The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously voted to deny landmark status to the 152-year old Italianate-style office building near the former World Trade Center site destroyed by Islamic fundamentalist terrorists on September 11, 2001, clearing the way for developers to demolish the structure and erect a $100 million Islamic cultural center on the site that will include a worship center for 1000 – 2000 Muslims.
The developer, Sharif El-Gamal, owner of SoHo Properties LLC, says the center will become a showcase for moderate Islam. The iman behind the religious center, Fiesel Abdul Rauf professes to be a voice of moderation and bridge building between Islam and the West.
Those are the facts. The issue has become understandably incendiary. The cause against the mosque has unfortunately been taken up by the American political right. I say ‘unfortunately’ because opposition to the mosque will likely become a club with which to bludgeon those moderates like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg who commented, “Everything the United States stands for and New York City stands for is tolerance and openness…”
And yet, this is a wound that still festers. The imminent construction of an Islamic Center within two blocks of the site, while the rebuilding of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, located at 155 Cedar Street, across from the former South Tower which collapsed on top of it on 9/11, remains mired in the stalled redevelopment of the Trade Center site suggests symbolically that somehow Islam is about to wrest a victory from this tragedy that still haunts Americans.
What has won is New York City’s appreciation for real estate and the rules and regulations that determine who is a clear winner and who a stalled loser. While the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey wrestles with the complicated logistics and politics of redeveloping that site, Mr. El-Gamal and his partner, the Cordoba Initiative, founded by Iman Abdul Rauf, have quietly put together an assemblage of properties requiring only a purpose and limited public review in comparison.
I’d certainly like to know what readers think. Please take the time to check the links in this article for more information on the story and post your comments below.