Proposed Mosque Near World Trade Center Reborn as a Muslim Museum
Developer Sharif El-Gamal, whose planned 15-story Muslim community center and mosque near the World Trade Center engendered a national controversy when it was announced in 2010, now wants to build a three-floor museum of Islamic culture and religion on the site, reports the New York Times.
The 5,000-square-foot building at 45-51 Park Place, which will include a public green space and a prayer sanctuary that can host community events, will be designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, who is also responsible for a portion of the Museum of Modern Art's planned expansion (see report from Curbed), and the Institut du Monde Arabe, the Muslim museum in Paris.
Hank Sheinkopf, a spokesman for El-Gamal called the new plans "a more tailored approach, both physically and programmatically" in an interview with the Times. "It will prove to be an important addition to the neighborhood and to New York City's arts and cultural community."
While El-Gamal is hopeful that the museum will not engender the same xenophobic opposition than his mosque proposal was met with, anti-Muslim voices are already speaking out. In an email to the Times, Robert Spencer, author of the blog Jihad Watch, called the proposed institution "grotesque" and likened it to building a "museum dedicated to exploring the faith of Shintoism and emperor-worship, and its arts and culture, with a sanctuary for prayer services and community programs, at Pearl Harbor."
Although El-Gamal has had recent financial troubles, he has filed with the Buildings Department to demolish 45 and 51 Park Place, and looks to move forward with the museum's construction. Nonprofit organization Park51 currently holds cultural events and daily Islamic prayer services at the latter address, and plans to temporarily relocate.