The Real Deal New York

Park51 mosque quietly makes progress

May 09, 2011 04:14PM

Nine months since it dominated headlines and incited rallies at Ground Zero, the Park51 Islamic Cultural Center in Lower Manhattan is quietly moving closer towards becoming a reality. NPR spoke with developer Sharif El-Gamal, CEO of Soho Properties, who said the center has been building an advisory board and staff, has compiled a presentation for potential funders and applied for 501(c)3 tax-exempt status last November. Though ground is still far from being broken on a new building, the current structure is housing Arabic classes, Islamic prayer services, film showings and meetings between Shiites and Sunnis. But learning from what Gamal called the “lots of mistakes” he made when announcing names of individual funders and imams, Gamal said he’s keeping the new people involved in the project closer to the vest and does not want to get ahead of himself. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam initially associated with the center, is no longer involved with the project, which calls for a museum, a Sept. 11 memorial, a place for interfaith meetings, a library, an auditorium, a pool, wellness, fitness and sports centers, a culinary school, child care facilities and a restaurant above a ground-floor mosque. Gamal has already invested more than $2 million into the project, but a new building — the first step in the transformation — is still at least five years away, he said. [NPR]

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