The police are continuing to investigate plane landing gear—which they believe is from one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001—found between two buildings blocks from the WTC site. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly described the piece as being around 5 feet by 4 feet by 17 inches, discovered in a “very, very narrow, confined area” between 51 Park Place and 50 Murray Street: “It’s difficult to get in there and see.”
Kelly said there was rope tied to one part of the gear, raising the possibility that it had been lowered. He added there weren’t marks on the buildings: “It would have had to fall down at a certain angle.” The location happens to be near where a controversial mosque and community center has been planned. The Post reports, “A lawyer for the proposed ‘Park51’ mosque claimed the landing gear was planted by opponents of the project — a theory Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said cops would explore.”
The object was noticed by surveyors (hired by the owners of 51 Park Place) yesterday who then contacted the police. Kelly also added, “If you see how confined this space is, and you realize the chaos that existed down here on this street, it’s not surprising. It’s very, very confined. No cleanup went on in this 18-inch space between these two buildings.”
It’s been a long while since the Park51 mosque saw headlines made in one form or another. The planned mosque and community center on Park Place in Manhattan certainly got tons of attention a few years ago when Imam Feisel Rauf along with developer Sharif El-Gamal announced plans to turn the buildings at 51 and 53 Park Place into a mosque and community center.
Revelations about the plan immediately became a cause celebre for the likes of Pamela Geller and other Islamophobes who claimed that the mosque was part of Ground Zero or would otherwise tower over the Ground Zero site. Their obnoxious and noxious claims about the development plans and the site made headlines, but their opposition did not stop the plan from moving forward in NYC bureaucracies for building permits and landmarks preservation.
Yet, far from towering over Ground Zero (where 1WTC is now the tallest building in New York City, and will soon be the tallest skyscraper in North America), the site has languished as donations haven’t reached a critical mass to begin construction, there’s been a longstanding fight with Con Ed over rent payments for part of the property, and now comes word that two of the donors are suing the Imam over siphoning off donations to fund a lavish lifestyle.
The ex-‘Ground Zero’ imam, his pockets stuffed with donations given to Islamic nonprofits, splurged on a high-flying lifestyle that included expensive trips with a New Jersey gal pal, a stunning new lawsuit charges.
The married Feisal Abdul Rauf fleeced the Malaysian government for $3 million and a Westchester County couple for $167,000, according to a lawsuit filed by the couple, businessman Robert Deak and his wife Moshira Soliman.
The money was given to help Rauf’s two nonprofits, the Cordoba Initiative and the American Society for Muslim Advancement, which work to combat anti-Islamic sentiment.
Instead, the controversial imam used some of the cash to provide lavish gifts and getaways to a woman identified as Evelyn Adorno, who shared ‘a personal relationship with Rauf,’ said Deak’s attorney, Jonathan Nelson.
Adorno lives in North Bergen, N.J. — the same town as the 64-year-old imam and his wife, Daisy Khan.
The rest of the cash was spent on a luxury sports car, personal real estate and entertainment for the imam and his wife, charges the 11-page lawsuit.
Park 51 has been open for religious services since last year, but hasn’t been open as a community center, and the building hasn’t undergone any of the construction that required Landmarks Preservation Committee approval to the exterior. It’s essentially using the space as it has been since not long after the 9/11 attacks. The exterior is unchanged and interior spaces haven’t been reconfigured either.
The Daily News also reviewed documents about Cordoba and intimated that there might be tax fraud or avoidance:
Cordoba reported no revenue in a 2006 tax filing and just $15,000 in gifts, grants and contributions in a 2007 filing, even though the Deak Family Foundation reported giving Cordoba $38,000 in 2006 and $30,000 in 2007.
In later filings, Cordoba retroactively reported additional revenue for 2006 and 2007.
Despite that, this isn’t nearly as cut and dried as the Daily News suggests. The Cordoba Initiative sued Mr. Deak and Ms. Solimon in 2010 for $1.5 million in US District Court in Washington DC for fraud and breach of trust relating to the sale of a condominium. The Cordoba’s suit claims that Deak and Solimon inflated the value of the condo and then failed to transfer the title of the property.
In other words, it appears that this is a relationship that has gone sour over the past couple of years, and things began unraveling beginning in 2010 between the Imam and the donors. That’s when Deak and Solimon began looking into Rauf’s actions - likely in retaliation for the suit over the condo.
