At the risk of sounding like the child who pointed out that the emperor had no clothes, I wonder whether zoning laws for Ground Zero have changed since a commercial building site turned into a burial and memorial site. The press has reported on various bars and strip clubs that exist in the Tribeca neighborhood but we haven’t been told whether these are post 9/11 additions or grandfathered from a time before 2001. What are the stipulations for what can be built in proximity to national memorials and for what can be built in proximity to mosques? Are they the same? Can our anti-bigotry mayor illuminate the subject so that the rest of us understand the rules of the game?
If the zoning rules have not caught up with the changed status of post 9/11 Ground Zero, shouldn’t there be a legal challenge to force the city to make such changes? Several commentators have observed that a 15 story Moslem community center and mosque on Park Place would not be visible from Ground Zero but no one has retorted that it would be audible five times a day as Moslems get summoned to prayer. Would these calls be an infringement on the honor due the fallen victims of Muslim jihad? Would these sounds be as offensive to the Tribeca community as the noise of Goldman Sachs’ ferries shuttling between Hoboken and lower Manhattan and prompting dissension among the natives?
For all New Yorkers who lived through and remember that day, perhaps the eeriest recollection of 9/11 is the haunting silence that took hold of the city outside of the site of destruction. Thousands of workers walked quietly uptown, too stunned to speak, too shocked to converse, too traumatized to comprehend what had hit our city and our nation. All traffic ceased uptown so that emergency vehicles could have the run of the city. People quietly went to hospitals to volunteer their blood and then went home to stay glued to their telephones and televisions for further word and instruction. New York was a living hell downtown and a ghostly throng of ash-covered pedestrians heading uptown. It was a day when Manhattan island was cut off from the other boroughs so that families could not reunite for comforting and grieving.
How chilling it would be to hear the voice of the muezzin echo through the narrow streets of Tribeca and soar into Ground Zero amid the memory of conflagration and devastation that remain unparalleled in our city’s history. What a dishonor that would be to the memory of all who gave their lives unwittingly and by their own volition. In our culture, it is traditional to show respect with moments of silence. If the Ground Zero Mosque gets built, that will no longer be possible at the place where so many were felled by Islamic jihadists and so many died heroically trying to save them.
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