Con Ed Sells Building Near Ground Zero Where Plans for Mosque Caused Uproar

August 21, 2014

Consolidated Edison, which once owned the nuclear reactors at Indian Point, has finally unloaded a property that may have been the source of even more controversy.

The utility company notified state regulators this week that it had sold the site of a proposed Islamic cultural center in Lower Manhattan that came to be known as the “ground zero mosque.” Con Edison has not used the building since 1969, but the company got caught in the uproar over the proposal when it surfaced nearly five years ago.

By then, Con Edison had been nothing more than the landlord for the building at 49-51 Park Place, about two blocks north of the World Trade Center. It was close enough to the twin towers destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001, that a wing flap from one of the crashed jets was found there last year.

That proximity to a place where more than 2,700 people were killed by terrorists set off a national debate about the plan for a mosque and Islamic cultural center on the property. The developer, Soho Properties, eventually abandoned that idea and now plans to build a three-story museum dedicated to Islam on the Con Ed site and a condominium tower on an adjacent lot, 45 Park Place, Roxanne Donovan, a spokeswoman for the developer, said on Wednesday. (The museum would contain a sanctuary for prayer services.)

That plan has been years in the making and it is still not clear if Sharif El-Gamal, the chief executive of Soho Properties, has the financing necessary to move forward. But he cleared one of the hurdles at the end of July, when he bought the Con Edison property for $10.7 million, Ms. Donovan said.

Even that transaction was fraught, though. Soho Properties had been leasing the property until it decided in 2010 to buy it from Con Ed. The utility set the price at $10.7 million, but the developer challenged that valuation in court. After a judge in State Supreme Court in Manhattan confirmed the valuation, the developer appealed.

In a statement issued by Ms. Donovan, Mr. El-Gamal said: “We are pleased to have concluded a complex acquisition from Con Edison allowing us to complete the assemblage for our upcoming developments at Park Place. This further exemplifies our strength as a buyer of real estate from institutional sellers.”

The latest proposal for the Con Ed site, disclosed in late April, called for a “museum and sanctuary space” designed by the architect Jean Nouvel and “dedicated to exploring the faith of Islam and its arts and culture.”

At the time, Hank Sheinkopf, a spokesman for Mr. El-Gamal, said the developer was not anticipating an outcry similar to the one that erupted over his plan for a much larger Islamic community center and prayer space.

Queens street renamed for Mohammed Salman Hamdani, a Muslim police cadet who died helping victims at the World Trade Center on 9/11

Hamdani, born to Muslim parents from Pakistan, was initially the subject of leaks suggesting that he was a possible suspect in the attacks

A police cadet who died helping World Trade Center victims on 9/11 was honored Monday at a Queens street renaming — 13 years after being accused of involvement in the attacks.

Residents and elected officials came together to formally rename 204th St. at 35th Ave. “Salman Hamdani Way” after Mohammed Salman Hamdani, the son of Muslim immigrants from Pakistan who lived a block from the Bayside street.

“It’s a joyous and victorious day,” said Talat Hamdani, the mother of the police cadet, who died at the age of 23. “And it’s a turning point in America’s fight against prejudice and bigotry. It symbolizes that OK, American Muslims are also Americans, and we are an integral part of society.”

Hamdani’s name was initially tarred by leaks to the press from anonymous police sources suggesting he was suspected of ties to terrorists, but was eventually given a funeral with full police honors in April 2002, a month after his remains were found in the wreckage at Ground Zero.

Residents and merchants cheered the new street sign on 204th Street at 35th Avenue, one block from the house where the former Bayside High School football player grew up.

“It’s a great idea,” said Gidon Pesso, owner of Pesso’s Italian Ices across the street. “He should definitely be recognized.”

Site of proposed Ground Zero mosque may become a museum

The developer who sparked a firestorm in 2010 when he proposed to build a community center with an Islamic prayer room two blocks from Ground Zero announced this week that he plans to turn the property at 45-51 Park Place into a museum of Islamic culture.

A spokesman for the developer, Sharif El-Gamal, told The New York Times that the proposed museum would be three stories high and 5,000 square feet, much smaller than the proposed community center, which was slated to be 15 stories tall and include a swimming pool, basketball court, auditorium, classrooms, and cafe, as well as other attractions.

El-Gamal ran into difficulties finding financing for the community center project, even though the project won the support of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, several 9/11 families, and many Muslim, Christian, and Jewish leaders. It languished after becoming the target of criticism from right-wing groups, anti-Muslim activists, and several other 9/11 families.

The museum project has already come under fire by anti-Muslim bloggers Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, who vigorously fought the community center.

New poll finds Americans evenly divided in views of Muslims

Americans are almost evenly divided in how they view Muslims, according to a survey released Thursday (Aug. 23) by the Arab American Institute in Washington.

But the online survey, which also gauged views on Mormons, Jews, Catholics, evangelicals, Buddhists and Hindus also found a striking generational gap and significant differences between political groups.

“The American Divide: How We View Arabs And Muslims,” found that 41 percent of Americans had unfavorable views of Muslims, compared to 40 percent who held favorable views.

That’s an improvement from 2010, when another Arab American Institute survey found that 55 percent of Americans viewed Muslims unfavorably, compared to 35 percent with favorable views. The latest poll surveyed 1,052 people between August 15-16.

