Open Phones: Lower Manhattan Residents on Park51

Friday, August 20, 2010

The controversy over the proposed development of the Park51 Islamic cultural center continues, with voices from around the country weighing in. But what about those who live within a few blocks of the proposed site? We take calls from lower Manhattan residents.

Comments [36]

amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

@ Said in Manhattan -

You write: Rauf "is open about his support of Sharia trumping Laws of State. He envisions the establishment of Sharia in the United States. This proposed “Cultural Center” is a Mission and you, dear neighbor, either are converted or dhimmi. I abhor the tenets of the Qur'an and Sharia. I am an apostate. I am opposed to US/NYS/NYC government involvement in this matter."

First off, I think your characterization of Rauf is wrong. Secondly, let's say you're characterizations was correct: Who cares?

I don't know how many times I have to say it, it doesn't matter what laws Rauf or you, Said, or anyone else wants - sharia or otherwise - because only U.S. laws and constitution matter.

The fact that you are afforded the right to be an apostate (and I, the right to be a non-believer after being raised Christian) is because of the the 2nd Amend., an amend. that also gives right to the Cordoba Initiative.

You have all the 1st Amend. rights to speak out and oppose it being built based on your abhorrence, but that doesn't make a whit of difference on what is allowed or not.

Finally, when American Muslims are less than 1% of the population, why are you so worried? What's it to you? Where do you think you live: Lebanon? France? The Netherlands? The UK?

Obviously you have confused legal frameworks, culture, and demographics...

Aug. 23 2010 10:02 AM
Laurie Spiegel from Tribeca

It is heartening to have heard such support for the Cordoba Center (which I don't think should even have compromised on its name), which I very much support. It is much more disheartening to hear that over 60% of New Yorkers oppose it. Here are 2 good sources of stuff very much worth thinking about:

The Muslims in the Middle

Keith Olbermann Special Comment

Aug. 21 2010 02:12 AM
Said in Manhattan

I have lived and worked in the neighborhood for 18 years. I would like to clarify 2 sets of facts:
1. The old Burlington Coat Factory building is a quick 2 block walk up West Broadway from the old World Trade Center. Rubble from the collapsing WTC damaged the building and all who were standing outside at the time of the collapse had to flee for their lives and were caught by the waves of ash and debris that covered the neighborhood.
2.The plans proposed by Sharif El-Gamal, the Cordoba Initiative and American Society for Muslim Advancement contain a "prayer space" large enough to accommodate 2000 people. There are no plans, currently, for that "prayer space" to function as a space for the prayers or services of any group other than Muslims.
Given #1, the development is at the so-called Ground Zero site. Why deny that?
Given # 2, the project is a Mosque. Why deny that?
Personally, I agree with Raheel Raza: "building a mosque at Ground Zero is equivalent to permitting a Serbian Orthodox church near the killing fields of Srebrenica where 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered."
This “Ground Zero Mosque” was named for the conquered city of Cordoba. Feisal Abdul Rauf, the founder of The Cordoba Initiative, takes pride in that, after invading & conquering the region, the Caliphate allowed Christians and Jews to serve as advisers to the Caliphs, and go about their lives - as long as they did not resist the Caliphate. If you speak Arabic you will know that Feisal Abdul's speeches and interviews in Arabic conflict with statements he makes in English. He is open about his support of Sharia trumping Laws of State. He envisions the establishment of Sharia in the United States. This proposed “Cultural Center” is a Mission and you, dear neighbor, either are converted or dhimmi. I abhor the tenets of the Qur'an and Sharia. I am an apostate. I am opposed to US/NYS/NYC government involvement in this matter. I hope that Informed citizens civilly will resist this establishment of this insidious, Political Da‘wah. Dear neighbor, I invite you to read the Qur'an:,quran-uthmani&ver=2.00 Ask the Hujjah Feisal: How much time? 4 months? 4 years?

Aug. 20 2010 07:38 PM

@ Alvin: You're comparison of Islamic symbols to the Confederate flag is tenuous, at best.

In addition, US imams should not have to have a national meeting every time a terrorist attacks occurs and then issue a press release proving that they still love the USA. We don't expect every minister and priest to issue a disavowel when an extremist Christian murders doctors or bombs a clinic. Why should imams do so?

Aug. 20 2010 02:53 PM
Laura from UWS

The radio segment was so good that it really deserves being transcribed and posted on the web.
Or, having a written report about it. Really.

I feel bad that so much really important material on Brian's and Leonard's shows isn't put in a form that can read quickly and easily and be distributed widely. Or published for posterity.

