The controversial Park51 project may end up being constructed significantly farther away from the former World Trade Center site than originally planned.
An attorney for Hisham Elzanaty, the man who claims to be the majority stakeholder in the project, said he is considering building the Islamic community center at 30 Cliff Street, the location of an active mosque about seven blocks away from ground zero.
“It is nicely situated on a nice piece of property,” said Wolodymyr Starosolosky , Elzanaty’s attorney, according to Fox News New York. “It seems well attended. All sorts of people come there – white Americans, black Americans, people from the Middle East and so forth. It is very active.”
Starosolosky said he already met the imam of the 30 Cliff Street mosque and the people there “were very kind and very courteous.” He also clarified that his client is the ultimate decision maker in where the Park51 project will be built because he has the most money invested in it.
Notably, most media have reported the decision maker as mosque developer Sharif El-Gamal of Soho Properties or Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam of the Park51 mosque.
Elzanaty, in an interview with Fox, also said it was his idea that the Park51 site be located two blocks from ground zero.
The latest development in the emotionally-charged debate about whether an Islamic center and mosque should be built near ground zero suggests that moving the site farther away is still a real possibility.
Earlier this month, Imam Rauf told CNN’s Soledad O’Brien that while he regrets the controversy that the proposed center has created, he cannot move it now due to national security reasons. If the center is moved, he argued, extremists will proclaim that Islam is under attack and use that idea as a recruiting tool.
In general, Rauf has avoided talking about relocating the Park51 project, although he has said leaders involved in the plan were considering all options to resolve the problem. The detailed comments of Elzanaty’s attorney, therefore, are a sharp contrast to that of Rauf and other Park51 leaders.
"There is a long road to go before you get to the end," remarked Starosolosky, noting that his client plans to consider many ideas and proposals before reaching a conclusion about the location.
The proposed $100-million, 13-story Islamic center and mosque is expected to include a swimming pool, cultural center, culinary school, restaurants, bookstores, and interfaith prayer space.
According to a New York Times poll last month, two in three New Yorkers – including many who support the proposed Islamic community center and mosque near Ground Zero – say leaders of the project should find a location further from the 9/11 crash site.