As if you didn’t already know you have a personal stake in the outcome of this project. Imagine, as a New York taxpayer, a piece of your daily labor being appropriated to enable its construction.
When developers get a break that’s made possible with public money — say, for a football stadium — there is rightful scrutiny of the merits of the project, and no one is branded a football-phobe. When a developer goes into a neighborhood, acting aggressively and without regard to the concerns of residents, part of the population affected by developer’s plans will often organize to challenge it. And no one gets called a developer-phobe. In these regards, the project has gotten a free pass in some circles because it is a mosque.
It should not get a pass on public money. “Ground Zero Muslim center may get public financing,” from Reuters, August 28 (thanks to all who sent this in):
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Muslim center planned near the site of the World Trade Center attack could qualify for tax-free financing, a spokesman for City Comptroller John Liu said on Friday, and Liu is willing to consider approving the public subsidy.
It’s not near Ground Zero. It was struck in the attack, by part of an instrument of the attack — a hijacked plane. If this site had nothing to do with Ground Zero, why would Rauf & Co. be so hell-bent on planting a flag in it?
Of course, we know that’s exactly the reason. And as Frank Gaffney pointed out, even Rauf had called it the “Ground Zero mosque.”
The Democratic comptroller’s spokesman, Scott Sieber, said Liu supported the project. The center has sparked an intense debate over U.S. religious freedoms and the sanctity of the Trade Center site, where nearly 3,000 perished in the September 11, 2001 attack.
“If it turns out to be financially feasible and if they can demonstrate an ability to pay off the bonds and comply with the laws concerning tax-exempt financing, we’d certainly consider it,” Sieber told Reuters.
Spokesmen for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor David Paterson and the Islamic center and were not immediately available.
The proposed center, two blocks from the Trade Center site in lower Manhattan, has caused a split between people who lost relatives and friends in the attack, as well as conservative politicians, and those who support the project. Among those who support it are the mayor, civic and religious groups, and some families of victims.
The mosque’s backers hope to raise a total of $70 million in tax-exempt debt to build the center, according to the New York Times. Tax laws allow such funding for religiously affiliated non-profits if they can prove the facility will benefit the general public and their religious activities are funded separately.
The bonds could be issued through a local development corporation created for this purpose, experts said.
The Islamic center would have to repay the bonds, which likely would be less expensive than taxable debt.
New York City’s Industrial Development Authority could not issue debt for the center because the state civic facilities law, which governed this type of financing for non-profits, was allowed to expire about two years ago.