivities or anything. I don't hold my faith accountable for what happened [on 9/11] and I don't hold myself accountable for what happened.

Let's back up. What is your birth date?
Dec. 23, 1972.

Where did you grow up?
I was born in Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn, in Park Slope, which is much nicer now than when I was growing up there. I lived in Park Slope. I lived in Long Island and Manhattan. I'm a New Yorker.

But you also lived abroad.
I did. I went to American schools overseas, in Alexandria in Egypt, and Monrovia in Liberia.

Where did you go to college?
I'm a college dropout. I couldn't concentrate on finishing a degree; I think I gave up when I was 24. I went to the New York Institute of Technology, to SUNY Farmingdale, to Pace University and a couple of others. I was not a disciplined student -- I've always been very restless.

Did you go straight into real estate after college?
I didn't. While I was in college, I was selling stocks. I didn't love the business. I was very good at it, but it did not turn me on. Then I got into the restaurant industry -- I was waiting tables and bartending. I was also very good at that. [Laughs.]

Where did you work?
I worked at Serafina [on East 61st Street]. I tended bar at Michael Jordan's Steak House in Grand Central Station. They say in the restaurant industry that you get these golden handcuffs. I was making six figures waiting tables and bartending and having a very flexible life. And you kind of get sucked into it because it's fun -- if you're single and you don't have responsibilities.

How did you get into real estate?
I just kind of realized that I needed to get serious about my life. I started out by renting apartments. However, I always wanted to sell buildings. I've always had a knack for being a closer -- no matter what it was, whether it was asking a girl out to dinner or getting into a nightclub. I went to the commercial side and found a for-sale-by-owner. Eight months later I sold my first building. It was a 30,000-square-foot loft building. I ended up selling nine buildings that year [in 2001].

From there you got into development?
Then I segued into development and I founded Soho Properties in 2003. We've been very quiet and under the radar, and just making it happen.

How many properties do you own or manage?
Probably a dozen buildings all over the city.

Are you married?
I got married in 2005 to Rebekah. I have two daughters: Sarah, who is 3 and a half, and Jennah, who is 2.

What do they think about all the publicity around Park51?
It caught them completely off guard. It's very surreal for all of us.

Do you get recognized walking down the street?
I do. Playing in the park with my kids, people have been coming up to me. On the subway people are saying, "Stand strong."

Haven't you gotten negative reactions as well?
There have been death threats, some very scary stuff.

Where do you live?
On the Upper West Side, and we spend time in East Hampton.

Tell me about the religious awakening that led to your involvement with Park51.
When I got into real estate, I made a transformation in my life. It really happened after 9/11. After 9/11 I was curious about my faith.

Were you religious growing up?
Holidays -- that type of religiousness. After 9/11, I just reconnected with my faith. I took my faith before for granted. But after 9/11, I really jumped into it and started understanding what Islam means.

What has been the most upsetting thing for you about the response to the project?
There has been a deception by the forces of evil -- I'll just call it that -- saying that this is the "ground zero mosque." One, it's not a mosque. Two, it's not at ground zero. There was a narrative that was built in to provoke and sensationalize a topic that should have not gotten the attention that it got.

Which publications have been the most fair to you?
The New York Times has been pretty good to us. MSNBC, Keith Olbermann, Anderson Cooper, CNN has been pretty fair. Fox has just the most bizarre agenda in the world. The New York Post and the Daily News are just tabloids who will write anything to get a paper sold.

Would you like to set the record straight on anything?
This is going to be a community center. It's going to serve the needs of Lower Manhattan. Today, Lower Manhattan has mushroomed into a residential neighborhood -- there are over 50,000 residents. I saw this as an opportunity to build a center to serve the Muslim community that needs a prayer space, but also at the same time to build a world-class community center like the Jewish Community Center or the 92nd Street Y, with robust programming and phenomenal athletic and recreational facilities. … There's such an ignorance and misperception of what Islam means. And I hope that this project will start educating people about my faith system and my beliefs.

Who have been some surprising supporters and opponents?
Just today, [former] Governor Pataki came up to me and said that I have to move. We were in a reception area, both going to separate meetings in the same building. He recognized me and he came up and said that I need to move. And then an hour later, I'm walking down Park Avenue South and who do I recognize but Ben Linus from "Lost." I go up to say that I'm a huge fan. I ask him his thoughts. He got really passionate and inflamed, and said, "We're behind you, don't move." That's just today. Tony Blair wants to meet with me this week; I canceled a meeting with Bill Clinton [it's being rescheduled]. I need to keep reminding myself that I'm a real estate developer and that I need to focus on the action of making this come together and getting it built. Because all this talk is just talk.

