Downtown Community Board Considers Withdrawing Support of Ground Zero Mosque

By Julie Shapiro on June 23, 2010 6:29am 

Paul Hovitz, center, argued Tuesday night that the board should rescind its support of the 13-story mosque and community center. Allan Tannenbaum, left, and Paul Sipos, right, agreed.
Paul Hovitz, center, argued Tuesday night that the board should rescind its support of the 13-story mosque and community center. Allan Tannenbaum, left, and Paul Sipos, right, agreed.
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DNAinfo/Julie Shapiro

By Julie Shapiro

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

LOWER MANHATTAN — Community Board 1 may withdraw its support of a mosque and community center near Ground Zero.

After an emotional four-hour meeting that drew hundreds of people last month, the community board passed a carefully worded resolution that praised the 13-story, $100 million project but took no formal position on the religious aspects.  

However, at least a few board members see the religious and secular pieces of the center as inextricable, and they believe the board should not have taken any position at all.

“The language was misleading and disingenuous,” said Allan Tannenbaum, a board member and TriBeCa resident, as he urged the board to rescind its previous resolution Tuesday night. “A mosque is integral to what [they] want to build there…. We have to take this back.”

While several board members said they agreed with Tannenbaum and wished the board had not taken a position, many others saw no reason to reopen such a contentious topic.

“I thought we were done with this,” said Bob Townley, a board member and Battery Park City resident. He called the mosque issue “a recurring nightmare.”

At Tuesday night’s monthly board meeting, Tannenbaum introduced a new resolution declaring the board’s neutrality on the mosque and community center. But just as the discussion was beginning, board Chairwoman Julie Menin said the board could not vote on the resolution because the topic was not on the agenda.

The resolution’s proponents purposely did not put it on the agenda because they did not want to attract the large crowd of belligerent advocates who attended last month’s meeting.

Menin said any discussion would have to take place at the board’s Financial District Committee, which next meets on Wed., July 7. But she and other board leaders have not yet decided whether the mosque will appear on the committee’s agenda.

Ro Sheffe, chairman of the Financial District Committee, said after Tuesday’s meeting that the board has already extensively debated the issue, and it would be “inappropriate” to revisit it.

All board members hoped to avoid a meeting as packed and chaotic as the one last month, which attracted hundreds of angry protesters.
All board members hoped to avoid a meeting as packed and chaotic as the one last month, which attracted hundreds of angry protesters.
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DNAinfo/Josh Williams

“We have made a decision,” Sheffe said, “and now it’s time to move on.”

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