As any New Yorker will tell you, location is everything. It makes people pay outrageous sums for tiny studio apartments that claim to have “park views”. Location is so important, cultural and social groups are determined by what part of the city they are from- please refer to every episode where Blair Waldorf on Gossip Girl attended NYU only to realize that she just didn’t fit in with the “villagers”- she needed her headband, Ralph Laurenesque UES!
Well, let me tell you that location has NEVER been more important in NYC than in the past couple of weeks. The city’s approval allowing the Park 51 Islamic Cultural Center to be built in downtown New York has created a hot bed for discussion, debate, and outrage for many New Yorkers. Although Obama is quite right in his opinion that if we are to be a country that professes to be religiously tolerant, we have no reason to object to this center being built (political bullshit that he won’t take a position on whether the center actually should be built- how convenient), the real question is what should come first; sensitivity to those who lost so much on 9/11, or the rights of a minority group whose extremist members were responsible for the killing of nearly 2,800 people, to gather, educate and celebrate their religion?
Is it just me, or is there really no other location for this mosque to be built? Yesterday, Governor Patterson met with Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf who is responsible for the project, to propose alternative locations for the mosque. Well, why don’t I simply help these two gentleman out. Two words: Spanish Harlem. If the seven Islamic Centers in NYC that already exist are filled to capacity, why not go back to the half-built mosque sitting on 96th street and 2nd avenue? Abandoned for more than five years, would it not be easier to finance the completion of this one rather than have to fund raise to totally renovate the old Burlington Coat Factory? Not only would one less abandoned building be great for Spanish Harlem, but not many terrorist attacks have taken place in that neighborhood, so people are much less likely to find offense there. Also, exactly where is the money coming from to redo this 5 floor building downtown? Hmm, it is a mystery.
Then again, maybe this is really about business. Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf is well known for his role of bringing together Islam and the western world, and what is the western world known for it not commerce and money? Think about it- 96th street is not exactly the most popular street for foot traffic looking to pick up essential oils or pashminas for $5.00 unlike Ground Zero which has millions of tourists visiting each year to pay their respects. And hey- after a quick visit to see the blue nets surrounding the entire area, why not pop into Century 21 for a quick shoe fix. Oh, and those street vendors outside of the Islamic Cultural Center? The best watches and sunglasses, better run on over there as it is so close!
If you still aren’t convinced that this is all about location, take a look at the memo the Associated Press sent to the press yesterday, outlining how the media must refer to the project and its location:
“We should continue to avoid the phrase “ground zero mosque” or “mosque at ground zero” on all platforms. (We’ve very rarely used this wording, except in slugs, though we sometimes see other news sources using the term.) The site of the proposed Islamic center and mosque is not at ground zero, but two blocks away in a busy commercial area. We should continue to say it’s “near” ground zero, or two blocks away. We can refer to the project as a mosque, or as a proposed Islamic center that includes a mosque.”
So alas, I guess two blocks is now the accepted limit on memories and national mourning. If the old adage, “out of sight, out of mind” rings true, 96th street is looking like a much better option at this moment, don’t you think?