Are you worried about fund-raising in this economic climate?
Well, we're about to launch a very aggressive fund-raising campaign. Listen, Michael Moore raised $50,000 for us. I don't even know him [and he raised] $50,000. I think that nothing is going to be easy, but it's going to be extremely rewarding.

How do you think [the Park51 project] will impact your future career as a developer?
I think the exposure is priceless. Everyone knows who I am. I'm looking for the next building that I'm going to buy. I want to buy one building before the end of this year, a trophy asset this time, up to $100 million. Everyone is showing us real deals. The amount of money that wants to come into a real estate deal for us right now is unbelievable.

Are you looking at distressed assets?
I think the word "distressed" is overrated. I don't think there's anything in distress in New York City. I think that everyone realizes that this isn't 1990. We're really focused south of 96th Street in Manhattan, not in the boroughs. I think the office market is where we want to focus.

What is your relationship like with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf -- you two have publicly expressed differences of opinion about the project.
He's a visionary and I'm a real estate developer. The media is looking to create more stories out of this. There isn't a story there. He married my wife and I. He's a good friend.

What is something people don't know about you?
One thing that people might not know about me is that my mother, God rest her soul, was Polish Catholic. And I have more Jews for friends than Muslims.

What's that painting?
It's an Arabic Allah, which means God. My wife drew that.

Is she an artist by profession?
No, she takes care of me now. But before that she was an artist, a trained chef, she was in the jewelry business. Rebekah is very dynamic.

How did you meet?
I stopped her on the corner of 23rd and Sixth Avenue and I asked her out to dinner. We were complete strangers.

She said yes right away?
I worked for a little bit. I got her number. I didn't beat around the bush. I said, "Hi, can I take you out to dinner?" She just looked at me and she just started laughing. And eight months later we were married. And she's my soul mate.

Can you comment on the recent reports of your past arrests, for assault and other charges?
I did make mistakes in my life, mistakes that I'm not proud of. But I've never shied away from my past. And I believe that the mistakes have empowered me to be the person that I am today.

What about reports that your company was evicted from your office at 552 Broadway?
That was another inaccuracy. There was no eviction that took place. … Everyone is trying to get their 15 minutes on my back right now and on the back of this deal.

Would you be open to opportunities outside of real estate -- like being on a TV show?
I'm very focused on building my career in real estate. I think I need to make my first billion first.

jannah
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« Reply #1 on: Oct 16, 2010 09:40 AM »

wsalam,

dude, lots of ppl have been things once. like he said, after 9/11 he recognized who he was and tried to get back into islam more. working in a restaurant like that you have to tend bar and wait tables, thats what ppl do. especially if he was not religious at the time i'm sure he didn't think anything of it. i find it funny ur concerned about that more than his 'assaults' and 'criminal record' but again looks like he has chilled a lot since then.

also i'm not sure what you mean by "founder". he is the developer of the property ie his company bought it and wants to develop it. it's a commercial deal. if he was the imam or something then i'd be worried, but i mean he's like one of those doctor uncles who is trying to get a mosque built and has a past. should we ex-communicate him for that? (many converts have had very checkered pasts as well)

the billionaire comment sounds like a joke, but if he wanted to what's the big deal, every businessman wants to make millions and he is as entrepreneurial as they get...
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« Reply #2 on: Oct 16, 2010 11:32 AM »

salam

I dont want to be a billionnaire..... I want to be so rich that there is no word for it....


Howzzat??? Do I get kicked off the 'mozlem' club now?



Wassalaam

And when My servants question thee concerning Me, then surely I am nigh. I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he crieth unto Me. So let them hear My call and let them trust in Me, in order that they may be led aright. Surah 2  Verse 186
lucid
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« Reply #3 on: Oct 16, 2010 11:43 AM »

he's the main man it seems.

he owns the property, and he's the one trying to get muslims to use his place (presumably it'll be bought from him) as an islamic center.  

his idiotic shoehorning of an islamic center into a place where it doesn't fit and the consequent opposition of it from all the nutters, requires all american muslims to stand up for something which is just pointless and dumb. we have to justify something which is not justifiable.  

i don't think the imam cares in the slightest where its built.  he's just stuck with the park 51 location, because that's where the bought property is...

and, yes people do stuff before becoming practicing.  but, in this case its relevant because it clouds people judgement and fogs up their common sense meter.  as he is the leader of this project, we all have follow him despite his lack of judgement.

when it important stuff. leadership stuff, stuff affecting everybody, past history is important, no matter how pious you appear to be now.

just my opinion....i know it sounds petty and mean...but that's my experience...people with past histories sometimes have weird ideas when they come into islam...
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« Reply #4 on: Oct 16, 2010 02:36 PM »

salam

agree with sis Fozia, wanting to be rich and being Muslim are not mutually exclusive.  Allah will judge us all, so let's worry about that.

salaaaaaaaaaaaam
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« Reply #5 on: Oct 16, 2010 09:39 PM »

Asalaamu Alaikum bro

Perhaps we should get him on and see how he responds?

