Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Downtown Ghost Town

The developers of the Ground Zero mosque, and their supporters, claim that this new mosque and Islamic center will revitalize Lower Manhattan. That’s an extraordinary claim, considering who is responsible for the present condition of Lower Manhattan, particularly the West Side.

Farther south and east along Wall Street, business is still bustling, but the west side of Lower Manhattan is dead. As the local New York City newspapers, particularly The N.Y. Post, have noted, the real estate values around Ground Zero are pretty much at Ground Zero.

This Cordoba Initiative picked up the old Burlington Coat Factory store at a bargain basement price precisely because of the damage it suffered on Sept. 11th. But somehow, this victory mosque is going to perform a financial miracle and bring Lower Manhattan back to life.

Lower Manhattan would be teeming with life again if the Port Authority and the City hadn’t dragged its heels rebuilding the site. Each of the Twin Towers, at their peak, had a population of some 20,000 to 25,000 occupants. That’s 50,000 potential customers gone, either dead, injured, or now employed elsewhere. Not to mention the tourists who came for the spectacular, if somewhat unnerving, view from the top.

I worked in the City back in the Eighties, in Midtown. One week, the 34th Street PATH line was closed off. We Midtowners had to take the Path Train from, I believe it was Jersey City, into the World Trade Center.

You just could not believe the volumes of people coming up from the PATH and subway lines into the Towers. Thousands and thousands of them, riding the escalators seven abreast in a seemingly unending line. A few would get off at the street level and head off into Lower Manhattan. But the bulk of the crowd headed straight up into the Towers - and they came directly back down again in the evening.

But the Victory Mosque proponents will have us believe their center can generate the same numbers. They’ll be lucky if they can equal the number of people killed on Sept. 11th, much less match the number of hard-working people who were displaced when the Twin Towers were destroyed.

That section of Lower Manhattan is, indeed, a neighborhood of bars and girly joints (mostly bars I thought). The bars didn’t seem surprising, given the number of construction workers at the Ground Zero. Once the office buildings are built, that would change. That’s what will restore life to that section of LM, not an Islamic Center filled with potential Mohammed Attahs and Khalid Sheikh Mohammeds.

The memorial, when finished, will attract visitors, and with them will come respectable hotels and restaurants, stores and other service providers. According to one columnist, there’s a law on the city books that says no bar or adult entertainment center can stand within 200 feet of any religious building. Three bars were removed from a block where a basement mosque held forth.

The mosque developers declare that their center will have a gym. Will it, or will they simply take over the gym that’s on the back side of the center, on Murray Street? What’s going to happen to the bar on the corner of Park and Church, if the City once again enforces that law?

That section of Lower Manhattan is a ghost town, and a dangerous one, at that. It’s too bad the City has dragged its feet to allow thriving businesses to return and restore the life that was once there, and has rolled out the red carpet for representatives of the same religion that turned it into a ghost town.

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