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When the American people forked over $20 billion to New York to rebuild, they answered the human carnage wrought by radical Muslim terrorists with compassion for the living and respect for the fallen. They could not have foreseen a “community center” being built with their money, just past the smoke, to explain the virtues of Islam.
Yesterday we learned the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation will grant $17 million for “community and cultural enhancement.” The Park51 developers have asked for $5 million of that September 11 federal funding; they do not know the meaning of the word “insensitivity.”
John Avlon of The Daily Beast reports:
While news of the application has not previously been made public, developer Sharif El-Gamal outlined it in closed-door meetings, according to two individuals he spoke with directly. The thirtysomething, Brooklyn-born El-Gamal is motivated more by real estate ambition — one of these sources describes him as aspiring to be the next Donald Trump — than Islamic theology or ideology.
Part of the strangeness of the application is that it blows past the suggested range of $100,000 to $1 million that these grants are supposed to fall to within (I’m told the entire pool for this round of cultural funding will come in under $20 million). According to the two sources knowledgeable about the thinking behind the proposal, the strategy behind the $5 million ballpark was trying to yield a higher figure in the end.
But the project likely doesn’t qualify for a grant in the first place. Specifically, the grant criteria mandate a demonstration of a project’s financial feasibility, based on benchmarks set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The government will help complete development projects — but it does not provide seed capital. And in their last public financial statement, Park51 was found to have less than $20,000 in the bank for a project with a slated cost of $100 million.
Imam Rauf touts the center as a place for “interfaith dialogue” yet advocates for discriminatory sharia law to be imposed here. Dozens of other organizations have waited years to apply in the hope of completing viable and appropriate projects; the LMDC has a prior responsibility to them.
The New York Post reports:
“Why would we give them money ahead of so many other worthy groups?” fumed Tim Brown, a retired firefighter and first responder on 9/11 and a leading opponent of plans for a mosque two blocks north of the World Trade Center. “It’s so upside down,” Brown said of the project, which is a joint venture of real-estate developer Sharif El-Gamal and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. “They are the ones who insist the project is not at Ground Zero and then the next thing you know is they want to leverage 9/11,” Brown said.
Debra Burlingame, whose brother was a pilot on one of the hijacked airliners, cautioned against the use of any 9/11 funds for the mosque. “This is federal money, it was not intended to fund a propaganda issue,” said Burlingame. “If the LMDC gave them a penny, it would enrage everyone in lower Manhattan.”
Such grants require organizations to show “experience with comparable projects,” to demonstrate feasibility, and to have shown responsibility.
The Park51 developers owe $224,000 in unpaid property taxes on the existing building. A New Jersey judge recently ordered the low-income apartments Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf owns into temporary receivership due to infestations of bedbugs, roaches, and rats, despite Rauf having received $2 million in grants to fix up and maintain his buildings. In 1998, Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan were granted tax-free status to conduct religious service for “400 to 500” people at an address which turned out to be an 800-square foot apartment in Manhattan. The 37-year old property developer Sharif El-Gamal has been arrested seven times, including for assault in 2005. The main financial backer of Park51 donated thousands to an Hamas front group as he thought it “was going to an orphanage.”
In June, the Community Board 1 voted 29-to-11 to give Park51 their blessing. While CBI Chairwoman Julie Menin has a responsibility to the local community, she also serves the interests of the Nation as a LMDC board member which, in 2002, issued this statement:
“In the aftermath of September 11, the entire nation has embraced New York, and we have responded by vowing to rebuild our City – not as it was, but better than it was before. Although we can never replace what was lost, we must remember those who perished, rebuild what was destroyed, and renew Lower Manhattan as a symbol of our nation’s resilience. This is the mission of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.”
The American people shouldn’t have to help Imam Rauf promote sharia law overlooking Ground Zero or to further Sharif El-Gamal’s career.
Debra Burlingame and Tim Sumner
Co-founders, 9/11 Families for a Safe & Strong America