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New Strategy For Ground Zero Mosque
by JanSuzanne Krasner
The Park51 project for a 15-story mosque/community center at Ground Zero, led by developer Sharif El-Gamal and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, has dwindled down to a much smaller vision, a four or five-story 'PrayerSpace' and community center. This may be a far cry from their original plan, but many are bewildered as to why they are still moving ahead with any planned mosque at this site, given the tremendous negative opinion most Americans have of its location.
Sharif El-Gamal believes in his vision and he is committed to its location at Ground Zero. He admits that the introduction of his idea to the general public was "backwards" and now he is "going back to basics." He believes that he is acquiescing to the community's desire for the building not to tower over Ground Zero and states: "If the community only wants four or five floors, it's going to be four or five floors." This new shorter version will still require El-Gamal to raise about $10 million. He believes that depending on the community board's recommendations could take as much as five years before there are any changes to the Burlington Coat Factory building site.
Meanwhile, in spite of El-Gamal's insistence that he'd like to work with the community, the chairperson of the Community Board, Julie Menin, said that he has not responded to several of her requests to meet to discuss the plans that they would like to see implemented at 45-51 Park Place. Although the community board is not as interested in the blueprints of the building, they do want to have input into the public activities the center will offer. Menin commented: "A tremendous number of young families need services, like classes, recreation and athletic centers."
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