This isn’t the first relationship that has soured in the Park51 development. Rauf split with developer Sharif El-Gamal who owned the Burlington Coat Factory building at 51 Park Place that they had hoped to turn into a religious and community center that they hoped would mirror the work of the JCC in Manhattan uptown. Gamal is still involved in the Park51 project, but plans have stalled with a paucity of funds available to bring the full vision to fruition.
After more than a year of controversy, the Park51 Islamic Community Center opened its doors Wednesday night two blocks from the World Trade Center, but that storm of contention was largely absent — as was the mosque.
Residents of the area were generally pleased that the scaled-back center opened – and at worst ambivalent – and the scene was void of protesters or anything much resembling the quarreling that has hovered around the center, which is at 51 Park Place between Church Street and West Broadway.
“You have to open it up if we want to be a free country,” said Joe Marino, 50, of Battery Park City. “You can’t suspect everyone in the world because of how they look or because of their background.”
Mery Mugo, 33, who lives a few blocks away, agreed, saying it’s beneficial for both the neighborhood’s spirits and its business.
“It’s a good idea, it will bring people together,” she said.
As parts of its opening ceremony, the center featured a photo exhibit by Danny Goldfield called “NYChildren,” which displays 169 images of immigrant children.
Controversy erupted in the summer of 2010 when opponents thought it was inappropriate to build the center and a mosque so close to the World Trade Center. But the plan no longer has a mosque, and its founder likened the complex to a community center modeled after the 92nd St. Y and the Jewish Community Center.
The mainstream media should be ashamed of themselves for their significant role in manufacturing last summer’s Park51 outrage (among numerous other things), but I won’t be holding my breath.
As a side note, I turned on my TV last Friday for the first time in about six months. I was appalled that 95% of what I saw was pure tripe. It’s amazing how a relatively short break from the constant spewing of the media & pop culture can restore one’s sanity and improve critical thinking skills.
I realize everyone is probably already aware of how badly Geller’s recent protest flopped, but I enjoy pointing it out nonetheless. Classy group of people she hangs out with, isn’t it? I was reading another article about the same event over that Gothamist. One of the people against the Sheepshead Bay mosque, demonstrating how important it is to “know your history” in order to fight for freedom, proceeded to explain how America has become communist and you have to watch out for Muslims building their victory mosques, followed by some flaming idiocy about women who walk around her neighborhood with “black fingernails” (whatever that means) being “Taliban wives”. Uh-huh, okay. I’m sure the 5th column of Islamic supremacists that are invading America have long coveted Sheepshead Bay as the crown jewel in their soon-to-be Global Caliphate—no doubt they intend to make it their new capital. *eyeroll*
Added emphasis below is mine.
If Pam Geller organizes a protest against the Park51 Islamic community center, but there’s no sustained media hype to accompany it, does it make a sound?
Not really. […]
This year the news cycle was less kind to Geller’s crusade, which hosted its second rally yesterday timed to the tenth anniversary of 9/11. With the nation focused on remembering and mourning the dead, Geller’s protest at its peak drew no more than two hundred people, who barely filled a narrow gated pen on West Broadway, a few blocks from Ground Zero.…Among those at the protest who also experienced considerably less media attention in 2011 was Terry Jones, the Florida preacher who made headlines last year for burning a Koran. […]
Geller’s groups “American Freedom Defense Initiative” and “Stop the Islamification of America” (which the Southern Poverty Law Center has tagged as a hate group) sponsored the event. The speaker’s line-up included radio host Joyce Kaufman, Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch, and René Stadkewitz, the founder and leader of Germany’s new far-right, Geert Wilders-inspired Freedom Party. Following the event, Geller moved the festivities to the Theater District, where she introduced a special screening of her documentary, Ground Zero Mosque: Second Wave of the 911 Attacks. […]
The difference between last year’s event opposing this “beachhead” and this year’s offers a useful split screen. When the issue was in the news, with Geller’s voice high up in the media mix, more people cared enough to come and protest. This year, when the issue has had almost no media profile, not so much. A similar effect can be seen in Staten Island, where in 2010 plans for a new mosque elicited howls of protest from locals. As the media discussion of Park51 died down, opposition dissipated, and this year the mosque opened without incident. […]
“Have you tried burying a pig on the site?” joked one attendee as he took a flyer. “That works every time.”
I was surprised to read that a sizeable majority of New Yorkers are opposed to the Islamic Community Center near Ground Zero.
We have changed since 9/11. We feel more afraid and more vulnerable. We are angrier and more resentful. We are less confident in ourselves. We are less optimistic than we were. We are less generous in practically every way – morally, politically and philanthropically.