Professor Jack Levin, co-director of the Center on Violence and Conflict at Northeastern University, attributed the spike in anti-Muslim sentiment in 2010 to protests against a proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero. “That effect has been fading over time,” Levin said.

The report, which had a margin of error of 3.1 percent, also found that 42 percent of Americans thought Muslims could do a good job in government, while 32 percent said they could not because their loyalty was suspect.

Nearly six in 10 Americans said they don’t know a Muslim compared to three in 10 who said they did, while the rest were unsure. People who knew Muslims were more likely to have favorable views of them.

Interview with Islamic Studies Scholar Kaddor

11.09.2011

In light of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Deutsch Türkische Nachrichten interviewed Lamya Kaddor, a scholar of Islamic studies of Syrian origins and actively involved in introducing Islamic education in German public schools, about her recent visit to New York and Ground Zero and the scaremongering by Interior Minister Friedrich. Kaddor thinks the 9/11 attacks have sensitized people to Islam – both in a negative as well as positive way. On a recent trip to New York, Kaddor was surprised by the relatively relaxed atmosphere in the US. She describes Ground Zero as a busy, yet peaceful place, where the presence of Muslims is not considered to be problematic.

 

Asked about Interior Minister Friedrich’s recent announcement that Germany is home to an estimated 1,000 Islamic terrorists, Kaddor criticises this form of scaremongering for political benefits. While such comments do not support the actual debate about Islamism and terror in Germany, they may be used (or rather, abused) to justify the implementation of certain policies.

 

As a teacher, Kaddor works with children that were born shortly before or after 9/11 and, therefore, do not have any direct (and first-hand) associations with the attacks. When talking about the attacks in class, Kaddor observes that some students cannot construct the links between what they hear and see and reality; for many of them, the events seem more like abstracts from an action-movie.

Canadian Justin Bieber weighs in on Ground Zero mosque

Justin Bieber was seven when 9/11 shattered North America’s sense of national security. Why, then, would the Canadian pop star weigh into the politically fraught debate about Park51, the controversial mosque under construction near Ground Zero? Andy Sullivan, the founder of the 9/11 Hard Hat Pledge — which asks construction workers to turn down any jobs on the New York City site — says Bieber spoke out in favour of the mosque. The comments were in the December issue of Tiger Beat magazine, he said. Mr. Sullivan shared the news with his two children and has banned them from attending any future Bieber concerts.

The only citations available are from CelebJihad.com, a satirical blog. “Muslims should be allowed to build a mosque anywhere they want,” the singer said. “Coming from Canada, I’m not used to this level of intolerance, eh.” Bieber went on to say that Muslims are “super cool,” Christians are “lame-o-rama,” and that the mosque will help “start a dialogue” with all religions about which Justin Bieber song is the most awesome, the site said.

Koran Burner Derek Fenton Booted From His Job at NJ Transit

New Jersey Transit fired an employee, Derek Fenton, for burning a Koran in Lower Manhattan on Sept. 11 in his off-duty hours. Derek Fenton’s 11-year career at the agency came to an abrupt halt Monday after photographs of him ripping pages from the Muslim holy book and setting them ablaze appeared in newspapers. Fenton was apparently inspired by Pastor Terry Jones (the Florida clergyman who threatened to burn the Koran that day who later changed his mind) did indeed burn the book during a protest on the ninth anniversary of Sept 11 outside of Park 51, where the controversial mosque slated to build near Ground Zero.

The incidence has sparked a debate on free speech and if public workers are limited to express such rights.

Dutch Politician Speaks at Ground Zero

September 11 2010

On the ninth anniversary of September 11 2010, dueling protests broke out over a mosque planned near Ground Zero. While initially 1,500 people gathered in favour of a Muslim organization’s right to build a community center, 2000 later demonstrated specifically against the mosque construction. This group was addressed by Dutch MP Geert Wilders whose 15 minute speech urged the crowd, “this is where we have to draw the line… so that New York… will never become New Mecca”.
Around 20% of the Dutch population approves of anti-Islam politician Geert Widers. The statistics form part of an annual survey into attitudes towards terrorism, whose findings also indicate that 40% of those interviewed say they fear the Netherlands will be be hit by a terrorist in the near future.’ Although few people in New York have heard of him, Dutch politicians awaited Wilders’ speech because of its implications for the ongoing formation talks for national parliament.=

No Compromise on Religious Freedom

When it comes to the mosque that’s neither too close to Ground Zero for its proponents nor far enough away for its opponents, the disturbing word “compromise” is now being tossed around. It has been suggested by New York Gov. David Paterson, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan and, in Sunday’s Post, Karen Hughes, once an important adviser to George W. Bush. These are all well-meaning people, but they do not understand that in this case, the difference between compromise and defeat is nonexistent.

The World is Watching

America’s reputation for religious tolerance and decency has taken a terrible hit with this brouhaha over the proposed mosque near Ground Zero. It is a self-inflicted wound, aided in no small part by the Tea Party and the fear-mongers at Fox News who never miss an opportunity to summon the darker aspects of our nature for political purposes. All this in the name of a higher patriotism, of course.