Say: "O ye my servants who believe! Fear your Lord, good is (the reward) for those who do good in this world. Spacious is God's earth! those who patiently persevere will truly receive a reward without measure!" [39:10]
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« Reply #6 on: Oct 16, 2010 10:10 PM »

No one is perfect. ..and lucky are those who have made mistakes and turn back to Almighty Allah. Almighty Allah loves to forgive.

Unlucky is he who makes mistakes and laughs them away; or has the certainty that he will be successful in the next world on the basis of his own actions.

Many people change radically after marriage. Usually for the better. May Sharif remain on the true path and may this experience solidify his faith, and give him the yaqeen of one who loves Allah and whom Allah loves.
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« Reply #7 on: Oct 18, 2010 02:57 PM »

A person that has lived without the beauty and peace of Islam has an appreciation of the deen that someone who hasn't truly experienced that emptiness will never understand....  There are many brothers and sisters that have detoured from the straight path but thanks be to Allah SWT they were rightly guided and embrace Islam with a sincere enthusiasm and dedication.  It should make no difference whether or not this man was a bartender, owned a bar or anything else, guidance is never past tense, Alhamdullah he is on the right path and InshAllah continues on the right path and that’s all that matters. May , we all keep this brother in our Duas
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« Reply #8 on: Oct 18, 2010 04:28 PM »

Amen to your duas Sister Sarah Amena,
Only Almighty Allah knows the true magnitude of our sins, and it is a wonderful part of his mercy that he keeps them hidden.

Who are we to judge someone based on their past, when we may be guilty of so much more.

We should endeavor to support our brothers and sister in following the straight path, without indulging in the temptation to dig into their weaknesses and mistakes and uncover their sins. Let us not rush to judge others, lest we may be judged threadbare ourselves one day.

With duas,

- skhansj
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« Reply #9 on: Oct 19, 2010 02:55 AM »

assalamu alaikum

i think this is nonsense.  i didn't say a former bartender couldn't become a great muslim, or that it detracts from his worth before allah.

i did say that such people sometimes unfortunately come with baggage, such as ego, selfishness, carelessness, etc.  

you don't want somebody who hasn't tamed his ego to be the one determining muslim affairs.  it takes a lifetime to tame your ego, learn true selflessness, etc.

what i was shocked about the interview was how "into himself" this person seemed to be.  in the interview he seems selfish and egotistical -- a clown, as once commenter said. only allah knows, but the mosque near the WTC seems like grandstanding.  it's giving him exposure and is bringing him closer to his dream goal of billionairehood.


i am making a lot of assumptions about this person.  but as it affects all muslims in america, i do believe we are allowed to speculate and question his motives, judgement, etc.

i do not mean this as any slight to him.  but if you are such a big person in such a big issue that  makes muslims all around America feel nervous because of the public furor it has engendered, then people are allowed to question your motives, sensibility, etc..
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« Reply #10 on: Oct 19, 2010 09:35 AM »

salam

Are Muslims all around America uncomfortable about this Islamic centre tho?


Or are Muslims all around America upset that they do not have the same rights and religious freedom as every other person in America?

Are the Muslims upset about the Islamic centre/youth centre/whatevah, or are they upset at being told their dead are somehow lesser, their feelings of sorrow and loss not as great as the other religions who died in 9/11?

I always get the feeling that you're always slightly embarrassed by Muslims who appear to be muslims, ie women in Islamic dress, and now apparently of this cultural centre with prayer area!

I personally thought the issue wasnt so much that the Muslims are upset at the placement of this centre, more that their religious freedoms are being curtailed and they, us, all of us are pretty much being labelled terrorists!


Or am I missing the point entirely?



Wassalaam

And when My servants question thee concerning Me, then surely I am nigh. I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he crieth unto Me. So let them hear My call and let them trust in Me, in order that they may be led aright. Surah 2  Verse 186
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