LOWER MANHATTAN -- Saudi billionaire King Abdullah is not involved in a proposal to move the Park51 mosque and community center to Greenwich Village, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Saudi Arabia's Washington embassy told the Journal that the country "has no involvement, either directly or indirectly, with Park51...nor is it involved -- in any way -- in talks that may be taking place to relocate the proposed community center."
Over the weekend, the New York Post reported that local lawyer Dudley Gaffin was spreading the word that King Abdullah wanted to move the mosque to the shuttered St. Vincent's Hospital in the Village. The king also wanted to reopen the hospital, Gaffin reportedly told local politicians and activists.
Dudley Gaffin, the downtown lawyer who reportedly said Saudi King Abdullah was interested in moving the Park51 mosque and community center to St. Vincent's Hospital.
Gaffin's purported connections to Saudi royals came as a surprise to those who knew him. A longtime Village resident, Gaffin runs a downtown law practice and works on local issues in his spare time.
"I never knew he had any contact with any Saudis," said Virginia Kee, a former Democratic district leader who worked with Gaffin on a campaign last year. "I saw him as a local practitioner, someone who had a law practice in lower Manhattan, and that's it."
Several people who knew Gaffin suggested he may have exaggerated his contact with Saudi Arabia.
One person, who has argued with Gaffin over local political matters, called Gaffin "a self-aggrandizing guy [who is] prone to outbursts."
Another downtown resident, who has also worked against Gaffin in political campaigns, said Gaffin sometimes "runs his mouth and can't back it up."
However, Gaffin's friends described him as a staunch downtown activist who often volunteers his time. He has been involved with a variety of causes, including the Brownsville Boys Club Foundation and the Museum of Chinese in America, according to his law firm's website.
Last year, Gaffin volunteered for former Councilman Alan Gerson's unsuccessful bid for reelection.
"He has made a tremendously positive contribution to the city," Gerson said this week.
A friend of Gaffin's said Gaffin has strongly advocated for reopening St. Vincent's Hospital, especially after he recently spent 18 hours in an overcrowded emergency room at Beth Israel Medical Center. Staff at Beth Israel told Gaffin the delays were common since St. Vincent's closed, Gaffin's friend said.
Gaffin did not respond to requests for comment.
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