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Park 51 Becomes Wedge Issue In Race For Anthony Weiner’s Seat

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A rendering of the Park 51 Islamic cultural center - Credit: SOMA Architects

A rendering of the Park 51 Islamic cultural center – Credit: SOMA Architects

diamond_feature Marla Diamond
I began my career at WCBS in the fall of 1997 as the station's New...
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NEW YORK (WCBS 880 / AP) - The developers of the Park 51 Islamic cultural center were denied 9/11 rebuilding funds last week, but that hasn’t made the funding issue go away.

WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond In Lower Manhattan

On Monday, a group of opponents handed out leaflets and held a news conference at Ground Zero.

FDNY battalion chief and 9/11 first responder Tom Dolan believes the developers will re-apply for public funding.

“And when they do that, I think that we can all be prepared with a firm answer, if every elected official is prepared to say no,” he said.

“I’m comfortable now with them building their mosque here. I’m over that, but as a citizen of this country, I do believe that we should have right to ask our government not to provide them with funding,” said Jerry Sullivan, who lost his brother Patrick on 9/11.

With the tenth anniversary of 9/11 fast approaching, the Park 51 project has become the focus of negative ads in the race to fill Rep. Anthony Weiner’s vacant seat in the 9th Congressional District.

Meanwhile, the developer of the project says it may take years to determine what kind of project Muslims and non-Muslims want.

Sharif El-Gamal told The New York Times that decisions will be made after consultation with lower Manhattan residents and New York City-area Muslims.

El-Gamal says that in the past year he’s built relationships with neighborhood groups. He’s recruited a 9/11 victim’s relative to his advisory board and sought donors from around the country. He concedes he should have done those things before going public with the project.

He also says he’ll only accept money from sources that reflect “American values.”

El-Gamal’s vision for the project remains unchanged: a mosque, health club, theater and religious and interfaith programming open to all.

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