'Ground Zero' Mosque After All
The New York Post
The Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero that opened with great fanfare a year ago is now an empty space with no community programs.
And while the developers behind Park51 insisted for two years that the project was more than a mosque, it now appears to be just that. Dozens of worshipers gather at the site on Park Place Friday for prayer services -- but that’s the only activity in the building.
Gone are the Arabic classes, workshops in calligraphy, talks on the genealogy of Muslims in America, film screenings and art exhibits. The sole community event is a class in capoeira -- an Afro-Brazilian martial art that combines dance and music. The teacher of the twice-weekly class said she has five students.
“We are the only cultural program that is still there,” said Luz Emma Canas Jesus, of Capoeira Mucurumim.
The Park51 Twitter feed was last updated in June, and its Web site lists no events. The Web site for the mosque, formally called Prayer Space, lists four services a day, and a handwritten note on the building’s window also advertises a 4 a.m. service.
Park51 organizers repeatedly refused to answer questions about what happened to the programs offered last fall and spring. Sharif El-Gamal, the lead developer behind the project, ducked out the women’s entrance for the prayer space and would not speak to a reporter.
Just two years ago, El-Gamal’s grand plans for the site -- a $100 million, 15-story community center and prayer space -- generated worldwide controversy because of its proximity to the Ground Zero site.
At the photography exhibit that kicked off the opening of a scaled-down center in September 2011, El-Gamal admitted he erred in not including families who lost loved ones on Sept. 11 in the planning process.
Development plans are now in limbo over fund-raising for the project and a dispute with Con Ed, which owns half the site. In 2009, El-Gamal’s company bought half the property, which once housed a Burlington Coat Factory store, for $4.8 million, and leased the other half from the utility. It is seeking to buy that part of the property.
Con Ed threatened to evict Park51 a year ago over $1.7 million in unpaid back rent.
El-Gamal’s company then sued Con Ed, claiming its appraisal for the property was wrong and the formula to figure the rent was inaccurate. A judge ruled in Con Ed’s favor on the appraisal, and the rent lawsuit is continuing with the next court date set for Tuesday.
In an interview last year, El-Gamal said he was exploring other uses of the property, including an office tower or condominiums. He said a prayer space would remain part of the project.
READ FULL SOURCE ARTICLE: 12/09/2012
Editor's Note: Deception, or al taqiyya, is a tactic used by fundamentalist Islamists. Read more about it here.
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