Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Continuing Coverage of the Saga of Cordoba House

A new report indicates that the chair of the Community Board that has a say in the approval of the construction of a mosque just blocks from Ground Zero thinks that coverage has been distorted.
Days after Community Board (CB) 1’s Financial District Committee passed a unanimous resolution in favor of the Cordoba Institute moving to Lower Manhattan to build a community center with a mosque, local and national media outlets pounced on the story. Ro Sheffe, the committee chair, was disappointed, to say the least, with the coverage.

“There has been so much inaccuracy in so many of the media accounts of this proposal,” said Sheffe last Friday. “From what we were told at the meeting - what we were hearing was a secular community center with a mosque attached. Everything we heard obviously we liked. It was unanimous.”

Though the coverage has been exhaustive - from web-only news outlets to the New York Post, even an anti-Cordoba House Facebook group with 53,000 members already opposing the group - few elected officials have taken a stance on the issue, save for New York State Senator Daniel Squadron.

“Community religious and civic organizations have been a big part of the extraordinary resurgence of Lower Manhattan,” Squadron said Wednesday evening. “The Cordoba Initiative has been a part of that rebuilding, and a new community facility would contribute to Lower Manhattan’s role as a center for cultural diversity and tolerance.”

As of press time, this paper had reached out to a number of elected officials and only Squadron returned our calls.
Still, there are other reports that the financing is coming from foreign sources, in addition to those from the Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Bros. Fund as I've previously reported

Then, there's the issue of landmarking status of the building in question.

A ruling on the landmark status might limit the alterations to the exterior, but may not stop the plans altogether. Often, the planners will be able to retain the exterior facade while altering the interiors. Then, there's the fact that the LPC has signed off on alterations to other historically significant buildings in the City, including the Edward Durell Stone designed building at 2 Columbus Circle that was known for its marble facing, although the LPC did end up killing a plan that would have saved St. Vincent's Hospital when they wanted to demolish and/or alter several buildings in Greenwich Village. Moreover, this building isn't actually landmarked, which means that the LPC would first have to designate it as a landmark, and the LPC declined to do so in the 1980s when the issue was first broached.

Then, there's the craziness with the claim that the community center/mosque proposal is somehow at Ground Zero. It isn't. Even those who support the idea that the mosque be allowed to go forward don't get this. Somehow, the community center's proximity to Ground Zero is just too close to comfort for some, even as the mosque itself has operated just a bit further away without any problems for years. The mosque bought the property in question so as to expand its offerings to the entire Lower Manhattan community at a time when Lower Manhattan lacks those facilities, and it happens to include a mosque.

It's several blocks away, and while the building itself sustained damage from the attacks by falling debris (including parts of one of the aircraft hijacked in the attack), it is not included in the 16 acres that comprise Ground Zero or the future memorial or museum.

I've been ambivalent over whether this project should go forward; I know the building and that block has been blighted since the attack. The Community Board seems to have a good read on this - and that's including the opposition heard at their recent meetings.

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