Aug. 20 2010 01:44 PM
James from Manhattan


Could you do a show on the application of the term "hallowed" ground to the former WTC site. I find it difficult to stomach personally because we never use the same term to describe the many places around the world where the US has murdered tens of thousands or millions of civilians for our political goals. Why is that? It's so deeply hypocritical. There are entire countries, for example Cambodia, which we should term "hallowed" in discussion because of the horrific destruction and mass murder the US perpetrated.

Why not bring this topic up on your show? I'm guessing it might be a bit challenging for you personally and for the listening public, but the hypocrisy of our society needs to be addressed.

Aug. 20 2010 12:50 PM
Alvin from Manhattan

Marilyn, comment about "processing" the "trauma" makes nice psychobabble, but it's not the issue. The 9/11 WTC attack was one of several inspired by Bin Laden's fatwa against the U.S., which was signed onto by several Middle East imams. I have never seen a gathering of local imams refuting that fatwa, or issuing their own fatwa re attacks on the U.S. We do know that at least one local imam has supported attacks on the U.S.; remember the first attack on the WTC? I could "process" the "trauma" if the local imams would issue a fatwa and declare a "day of shame", saying it is un-Islamic for American Muslims to attack the U.S. In the meantime, I suggest you advise the African-American community on how to "process" the "trauma" of seeing a Confederate flag on a southern state government building. Should they just "process it"? Some symbols are inappropriate.

Aug. 20 2010 12:36 PM
jess from South End Ave.

A lifelong resident of Battery Park City, I grew up quite literally in the shadow of WTC.

It bears mentioning that we, the residents of Tribeca and BPC, relive 9/11 on a daily basis. We remember how it smelled, the grit it left in our lungs. We pass it on our way to work or school as we dodge throngs of tourists eager for a whiff of the tragedy. We see the hollow gash of ground zero from our windows. We all struggle together to reconcile our feelings with the bitter reality we see every day. And most importantly, nearly all of us envision a future for the site that transcends political rhetoric, bureaucratic maneuvering, and the endless delays in planning and execution. If we support Park51 (and overwhelmingly, we do), that is enough.

Aug. 20 2010 12:27 PM
Alvin from Manhattan

This is not a question merely for Tribeca residents. Lower Manhattan is primarily a commercial area, and most people working there are from the greater metro region. The vast majority of 9/11 victims were NOT from Tribeca. Brian Lehrer's thesis that the opposition increases as you get farther from the WTC may be true, but it is irrelevant. Tribeca is a highly affluent area that is not representative of the daytime population of the financial district, unless you think the average NYer can afford a loft on North Moore St. All NYers will be forced to provide financial support for the Islamic center/mosque by granting tax-exempt status for its valuable site. The relatively few residents of the general area shouldn't have a disproportionate influence over a part of Manhattan that has so much meaning to residents of the entire region.

Aug. 20 2010 12:07 PM
Marilyn LaMonica from NYC

As a psychoanalyst I would like to add something about the mosque controversy that may be contributing to differing responses to trauma that goes beyond politics of issue. One response when trauma is not processed is to get rid of the threat altogether (= no "mosque" in area). This leads to annihilating kinds of thinking, that cannot be sustained, and has to be repeated more and more vociferously, or at its worse turns to physical violence.
When trauma is processed it allows for more flexible thinking and tolerant responses. Is it possible that those who remained in Tribeca area were better able to process the trauma?

Aug. 20 2010 12:02 PM

Ground Zero is quite 'hollowed ground' unfortunately.

Aug. 20 2010 11:53 AM
TC from Queens

I support it. The center and 9/11 I guess is not related unless it is supported by Al Queda.

If not allow it to be built there, it shouldn't be built anywhere. Or simply get all Muslim out of USA...because all who oppose this idea probably think Muslim is responsible for 9/11.

Aug. 20 2010 11:52 AM
Clif from Mid-town

I think we're in a conundrum with this Islamic Cultural Center. While I completely agree with religious freedom, there's a point where we could possibly be foolish in letting this center be built.

Maybe I'm just paranoid, but there seems to be an inherent danger that this could be some weird terrorist plot to gain more of a foothold in the US and establish a "sleeper" cell. I mean if I were a terrorist, it would seem to be the ultimate mind screw to set up a center in the country of the "infidel" where you could then plan and execute diabolic plots.

To me, it's a hard call and I'm glad that people are talking about it and being honest. Everyone's concerns are legitimate and need to be taken seriously. The more extreme xenophobes out there are [justifiably] just really scared and concerned.

