Mosqueing Ground Zero at Warped Speed
New York officials are violating protocol to build a mega mosque at Ground Zero. They are ramming it through in warped speed, removing every obstacle to expedite the process in order to meet its stated opening date of September 11, 2011, the tenth anniversary of the terror attacks.
On Tuesday, the Landmarks Commission is expected to deny landmark status for 45 Park Place, the site for the proposed mosque.
Why the hurry? So that the mosque can open on the tenth anniversary of September 11, as promised? Would they do this for a church? A synagogue? This is an outrage.
Last Wednesday night, on less than a week and a half’s notice (at a time when most people who care are not even around), the Lower Manhattan Community Board 1 Landmark Commission held a meeting to consider the landmark status of 45-47 Park Place.
Refusing to wait until the entire board could meet, seven board members voted to deny landmark status to the Burlington Coat Factory building, removing another obstacle to Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s mosque.
Yet the historical significance of the property is clear: the famous architect Daniel D. Badger designed the building. A number of his buildings have already been given landmark status. The New York Times obituary of Badger from Nov. 19, 1884 called him “the pioneer of this country in the use of iron for building purposes.”
More importantly, this building has special historical significance because of 9/11. It was part of the attack. The landing gear from one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center towers fell onto the Burlington Coat Factory building, through the roof to the basement. The fact that the commission ignores that fact is outrageous, and disrespects the victims of 9/11.
The Lower Manhattan landmark commission unanimously (with one recusal) voted Wednesday to recommend to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) that landmark status be denied.
The stated basis for the decision was that the LPC had not recommended landmark status for other architecturally and aesthetically significant buildings in the neighborhood—which is patently untrue.
Compare, for example, two Lower Manhattan buildings: 45 Park Place, which is the Ground Zero mosque site, and 311 Broadway. 311 Broadway was granted landmark status in January 2010 by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Bob Tierney, chairperson of the commission, said at the time: “It’s one of the few remaining palazzo-style buildings on Broadway in Lower Manhattan.”
Yet both buildings are Italian Renaissance, palazzo-style architecture in the same neighborhood. Why is one being granted landmark status and the other being denied that status?
That’s a rhetorical question, of course. The answer is that the Landmarks Commission members are all appointees of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg , who is refusing to meet opponents of the mosque including family members of 9/11 victims and is allowing key motions to be decided on a week’s notice in the middle of the summer.
The building at 45 Park Place has special historical significance because of 9/11. It was part of the attack. The fact that the landing gear from one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center towers fell onto the Burlington Coat Factory building make that building an important part of American history. That the committee ignores that fact is outrageous and disrespects the victims of 9/11.
The Lower Manhattan Community Board actually favored landmark status decades ago, but now is disregarding the increased historical and cultural significance of the property. They are rushing to deny this property landmark status so that a mosque can be constructed for the tenth anniversary of 9/11, even though the Freedom Tower that will be built where the World Trade Center once stood has been kicked around for nearly a decade as a political football.
At the very least, due process demands that this vote be delayed so that the community has a full opportunity to be heard. One phone call from the mayor’s office could get this vote tabled, so that the legal team for the Coalition for the Preservation of Ground Zero could prepare the case for landmark status. Considering the sudden rush to schedule this all-important vote, it seems a small accommodation.
Does this not deserve further investigation? The only thing worse than Bloomberg’s pernicious callousness, in his refusal to meet with the 911 families on this issue, is the media’s silence. Where are those architectural elitist effetes at the New York Times, who take themselves and their expertise so seriously?