When the Light Changed from Yellow to Green for Ground Zero Mosque

lmarks When the Light Changed from Yellow to Green for Ground Zero Mosque

The media crowd outnumbered the Landmarks Preservation Commission 10 to one at the Tuesday morning vote for 45-47 Park Place.

The five-story building—a prominent example of the store and loft structures that dominated the drygoods warehouse districts of Lower Manhattan—is just not worthy of landmark status, the commissioners agreed. And it’s not the Commission’s job to consider anything else, members reiterated in short speeches before voting 9-0 to take the site off its list.

But the continued media spectacle—with around 90 reporters and camera crew crammed into a theater at Pace University—surrounds the potential mosque and Muslim community center that 45-47 Park Place’s owners plan to build on the site close to Ground Zero. With the Commission in agreement that the site does not meet their standards for an individual landmark, the developers essentially have the first green light to go forward with the plan.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made his support for the mosque very clear, and is joining City Council Christine Quinn on Governor’s Island at noon to likely applaud the vote.

“I’ve come to conclude that 45-47 Park Place does not rise to level of an individual landmark,” Landmarks Chairman Bob Tierney said, arguing that it clearly falls short, especially compared to other nearby buildings more worthy of recognition.

“It fits in with the streetscape and its neighbors, but it does not really stand out,” added commissioner Frederick Bland. “We do not know who designed the building.”

In a relatively lengthy speech, Commissioner Christopher Moore reflected on the horror of 9/11, but ultimately agreed that the site did not rise to their standards. He remembered coming out of the subway and seeing the scene unfold. “I had just come out of the subway to hear the explosion,” he said. “Pieces were shooting out of the building.” But, “I don’t want to confuse the issues,” he said. “It is not directly on Ground Zero, but it is a part of Ground Zero, and that’s what gives its address, its space, great significance.”

He continued though, “We do not landmark the sky.”

The meeting was not as heated as the three-hour public hearing in July where anyone could speak up. But there were some screams and shouts from audience members before the commissioners could hurry off-stage.

Then chaos ensued as reporters tripped over each other to interview members of the public, and security attempted to usher the crowds out of the building.

“It’s a 9/11 victory mosque,” said Linda Rivera, a Manhattan resident who held up a sign that read, “Don’t glorify murders of 3,000.”

Another opponent, Andy Sullivan, added, “It’s hurtful to the memory of those people.”

For others supporting the mosque, this kind of criticism is completely baseless.

“I think it’s a victory for American liberty,” Zead Ramadan, board president on the Council on American Islamic Relations-New York, told The Observer after the vote. “This process was objective and not influenced by the rhetoric of hate and fear.”

As for the loud protesters, Mr. Ramadan said they were very misinformed.

“I feel sorry for them,” he said.  

slevin@observer.com

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