Aug. 20 2010 11:52 AM

Reading and listening to the comments, I just want to say, I love New Yorkers!!!!

Thank you for your patriotism as expressed by the majority of the comments that are for keeping the integrity of the constitution and the American way of life strong and intact.

Aug. 20 2010 11:51 AM
david4shoes from NYC

Ground Zero is NOT hollowed ground its a crime scene! No religion, no god, not sacred, criminals did that and the results of they're labor is a crime and a police matter and not something to think of as anything else but a crime scene. Should the 90% of the Japanese cities we fired bombed all be considered sacred places? What about Nagasaki and Hiroshima?

Aug. 20 2010 11:48 AM
amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

Hear, hear! I second the move to conduct _national_ polls for the zoning of local strip malls.

Sam, from Chelsea - I believe you're on to something!

Aug. 20 2010 11:47 AM
athar from nj

thank you for getting some sane voices on the air.

Aug. 20 2010 11:47 AM
fposki from Red Bank, NJ

The Nazis (past and present) are to Christianity as the 9/11 terrorists are to Islam.

The Nazis were Christians. Would anyone complain if a Christian church were built near (not in) Auschwitz?

Aug. 20 2010 11:45 AM

I've been working and going to school in Tribeca and at WTC since about 1998.

I don't like it I really don't. It would feel like "they won". However, I don't think there's a reasonable basis to prevent this, and I suppose I don't want them to be prevented from going ahead; that would be wrong. (As long as it really is like the 92d St Y and anyone can participate/join.)

The Sufi bookstore was great.

Aug. 20 2010 11:45 AM
Sam from Chelsea

I think we should poll the entire nation every time a locality anywhere in the USA wants to build another strip mall.

Aug. 20 2010 11:42 AM
David Siskin from NYC

Ground Zero is NOT hollowed ground, NOT a religious place, sacred place or anything other than a crime scene! What the terrorists did was a crime, period. The hypocrisy has to stop, we're a free country or not.

Aug. 20 2010 11:42 AM
Smokey from LES

Apparently the majority of those against the mosque don't listen to Brian Lehrer! Where are they all?

Aug. 20 2010 11:41 AM

Brian, please stop calling it a mosque. The proposed development is NOT a mosque. It is an Islamic community center. By continuing to call it a mosque, you perpetuate the ignorance of those who oppose it.

Aug. 20 2010 11:40 AM
dba from nyc

Simply put, by claiming that "yes, you have a constitutional right to practice your religion as you choose, but it is inappropriate to build the mosque/community center two blocks – and not on the actual site – from ground zero (or X, for that matter), defeats the purpose of such a constitutional right. It is tantamount to saying "you have the constitutional right to practice your religion as long as I approve of how and where you do it". Claiming that the developers should move the center because 60 or 70% of the public is opposed is irrelevant. The Bill of Rights was written precisely to protect unpopular minorities or unpopular ideas from the wishes/sensitivities of the majority. There are Muslim American citizens who are fighting in the military for this country. To say to them that it is inappropriate to build their house of worship because a non-Muslim majority is offended is to relegate them to second class citizens who must acquiesce and appease the majority.

Aug. 20 2010 11:40 AM
J from NYC

If this center is built, it may be the site of real conversations about religious freedom and our constitution, it might be a real living Memorial.

Aug. 20 2010 11:39 AM
Bowery Boy from the bowery

I may not live close enough for this segment, but my question is: by blaming all of Islam for 9/11 (as those against the cultural center are), aren't we letting Al Queda off the hook?

We need to be focused on who did this to us on 9/11 - Al Queda!

Aug. 20 2010 11:39 AM
dba from nyc

Furthermore, to say that well, it's OK to have a mosque elsewhere but not two blocks from Ground Zero because it is hallowed ground and insults the 9/11 families and their lost loved ones. While their loss is tragic and requires compassionate sympathy, it is equally an insulting to Muslims who had nothing to do with the attacks to ascribes collective guilt upon them because they happen to be Muslims. Quite frankly, the subtle distinction between the mosque two blocks away – an abomination – and one built in midtown which would be acceptable, is lost on me. As has already been reported, there has been a mosque within 4 blocks for years. Should that structure be razed? As a Jew, I am appalled by this rhetoric and the Anti-Defamation Leatgue’s participation in it. I am sure that no Jewish American group would accept objections to the building of their community center/synagogue because it would be offensive to whomever for whatever reason. In the pages of this newspaper, I often read readers’ comments about “Jewish baby killers, Zionist thugs” and other such epithets in articles about the Isaeli-Palestenian conflict. Just as I do not want to be lumped and classified this way, so I do not want to do the same to other religious groups.

