Friday, August 20, 2010

Cordoba House Controversy Update

The New York Daily News is running with a story about how construction workers in the City wont work on the project.
A growing number of New York construction workers are vowing not to work on the mosque planned near Ground Zero.

"It's a very touchy thing because they want to do this on sacred ground," said Dave Kaiser, 38, a blaster who is working to rebuild the World Trade Center site.

"I wouldn't work there, especially after I found out about what the imam said about U.S. policy being responsible for 9/11," Kaiser said.

The grass-roots movement is gaining momentum on the Internet. One construction worker created the "Hard Hat Pledge" on his blog and asked others to vow not to work on the project if it stays on Park Place.

"Thousands of people are signing up from all over the country," said creator Andy Sullivan, a construction worker from Brooklyn. "People who sell glass, steel, lumber, insurance. They are all refusing to do work if they build there."
Don't expect that to stop construction, if this project secures its financing though.

Just expect to see the big rat for nonunion work, as seen at other nonunion jobs elsewhere in the City. It would just add to the opposition to the construction near Ground Zero.

If anyone thought that the proposed community center was uniformly backed by the Muslim community, you'd be wrong. Similarly, if you thought that 9/11 victims families were of one mind on the project, you too would be wrong.

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani has come out in support of Gov. Paterson's proposal to relocate the site, all while asking tough questions of the proposal's backers. He's got a point about the sensitivity issue - if Imam Rauf and the Cordoba Initiative were truly interested in building bridges between the Muslim community and those who lost loved ones in 9/11, they'd be much more open about their plans and avoid saying insensitive statements, or potentially inflammatory ones (like claiming that they would obtain financing from Saudi Arabia and Iran) or that the community center is nowhere near Ground Zero (which strains credulity) or that some buildings in the City have their own ZIP codes (the former WTC did - 10048).

That's even as the US State Department going back to the Bush Administration used Rauf as a pointman on building ties between the Muslim community and Americans. Indeed, Rauf was in Bahrain where he said that he wanted to Americanize Islam.
“This issue of extremism is something that has been a national security issue — not only for the United States but also for many countries and nations in the Muslim world,” Rauf told Associated Press Television News.

“This is why this particular trip has a great importance because all countries in the Muslim world — as well as the Western world — are facing this ... major security challenge.”

Rauf also said he has been working on a way to “Americanize Islam,” although he did not elaborate on what an American version of Islam might look like.

“The same principles and rituals were everywhere, but what happened in different regions was there were different interpretations,” he said. “So we recognize that our heritage allows for re-expressing the internal principles of our religion in different cultural times and places.”

The comments differ greatly from what Rauf said in December 2001. Just two months after the 9/11 attacks, the imam wasn't so quick to condemn radical religious beliefs in his own faith.

"The United States' policies were an accessory to the crime that happened, because we have been an accessory to a lot of innocent lives dying in the world," he said during an interview on CBS's "60 Minutes. "In fact, in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the USA."
That's the kind of statement that would get him in trouble with the fundamentalists like al Qaeda (Salafists, Wahabis, and even among the mad mullahs of Iran).

Does John Podhoretz live in New York City? Has he even visited Lower Manhattan in the last few months? Because his latest op-ed is riddled with bogus information. While it is true that the Ground Zero master plan was botched by then Gov. George Pataki and his chosen designer Daniel Libeskind, the Port Authority has moved on with the assistance of SOM, Foster and Partners, Santiago Calatrava, and several other major firms to design skyscrapers and integral features for Ground Zero including the museum/memorial (memorial designed by Michael Arad).

The actual memorials are well underway and will be completed by next year. The fact is that you can't view them from street level because the structure of those memorials are at bedrock - 70 feet below street level. It looks like there's no work done on them because the work is obscured by the security cordons around the site, and the rising Freedom Tower (now at more than 34 stories).

You can see the progress from the World Financial Center and any of the towers surrounding the site. Heck, if John simply read this site on a regular basis (or even the NY Post columns by Steve Cuozzo or Tom Toupousis) he'd know that work is progressing all over the site - with much of it still obscured because it is at or below street level.

The work (or lack thereof) at Ground Zero from late 2001 through the present did not create the conditions in which SoHo Properties could purchase and develop the property. The owners of that building wanted to sell, and found themselves a willing buyer in the SoHo Properties.

The Port Authority didn't control that site. Neither did the City. The LMDC didn't purchase the building and didn't consider it worthy of being purchased. That latter point may well have been an oversight - but given that the LMDC couldn't demolish the former Deutsche Bank building without major catastrophes - fires, deaths, negligence and rampant safety problems - there's no way to say that the building would have been in any better hands.

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