Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cordoba House's Developer Talks

The New York Observer interviewed Sharif El-Gamal, who is the developer behind the Cordoba House proposal to build a community center two blocks north of Ground Zero. A more detailed interview is on NY 1, complete with video.

But there are some troubling statements and items that show insensitivity to those who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks:
The developer takes issue with the fact that so much has been made of the location of the project, saying it is "nowhere near the World Trade Center site."

"Park51 is a community center. It is two blocks north of the World Trade Center site,” said El-Gamal. “In New York City, two blocks is a great distance. There are some buildings in New York that have their own zip codes. There is such a scarcity of space in New York, especially in Lower Manhattan. Keep in mind this is a small island, so we are nowhere near the World Trade Center site."

I asked El-Gamal if he's been surprised by the backlash against the project and the national attention it's garnered. He chose his words carefully.
Two blocks can be a great distance in the City, and I've pointed out that there are already several mosques in Lower Manhattan such that distance between those locations and Ground Zero as some form of an exclusion zone is unsupportable.

Yet, Gamal either ignores or fails to realize that two of the buildings that had their own ZIP codes were the Twin Towers themselves. They had their own ZIP code - 10048 - because more than 50,000 people worked in the complex. Count on that fact to be picked up by opponents again showing insensitivity to the victims in the attacks.

It's also disingenuous for Gamal to claim he's nowhere near Ground Zero. The Cordoba House site isn't in Ground Zero, but it is close.

Gamal doesn't help his cause with this interview.

But then again, the Observer doesn't help matters either by headlining that "Ground Zero Mosque"

Meanwhile, Gov. David Paterson continues pandering by hoping to change Gamal's mind on location. Good luck with that one. I doubt anything will come of it - and that it wont really matter to opponents either.

Just how far away is sufficient to satisfy the opponents of the project? I'm curious as to what your views on the matter are.

To help with your view, here's a handy dandy map of Lower Manhattan.

View Larger Map

Bear in mind also that when the towers collapsed, the billowing smoke and pulverized towers (all the people, concrete, steel, and other materials in the towers) spread all over Lower Manhattan, across into Brooklyn, and cast away as far as New Jersey depending on which way the wind blew following the attacks. Indeed, one could smell the fires for weeks after up past 14th Street.

In other words, if someone is claiming that because the Burlington Coat Factory was hit by debris from the tower somehow makes it off-limits to construction, the same can be said for any other buildings within the cloud of debris. That would seemingly push construction out of Lower Manhattan altogether, and out of CB1, which approved its siting.

Meanwhile, Oz Sultan, spokesman for the project says that they aren't ruling out obtaining financing from Saudi Arabia or Iran. That's troublesome to say the least, and is a reason to question motivations.

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