Downtown Community Raises Voice Over Ground Zero Mosque

Community Board Passes Vote in late meeting

By Pei-Sze Cheng and Lynda Baquero
|  Tuesday, Aug 17, 2010  |  Updated 4:03 PM EDT
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Downtown Community Raises Voice Over Ground Zero Mosque

AP

Construction cranes work at Ground Zero.

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If all goes as planned, a 152-year-old building at 45 Park Place in Tribeca will be torn down to build a fifteen-story Islamic Center and mosque within three years.

The Community Board One, voted to give its approval to the plan 29 to one. 10 members abstained.

The hearing produced strong emotions.

As Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf spoke, praising the prospect of a Muslim religious center at the site, he was shouted down and loudly booed by the audience.

Abdul Rauf said "The Cordoba center and it's programs will be modeled after the 92nd Street Y," and claimed that the Jewish Community Center and prominent Manhattan Rabbi Arthur Schneier backed the development.

When Abdul Rauf's wife, Daisy Khan who also runs the American Society of Muslim Advancement, said, "I cried when I watched the towers fall," she was also met with loud boos and heckling.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is also  among those supporting the project saying "the possibility to have an interfaith center where people of different backgrounds come together..modeled after the 92nd Street Y...is a discussion worth having."

Some residents of Lower Manhattan, including Kay Tyson Perez, acknowledge, "they have the right to build it where ever they want. It's a free country."

But others are disappointed with the choice of a location for the mosque, which would serve a growing Muslim community in lower Manhattan. Workers near the proposed center, which would be called "Cordoba House", have vivid memories of 9/11 more than eight years later.

George Aufiero of Huntington told us "it's not that it had anything to do with the Muslims. It was terrorists. But it's a little hard to digest sometimes." 

And Caroline Osbourne of Staten Island said "it's not that I don't like it. It's just that it reminds me of what happened."

Michael Burke who is against the plan said, "for the record, I have a Hispanic wife and a black son, I am not a bigot!"

Lee Hanson from Easton, CT also spoke at the hearing -- his son, Peter, daughter-in-law Sue Kim, and grand daughter Christine Lee were aboard United 175, which crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

Lee was met with loud applause when he said "I am not against the mosque because I am a bigot. I am against it because it is in poor taste."

There's also a page on Facebook listing tens of thousands of opponents, including many who do not live in New York.

But Jean Grillo, Tribeca resident, niece who was rescued from South Tower, said "I say bring it on.  What a wonderful opportunity to teach tolerance."

The Cordoba Initiative is putting together the project, which is expected to cost about $100 million dollars. They are making a presentation before Community Board One even though the board has no authority over the project. The group purchased the building at 45 Park Place in 2009.

But there could be a snag in plans for demolition. Back in the 1980's, there was a proposal to designate the building a landmark. No formal decision was ever made.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission has been reviewing former proposed sites, and scheduling new hearings. The Commission plans to hold another public hearing about 45 Park Place "in early summer".

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