Pages: 1 2
Plans for the Ground Zero Mosque are moving forward, but are proceeding more under the radar these days in order to avoid the kind of media spotlight that it received last year.
According to a New York Times puff piece about the project published on August 1, 2011, Sharif El-Gamal, the lead developer and Chairman and CEO of the Manhattan real estate firm Soho Properties, who controls the property at 45-51 Park Place, “has spent the past year trying to regroup.” He is said to be reaching out to the community to receive input into the project’s final design.
There will no longer be any imams as the public religious face of the project, such as Feisal Abdul Rauf or his successor Imam Abdallah Adhami, both of whom stepped down after their past controversial statements and radical Islamist associations were exposed.
Park51, as the so-called community center portion of the project is called, launched a new website in January 2011. It included a link to PrayerSpace, a separate non-profit entity from Park51, whose function is to house a mosque, located at 51 Park Place, that has come to be known as the Ground Zero Mosque. PrayerSpace’s landlord is Soho Properties.
The idea is that Park51 will be the community center open to all with an interfaith space, and PrayerSpace will be the mosque for Muslim prayer services and religious programming. While fund-raising is being done separately for the mosque and the community center, according to the Times article, the same people will oversee both efforts.
Fundraising for Park51 and PrayerSpace is in the beginning stages. The current estimated cost of the project is $120 million. The sponsors have applied for a $5 million federal grant from a fund designed to rebuild lower Manhattan after 9/11, under a “community and cultural enhancement” grant program administered by the Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Corporation.
The Park51 community center portion of the project is being described as inclusive and inter-faith, which is how the sponsors intend to wiggle around the restriction that limits the grant to non-religious activities or uses.
However, when one looks under the facade of the community center, it turns out to be a tightly run Muslim-centric extension of the mosque. The Board of Park51 consists of Sharif El-Gamal (the Chairman and CEO of Soho Properties), Nour Mousa (a partner in Soho Properties) and Sammy El-Gamal (Sharif El-Gamal’s brother). Sharif El-Gamal’s plan is for the Board to eventually consist of 23 members, with 51% Muslims, thereby ensuring that it will be run in accordance with sharia law.
Moreover, buried in the fine print is an idea of how big the PrayerSpace (Ground Zero) mosque will be.
PrayerSpace will accommodate “over 2000 people” according to the PrayerSpace website. To put this in perspective, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in midtown New York can accommodate in the range of 2200 to 2500 people. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York and is the largest decorated gothic-style Catholic Cathedral in the United States.
Pages: 1 2