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Photo Exhibit Opens At Planned Islamic Center Site Near Ground Zero

The site of a proposed mosque is seen in New York, NY - May 25, 2010 - Photo: Chris Hondros/Getty Images

The site of the proposed mosque near Ground Zero. (credit: Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (WCBS 880/AP) — Organizers of an Islamic community center and mosque near Ground Zero will hold its first event Wednesday evening.

LISTEN: WCBS 880′s Peter Haskell reports


A photo exhibit will be the first public program in the newly remodeled community space on the ground floor of the building owned by Park51.

The exhibit will feature photographs by artist Danny Goldfield, of children from more than 160 countries who are now living in New York City.

“It really represents the diversity of New York City,” said developer Sharif El-Gamal, who admits the project has been a challenge. “Nothing great comes easily.”

Critics have said it’s inappropriate for a Muslim institution to be located so close to the site of an attack by Islamic extremists.

But El-Gamal rejects critics’ claims that this would be a monument to Muslim triumphalism.

“We had nothing to do with the events of 9/11,” he said.

Current plans call for the center include athletic facilities, a day care center, art galleries, an auditorium for cultural events, a 9/11 memorial and a prayer space.

In August, El-Gamal said he has built relationships with neighborhood groups and recruited 9/11 victims’ relatives to his advisory board.

The rest of the Park Place building has yet to be renovated. El-Gamal has said it will be years before the project is fully realized.

Park51 Chief of Staff Katerina Lucas says the exhibit will hopefully show those opposed to the Islamic center what kind of space it’s meant to be.

United Nations ambassadors from those countries featured in the exhibit have also been invited to attend the exhibit.

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)