By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — Con Edison said Monday that it cannot stop the planned 13-story mosque and community center from rising near Ground Zero, despite earlier reports to the contrary.
Although Con Edison owns 49-51 Park Place, one of the buildings that would be torn down to build the Ground Zero mosque, the utility does not have legal authority over what happens to the site, Con Edison said in a statement.
The New York Post reported Sunday that Con Ed’s ownership of 49-51 Park Place could be an obstacle for the Islamic center.
However, Soho Properties, the mosque's developer, signed a long-term lease on the building last year and “has rights to use, alter, demolish or renovate the building,” Con Ed said.
The utility plans to eventually sell the former substation building to Soho Properties, as long as the developer pays a fee set by an independent appraiser.
Regardless of whether the sale goes through, plans for the Islamic center, called Park51, can still move forward under the current lease, which lasts until 2071, Con Ed said.
“We are following our legal obligations under the lease,” Con Ed said. “We will not allow other considerations to enter into this transaction.”
According to city records, Sharif El-Gamal, CEO of Soho Properties, paid $700,000 last year to take over the lease on the Park Place building, which most recently housed the Burlington Coat Factory and was heavily damaged during the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
El-Gamal also bought the adjacent 45-47 Park Place for $4.85 million and plans to knock down both buildings to make way for the new center.
A spokesman for El-Gamal did not respond to a request for comment.