New York City’s Ground Zero was flooded with more than a 100 protesters Tuesday, July 13, with the recent announcement of the Cordoba Project, a plan to construct a 13-story mosque and community center near the area where the Twin Towers once stood.
In the way of the Cordoba Project is a 152-year-old Park Place building, which would be knocked down to make way for the mosque. On Tuesday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission held a hearing to discuss whether the Park Place building is worthy to be deemed a historic monument. If the Commission rules to preserve Park Place, the Cordoba Project will be voided.
While the purpose of Tuesday’s hearing was to discuss the historic significance of the building, the real topic of concern was whether a mosque should be built two blocks away from the area that was attacked by Islamic terrorists on September, 11, 2001. During the hearing, some families of 9/11 victims spoke in support of the building’s preservation while others spoke in support of the Cordoba Project and construction of a mosque.
According to DNA info, one man, Gary Phanuf, was removed from the hearing after shouting “Racist bigot” whenever a supporter of the building’s preservation spoke. His sign read: “Stop scapegoating all Muslims for 9/11.” On the contrary, preservation supporter Joseph Reichling compared Muslims to the Japanese who attacked the US during WWII: “To permit this building to be removed would be like removing the sunken ship at Pearl Harbor to erect memorials to kamikaze pilots killed in the attack.”
Republican candidate for New York governor, Rick Lazio, voiced his concerns about the project by calling for an investigation into the Cordoba Project’s funding sources. While the director of the Cordoba Project, Imam Faisel Rauf, would not disclose specific information, the project is known to be a group effort of several mainstream Muslim groups, such as the American Society for Muslim Advancement, whose primary focus is to foster understanding and improved relationships between Islam and the West.
Unlike Lazio, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg supports the building of the Islamic center, asserting that blocking the building of a mosque is un-American, and in direct conflict with America’s religious freedoms.
Debate about the appropriateness of the Cordoba Project clearly took center stage at the Preservation hearing. It’s likely that without the Cordoba project, few people would have been on hand to fight for the survival of the building that has stood in New York for 152 years.
The Landmark Preservation Commission is not expected to vote on the issue until August.