Tag Archive | "Bronx Mulsim Center"

Bronx Mosque Buys Home on Verge of Foreclosure

A Bronx mosque ended a lengthy foreclosure battle Friday when it used $400,000 in loans and donations to secure ownership of its premises.

Abdur Rahman Khan, the mosque’s imam, and his congregation have been raising money to buy the building at 2531 Davidson Ave. since January 2008, a year after they signed a six-year lease with the owner. They bought the house for $365,000 in a “short sale,” a transaction in which a property is sold for less than what is owed on a mortgage in order to avoid foreclosure.

“I am happy and I am tired,” Khan said on Friday afternoon, looking withered under the harsh February wind. “I didn’t sleep last night. But yes, now, we have a home.”

The title to the three-story building was contested by the owner, Gouranga Das, and GMAC Mortgage LLC, which provided the initial $500,000 mortgage in 2006, according to court documents.

For the past two years, the mosque, called the Bronx Muslim Center, has served a largely Bangladeshi congregation from the first and basement floors of the building. About 200 people gather each week for Friday prayers, the mosque’s busiest time. Two Muslim tenants live on the upper floors.

Muhammed Solaiman Ali, the mosque general secretary, said the previous owner had accrued $13,000 in Environmental Control Board violation fines, mostly because he had left trash on the sidewalk.

“This will cost us almost $400,000 after we pay the attorney, pay the closing fees and settle the fines,” Ali said. “We want a clean title for our mosque.”

The building is not in great condition but the mosque plans to renovate it. Photo by Sarah Butrymowicz.

That is not the only issue worrying the imam and his secretary. Most of the money was collected in interest-free loans, known in the Muslim world as Qardan Hassana. Some of the lenders have already asked for their money back; one lender wants his $15,000 repaid in the next two weeks. The mosque will also have to settle another debt of $150,000 with $10,000 monthly installments, starting two months from now.

“We promised to pay back the loans,” Ali said. “We are not going to be liars. We want our mosque set free from debt.”

Only hours after the purchase, the imam called a meeting of his flock to discuss ways to raise more money.

Shak Bulubasar, who lives on the first floor, saw more reason to celebrate than brood over uncertainties. “This is a house of Allah now,” he said. “It is a great day for us and a great day for Muslims who made this happen”

Last Sunday, the mosque was still in a state of panic with $45,000 needed to meet its fund-raising goal the next day. Ali fielded calls from donors eager to assist. One caller wanted to give the mosque an interest-free loan.

“Only Allah will give you the interest,” said Ali, speaking on the imam’s cell phone.

The caller agreed to the terms and set an appointment for a visit the next day. The imam, overhearing the conversation, could not hide his excitement.

“Pray for our mosque and pray for us brother,” he said over Ali’s shoulder, loud enough for the caller to hear.

The mosque finally met its target on Tuesday afternoon. A small white board in the men’s prayer room on the first floor listed the amounts the faithful had contributed on each Friday of the past month.

“We give them a receipt, even if they gave one dollar,” said Ali, referring to a fund-raising committee of a few mosque-goers, the imam and himself. “If anyone steals, they will be punished by God and then by our committee.”

Collection boxes at 12 mosques in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn were also bountiful, bringing in $20,000 on Sunday alone.

Additional money came from social media sites. For two weeks Nazma Khan, the imam’s daughter, focused on raising money on Facebook, YouTube and other sites. She runs the mosque’s Web site (designed by a British collaborator she met online) and constantly updates the figures on a thermometer that shows the total money raised.

“For two weeks, this has been my life,” she said.

Nazma said she was overwhelmed by the number of responses she has received. Through the Web presence she created, the mosque has raised about $20,000, with individuals from all over the world giving anywhere from 57 cents to $5,000. More than 10 people responded to her YouTube video with videos of their own, which they mixed with prayer songs.

“The spirit is a mosque in your country is my mosque as well,” she said.

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