The 29-to-1 vote, with 10 abstentions, followed a four-hour back-and-forth between those who said the community center would be a monument to tolerance and those who believed it would be an affront to victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks.Opponents to the plan included relatives of those murdered in the 9/11 attacks who spoke passionately about how the Muslim facilities were an affront and constant reminder of the ideology that drove the terrorists to commit mass murder and the worst terror attack in history.
The board’s vote was advisory — it did not have the power to scrap plans for a center — but it was seen as an important barometer of community sentiment.
Middle school students and rabbis were among the more than 100 people who testified at the hearing, which was held a short distance from ground zero. Some carried pictures of family members killed in the attacks; others brandished signs reading “Show respect for 9/11. No mosque!”
C. Lee Hanson, 77, whose son Peter was killed in the attacks, said he opposed the center not because he was intolerant, but because he believed that building a tribute to Islam so close to the World Trade Center would be insensitive.
“The pain never goes away,” Mr. Hanson said. “When I look over there and I see a mosque, it’s going to hurt. Build it someplace else.”
Jean Grillo, 65, a writer from TriBeCa, said shutting out any faith undermined American values. “What better place to teach tolerance than at the very area where hate tried to kill tolerance?” she said.
The proposed center, called the Cordoba House, would rise as many as 15 stories two blocks north of where the twin towers stood. It would include a prayer space, as well as a 500-seat performing arts center, a culinary school, a swimming pool, a restaurant and other amenities.
The group behind the project, the Cordoba Initiative, is seeking to make major structural changes to the five-story building at 45 Park Place, which was built in the late 1850s in the Italian Renaissance palazzo style.
The Community Board's approval is only one step in the process; it still needs to get City Council approval and the Landmarks Preservation Commission has to weigh in as well. However, the Community Board's approval carries weight and signifies that the local community seeks the development, which is a factor taken into consideration by the City Council in its deliberations.
The bloviation by some opponents to the proposal includes the Drudge Report which touts a bogus headline that this proposal will include a mosque at Ground Zero.
The building in question is two blocks from Ground Zero. It isn't in Ground Zero as some opponents have charged.
This isn't the case of the International Freedom Center, which rightfully was canned because of the intention of the proponents to include viewpoints that were objectionable and outrageous - a multi-cultural mashup that made mincemeat of the 9/11 attacks and who actually carried out the attacks and their rationale.
The Center may not actually go ahead unless it gets all the financing sorted out, but the proposal is not something that is objectionable in its current form unless something actually objectionable comes out regarding its financing and sources (which to date has included the Rockefeller Bros Fund and Ford Foundation). Lower Manhattan needs the facilities being proposed - theater space, community space, etc., on par with what is offered at the 92nd Street Y or JCC, and it happens that it is an Islamic group providing the possible services.