New York, Aug.19 (ANI): As if the mosque controversy could not get any weirder, it turns out the person who found the site two blocks from Ground Zero was a teenage reality show contestant from Queens.
Francisco Patino was just doing the bidding of a real estate developer who hired him in 2006 after chancing to see him on "American Inventor."
The New York Daily News quoted developer, Sharif el-Gamal, as saying: "I saw him on TV and I liked him."
Patino was a 19-year-old immigrant from Colombia, and was a decidedly appealing contestant, embracing the spirit of invention and entrepreneurship that made his adopted country great.
He appeared crushed when he was voted off in the finals, but a special guest came on the air to urge him on.
Gamal hired Patino and presented him with a map of the Financial District. The teen's orders were to scout out properties that might be suitable for an Islamic community center.
"I told him to go out and find available buildings for the project, and he did," Gamal said.
"He's a phenomenal kid. ... He's a good one," Gamal added.
Patino compiled a list that came to include the old Burlington Coat Factory on Park Place. The owner said that by happy chance, it was being shown the following day.
Gamal went to see it and was not at all put off by its proximity to Ground Zero.
"We were looking at buildings all over the area. I liked a lot of them, but this was the one we ended up on," the developer recalled.
Now 23, Patino declined to comment yesterday, not wishing to speak until he got permission from his boss at Chase Manhattan Bank. (ANI)