Application for Lower Manhattan Revitalization Funds Sparks More Unfounded Hysteria Over Park 51

The cover for today's edition of the local daily AM New York.

First, opponents of Park 51 were fretting about non-existent foreign money linked to the project.  Now, they’re coming out in opposition to the possibility of federal funds going towards the center.

The New York papers today are amplifying Pamela Geller’s latest attempt to stoke opposition to the Islamic community center in lower Manhattan.  In typical fashion, the New York Post‘s headline reads:  “GZ mosque in 9/11 cash grab.”

What’s the fuss about?  The New York Times reports:

The directors of the planned Islamic community center and mosque near ground zero have applied for grants from an agency tasked with helping Lower Manhattan recover from the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The request was for about $5 million, said a person with knowledge of the grant application.

In a statement, the developer, Sharif el-Gamal, said that the board of Park51, as the center is known, asked for the financing from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation about two weeks ago. The money, which would come from a pool of $2 billion in federal financing administered by the corporation, would be used for domestic violence prevention programs, language classes, art exhibitions and other social services at the center.

The website that first reported this story, The Daily Beast, labels the developer’s move to apply for federal financing “audacious.”  Fox News’ Eric Shawn quotes an “angry Congressman Peter King (R-NY) who is likely to be the new chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee” as saying that the application for grants is “absolutely disgraceful,” and an “affront to the memory of all those who were murdered on 9-11.”

But Geller, the Post and King’s predictable attempt to malign the request for money from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and the media’s willingness to play into it doesn’t make it the “huge” story that opponents of Park 51 want it to be.

After the September 11 attacks, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation was founded to “help plan and coordinate the rebuilding and revitalization of Lower Manhattan.”  Hundreds, if not thousands, of people have applied for financing their projects in lower Manhattan, and Park 51 is no different.

The plans for Park 51 will indeed contribute to revitalizing lower Manhattan.  It will create construction jobs, badly needed in a city where unemployment remains at 9.2 percent. The funding will go towards creating a community center that will be replacing an abandoned Burlington Coat Factory.

There’s no grounds for this hysteria except for bigotry and Islamophobia, which are unacceptable.  Give it a rest.

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