he leader of the Ground Zero mosque got hugely valuable tax-exempt status for a Muslim organization he founded after claiming as many as 500 of its members prayed daily in a small, one-bedroom Upper West Side apartment also listed as his wife's residence, The Post has learned.
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf sought "church status" -- an official IRS term for a house of worship of any religion -- for the American Sufi Muslim Association, or ASMA, in 1998. The feds granted the request.
"Church status" is more than just an exemption -- it means never having to pay taxes, file returns or reveal the sources of a congregation's money or how it's spent, according to the Washington-based Investigative Project on Terrorism, which discovered the group's startling claims on the IRS form it filed seeking the special status.
HOLY UNUSUAL: Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf was granted church-exempt status on a one-bedroom in this West 85th Street building.
On that form, the organization said it held services at 201 W. 85th St.
That's a 17-story apartment building with no public space big enough to accommodate the 450 to 500 worshippers the group claimed regularly showed up five times a day to pray.
There's no indication ASMA or any of its officers rented space in the building other than the apartment, which the Investigative Project says is only 800 square feet.
A year earlier, the imam's wife, Daisy Kahn, had been named as an ASMA director in incorporation papers.
In those papers, she stated the 10th-floor apartment was her legal residence.
ASMA is still in existence -- with the same tax exemption and the same initials, but a brand new name, the American Society for Muslim Advancement.
Since February 2008, it has given its address on federal forms as 475 Riverside Drive.
That's an interfaith center which is home to many religious groups.
When ASMA was formed in 1997, its address was on 78th Street in North Bergen, NJ.
That was also Rauf's official residence.
Forms show the organization switching its address several times among the Upper West Side and New Jersey buildings.
On its Web site, ASMA states that it has given money to the Cordoba Initiative, founded by Rauf, which supports the mosque near Ground Zero.
Kahn did not return telephone calls or e-mails seeking comment.