We feel less resourceful and less competent. We have created banks too big to fail; dug oil wells to deep to fix; and have built weapons too powerful to use. Since 9/11 we have a general feeling that our performance has been sub-prime; that we can no longer dream big dreams, launch big projects or solve big problems.
We are angrier and more polarized than ever. Some bonds of trust Americans once shared have become junk bonds.
What is at stake in the debate surrounding the Islamic Center is more than the principle of religious freedom, although it is surely that too. What is at stake is more than the principle of political tolerance, although it is surely that too. What is at stake is more than a matter of geography – on what Manhattan block is it appropriate to construct an Islamic community center.
What is at stake is something even more fundamental: The dispute has exposed our weakened immune system; microbes of fear have invaded the lining of the American heart and are threatening to infect the body politic. We are on the verge of chronic heart disease. Like any patient with a chronic disease, we may be able to live fairly normally for even a long while, but sooner or later, it will debilitate us.
More at the link.
Derek Fenton, who worked for NJ Transit for over 11 years, will be reassigned to his $86,110-a-year job as a conductor and as an assistant train-consist coordinator. He will also get $25,000 for pain and suffering, as well as back pay equal to $331.20 for every day since his firing.
He was fired from the transit agency after burning a koran during a protest against the proposed Cordoba House/Park51 community center/mosque near Ground Zero while off-duty.
Pamela Geller, who had been leading the opposition against the construction of a mosque and community center near Ground Zero, the Park51/Cordoba House project, is busy equating building mosques with the second wave of 9/11 attacks.
This couldn’t be any further from reality or the facts. There’s nothing about the Cordoba House project that is related to 9/11 other than the proximity to Ground Zero. Those involved in the development of the community center and mosque (which received all the necessary approvals from the local community board and Landmarks Preservation Commission) have no relationship to the 9/11 attackers other than their religion being Muslim.
What Geller and her supporters are suggesting is that all Muslims are behind the attacks, rather than a specific subset of Islamists who seek to impose their worldview on all nonbelievers - including fellow Muslims who do not practice Islam the way they do.
Rounding up the news relating to Ground Zero:
The former Deutsche bank building is nearly demolished. Should be done by the end of the year.
The exterior of the Freedom Tower is finally going on as the tower reaches nearly 50 stories tall.
The usual suspects are complaining that the Cordoba House/Park51 developers are looking at LMDC monies to develop the project when the LMDC monies was originally set aside precisely to assist in reducing blight around Lower Manhattan following the attacks and to fund worthy projects that bring life back to areas affected by the attacks.
Ground Zero responders agreed to the $712 million settlement with NYC and other defendants. It’s a drop in the bucket, but it ends years of litigation and may help start some families dealing with illnesses resulting from exposures at Ground Zero. The Zadroga bill continues winding its way through Congress with no end in sight.
Also, video is included comparing the devastation following the attacks with the ongoing construction throughout the site.
Daisy Khan, an Eloquent Voice for the Islamic Community Center Near Ground Zero - NYTimes.com
By MICHAEL M. GRYNBAUM
Published: November 12, 2010
Anne Barnard contributed reporting.
DAISY KHAN had never seen so many Jews in her life. The year was 1974, and Ms. Khan, an awkward, artistic 16-year-old who had just emigrated from India to the suburban Long Island enclave of Jericho, N.Y., was attending her first day of school in America.
It was not going well.
Daisy Khan with former teacher Ira Greene. Jericho High School Alumni Hall of Fame
Her fellow students giggled at the newcomer with the dark skin, exotic accent and unfamiliar religion. Few Muslims, it seemed, had ever attended the mostly Jewish Jericho High School. When a teacher asked her to stand and introduce herself, the questions came fast: Did she ride a camel? Did she ride an elephant?
“It was very strange when you are 16 years old and you have to explain your religion to an entire class,” Ms. Khan, now 52, recalled recently in the Upper West Side offices of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, her nonprofit group. “But that’s where my first activism began. I realized that actually I was a spokesperson for Islam.”
It is a role she now inhabits on a far larger scale. Since the summer, Ms. Khan, a former architectural designer, has emerged as an eloquent and indefatigable public face of the maelstrom surrounding Park51, the Islamic community center and mosque that she and her husband, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, are trying to build two blocks north of ground zero.
A modern Muslim who prefers high fashion to the hijab, Ms. Khan has become a lightning rod for the anger of right-wing bloggers and commentators who consider the Islamic center an affront to the victims of Sept. 11, or worse.