U.S. News

Donald Trump offers to buy NY Muslim center site

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Celebrity developer Donald Trump tried to end a heated U.S. debate over plans for a Muslim center near New York’s World Trade Center site Thursday by offering to buy the building earmarked for the project.

Trump, who hosts reality TV series “The Apprentice,” wrote a letter to an investor in the Lower Manhattan building, which is two blocks from the site known as Ground Zero, offering to pay 25 percent more than what had been paid for the building.

Local media have reported the building was bought for about $5 million.

“I am making this offer as a resident of New York and a citizen of the United States, not because I think the location is a spectacular one (because it is not), but because it will end a very serious, inflammatory and highly divisive situation that is destined, in my opinion, only to get worse,” he wrote.

While Trump is known worldwide for his wealth and entrepreneurial credentials, New Yorkers have a more jaundiced view of his flamboyant, publicity-loving antics.

An Atlantic City casino company founded by Trump recently emerged from bankruptcy protection for the third time and, according to The New York Times, Trump tried to avoid repaying a $40 million loan in 2008, saying the U.S. recession was a force majeure.

Critics say the planned location of the Muslim cultural center and mosque is insensitive, while supporters say politicians have wrongly commandeered the emotionally charged debate ahead of November 2 U.S. congressional elections.

New York City’s oldest Protestant church, the Collegiate Church of New York, has taken out a full-page advertisement to run in Friday’s edition of The New York Times calling for reconciliation and offering to facilitate talks on the issue.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Mark Egan and Todd Eastham