The real estate developer who is trying to set up a controversial Islamic cultural center two blocks away from Ground Zero reportedly owes New York City over $224,270 in back property taxes for the location.

Sharif El-Gamal’s company, 45 Park Place Partners, is listed as delinquent on its January and July half-year tax bills, according to records from New York City’s Finance Department. That could violate the company’s lease with Con Edison, which owns half the site. El-Gamal’s spokesman told the New York Post that the taxes had been paid, even though city records do not yet indicate the payment.

The site houses a former Burlington Coat Factory store, which El-Gamal wants to tear down in order to build the cultural center, to be known as Cordoba House, or more recently Park51. However, several groups and New York Governor David Paterson are trying to persuade the developers to move the site further away from Ground Zero.

The mosque has become a political flash point in recent weeks, with President Obama getting drawn into the debate earlier this month after remarks he made at a White House dinner celebrating the month of Ramadan appeared to support the group’s right to build the mosque consistent with local ordinances. Obama later emphasized he “was not endorsing any particular project.”

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the religious leader who is leading the project, told a newspaper in Abu Dhabi, The National, on Monday that he believes the issue has been politicized.

“There is no doubt that the election season has had a major impact upon the nature of the discourse,” he said. “The question becomes which discourse will dominate, not only in the short term but in the long term.”

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