Request for 9/11 Money to Fund Ground Zero Mosque Reignites Controversy
Developers of the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero are asking for millions of dollars in federal money, intended to rebuild the area surrounding the 9/11 attacks, to fund its controversial project.
Park51 developers said they applied for a $5 million grant from Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which is handing out 9/11 development grant money.
The move has been met by outrage by critics who have questioned why the developers are asking for money meant to rebuild the community around Ground Zero when they originally insisted the property was not part of Ground Zero.
"It's just so disingenuous. It took us by complete surprise," Tim Brown, a former New York firefighter and 9/11 First Responder, told Fox News. "It's like getting the middle finger put right in your face."
Brown was among the opponents of the mosque who demonstrated at New York City Hall last week and presented a 120,000-signature petition supporting their cause.
In statement from LMDC obtained by The Christian Post on Tuesday, the corporation said it has set aside $17 million for the Community and Cultural Enhancement Program, but has received more than 265 applications seeking in excess of $175 million from a wide variety of non-profits.
"We are now turning to the challenging but important task of sorting through the applications to identify those that address long-standing community and cultural needs," stated LMDC.
To be considered for the 9/11 development grant, applicants were asked to submit documents explaining the organization's purpose, structure, personnel experience, project description, project budget and schedule, and operating revenue and costs.
According to Park51's website, developers need the grant money to fund programs on domestic violence prevention, Arabic and other foreign language classes, programs and services for homeless veterans, multi-cultural art exhibits and immigration services.
The proposed 13-story center would include a mosque, a daycare, preschool, gym and 9/11 Memorial, which are "desperately needed in Lower Manhattan," according to Park51 developers.
A recent poll found that nearly 70 percent of all Americans oppose the plan to build a mosque, originally known as The Cordoba House, just two blocks from the former World Trade Center.
Sharif El-Gamal, developer of Park51, previously said that he never thought the project would spark controversy when he first envisioned it.
During an interview for NBC's People of the Year, which will air on Thanksgiving Day, Matt Lauer pressed El-Gamal on why the thought never crossed his mind.
"Not once have I held my faith accountable for the horrific events of 9/11," responded El-Gamal , describing himself as an "American who has a specific belief system."
Brown, meanwhile, told Fox News, "It leaves me speechless that they have the gall to do this."