Aug. 20 2010 11:39 AM
Roberta from union square

Seems like those against the Mosque don't understand the location, the separation of religion and extremists, and the USA - what is the Freedom we're so proud of? Not the freedom to be hypocrites when it suits us because of News hype and incomplete facts.

Aug. 20 2010 11:38 AM
dba from nyc

I am sure that white segregationists were deeply offended when they were compelled to sit at a lunch counter or on the bus next to a black person. I’m sure they wanted to say to black people “you have the right to eat at a restaurant, but just not sitting next to me”. It is a sad day that the “American exceptionalism” that the so many Americans so love to vaunt is reduced to this.

It was reported this morning that a construction worker wants to start a movement to refuse to work on the site. Such hysterical demonization that is underlying all this rhetoric is creating an atmosphere that is probably akin to the environment that preceded the rise of Nazi Germany, and that ultimately contributed to the final solution implemented in the concentration camps. The great ideals of freedom and liberty that was the foundation of this great nation are being eroded day by day with this kind of propaganda, and the cowardly way in which the politicians are jumping on the bandwagon and leading the charge. Bloomberg had it right, probably because both are a Jew and remembers what Jews have suffered, something the Anti-Defamation League has evidently forgotten.

Aug. 20 2010 11:38 AM

I've worked in Tribecca since graduating college in May of 2001. I am absolutely embarrassed that Americans and New Yorkers alike are so up in arms about this mosque. I support the mosque 100%.

Aug. 20 2010 11:36 AM
Rudi from Queens

So most people upstate and nationwide are offended by the "mosque." Big deal. 99% of them don't know what it is, don't know the neighborhood, don't know the true history of the situation, don't know the true nature of the proposed community center, don't even know what Ground Zero looks like.

I have a friend who would have been in the WTC if she had arrived at work at her usual time. She is opposed to the "mosque." (Which even she puts in quotes.) I respect her opinion and give it great weight, but as a fellow New Yorker, I disagree with it.

I'm so sick of these "surveys" that have no provision for "I don't know" or "not important to me" or "yes and no" or "maybe." Maybe they should combine these as an option for "I don't know what I'm talking about but I have an opinion anyway"?

Last week I got a flurry of survey calls. I don't give anonymous, unverifiable surveyers my opinions, so right away, if those surveys were legitimate they are skewed. But I debriefed one caller. He was pretty clueless about his job, but told me the survey was really important to the improvement of things here in my Queens neighborhood (which he named several times). Then he said the survey was being done for some guy running for office in Montana!

And then there is CNN, where, when you send them an email with a suggestion, an error correction, a thought, anything, you MUST check a button indicating whether your message is "for" or "against."

What we need is more people who are not embarrassed to say they don't know, but not proud of it, either, and to get the polarizing factors designed OUT of the system, not in.

Aug. 20 2010 11:34 AM
Robert Moore from Tribeca, New York NY

I live close to the proposed cultural center, (Reade Street) and I support the building of the center. I reject the name 'mosque' it is a cultural center with a large number of community facilties which will be very welcome and which will be used by all faiths and beliefs. The fact that it has a prayer room no more makes it a mosque than a chapel in a hospital makes that a church. In the larger picture, there are estimated to be more than 1.5 billion Moslems in the world and we have to find a way of coexisting with them both here and in the rest of the world. The fact that a very small number of them are extremists cannot be used to condemn all the rest. It would so much help if people would listen to the objectives of the Cordoba Institute and the American Moslem community representatives intead of jumping to ill-informed conclusions.

Aug. 20 2010 11:19 AM
Alex from New York

I have lived in Tirbeca my entire life. The fact that this Muslim Community Center has become a national issue is ridiculous. As someone who experienced 9/11 firsthand, I in no way see this Muslim Community Center as a "9/11 Victory Mosque." Opposition to the proposed mosque is not only unconstitutional, but downright racist.

Aug. 20 2010 11:15 AM

Muslim Employee: Disney Banned Her Head Scarf
A Muslim woman who works as a hostess at a Disneyland restaurant alleged the theme park would not allow her to wear her hijab in front of customers. Disney says the scarf was not a part of her costume and the decision was not discriminatory.

Aug. 20 2010 11:15 AM
Fred Gates from NYC

Consider this:

MSM as usual didn't really fact check anything.

Report: Controversial NYC Mosque May Never Be Built

Aug. 20 2010 11:09 AM

how do we honor the 911 dead? invite the chinese into the unFREEDOM TOWER

why did we rebuild?

Aug. 20 2010 09:46 AM

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