The imam of the Futa Islamic Center (formerly known as Masjid Al Faysal), Baba Diallo, claims that this is essentially one big misunderstanding. Because the property is categorized as a non-profit religious organization, the mosque is exempt from paying federal taxes. However, Diallo did not realize that they were still on the hook for city taxes, and owed over $25,000 to the City of New York.
I guess usually an owner would get a heads up from their bank with a friendly little reminder that the tax man needs his money, right? Well, that didn't happen in this case because apparently whatever genius was handled the case at Bank of America (the bank that held Futa Islamic Center's mortgage) thought "Masjid Al Faysal" was actually a person's name and wasn't able to track anyone down. Diallo says a little further investigative work would have revealed him as the point of contact, and the whole matter could have been dealt with right away.
In fact, the only way Diallo found out about the foreclosure proceedings was through a newspaper ad which one of the worshippers found in the paper. At that point, Diallo immediately paid the $7,500 he owed for tax year 2007, but wasn't aware that he owed more than that.
BX Third Avenue Associates has since purchased the building for $500,000, and a judge ruled in September that the sale was legit. So now the worshippers of Futa Islamic Center, who are mostly immigrants from Guinea, have no place to call home.
Click here to read Suzanne Ma's full story.
*Photo courtesy of http://suzannema.wordpress.com/*