Early in 2014, I was leaving Penn Station in New York City when I heard someone calling my name. It was Sharif El-Gamal, the developer of the Ground Zero Mosque. He started out by asking me incredulously if I really believed in what I was doing, which shows that he has uncritically accepted as fact his side’s smear propaganda. But we had a wide-ranging and illuminating discussion, in which he repeatedly insisted that the 9/11 hijackers were “criminals,” not Muslims, brushing aside my pointing out how they had cited Qur’an and Sunnah to explain and justify their actions. He seemed willfully ignorant or determinedly uninformed about the grim reality of jihad violence. He implored me to have a private discussion with an unnamed imam about Islam, apparently so that this imam could clear up my “misunderstandings” of the religion, and as I am always happy to discuss, debate, and defend my positions, I readily agreed and gave him my email address, but never heard from him.
Anyway, above all, El-Gamal reiterated happily that he was still determined to build the Ground Zero mega-mosque that was the center of so much controversy a few years ago. In the worst insult of all, they had planned to break ground on September 11, 2011, the tenth anniversary of the jihad attack. Pamela Geller and I stopped that mosque from being built with a series of rallies at Ground Zero, the largest of which, on September 11, 2010, drew tens of thousands of people. Polls showed that 70% of Americans opposed a victory mosque at Ground Zero, and El-Gamal had a falling-out with the unctuous and sinister Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, who had been the public face of the project.
Eventually, like Nixon in Vietnam, El-Gamal and the mainstream media declared victory and got out, opening a “Community Center” in the Burlington Coat Factory building that had been extensively damaged at Ground Zero in the 9/11 attack. Media lapdogs contacted Pamela Geller and me asking us how we felt about having lost, now that the “Park51 Community Center” was open. But this was a pathetic face-saving move on their part: what we were protesting was not the existence of a mosque or Muslim prayers in the Burlington Coat Factory building, but the erection of a huge triumphal mosque on the site, after the pattern of victory mosques at the site of jihad triumphs all over the Islamic world. And that mosque was not built.
And now El-Gamal has turned to a plan for a luxury condo tower on the Ground Zero Mosque site. The victory of free people over that sinister and cynical mosque plan is complete.
“Developer to erect super-pricey condo tower on controversial mosque site near Ground Zero,” Bloomberg News, September 25, 2015 (thanks to Edward):
It’s been four years since Manhattan developer Sharif El-Gamal shelved plans for a 15-story Islamic cultural center, near Ground Zero, that drew international debate. He’s looking to attract a different kind of attention for his current project on the site.
Mr. El-Gamal’s Soho Properties has proposed a 667-foot condominium tower at lower Manhattan’s 45 Park Place. The glass skyscraper, which has yet to break ground, will include at least 15 full-floor units of 3,200 to 3,700 square feet, and average prices higher than $3,000 a square foot, according to plans released to Bloomberg by the developer.
Prices at that level would be at least 13% more than the second-quarter average for new-development listings in the borough, according to Halstead Property Development Marketing. The ultra-luxury focus of the building highlights the newfound allure of lower Manhattan as an upscale destination, yet it comes amid growing concern about an oversupply of apartments for multimillionaire buyers.
“The tower is going to be a market-maker,” Mr. El-Gamal told us. “We’ve perfected a building that’s really going to share in a unique moment.”
Mr. El-Gamal’s original plans for an Islamic center and mosque at the lot—two blocks north of where the former World Trade Center towers stood—ignited a political controversy in 2010. Protesters called it the “Ground Zero mosque” and said its placement near the site of the deadliest terrorist attacks in U.S. history would be an insult to those who were killed there.
Then-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the project, citing religious freedom and the rights of private-property owners to develop their land as they see fit. (The former mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.)\
The community center plan was shelved in 2011 amid a struggle for financing and Mr. El-Gamal’s choice to seek more community input, he said. Now he’s seeking to take advantage of Manhattan’s luxury-condo boom and a downtown renaissance that has sent home prices up 28 percent since 2012…./blockquote>