The Corner

How Is Park51 Playing in New York?

It’s a small sample, to be sure, but I found most of the Muslim New Yorkers interviewed in this Times piece to have wholly reasonable positions on the Cordoba initiative. A lot of them have this flavor:

“If this really is a free country,” said Mr. Khan, 56, the manager of a trucking company in Brooklyn, “then, by all rights you must, you must, allow it.”

The same holds true for Pervaz Akhtar, a tailor who keeps a shop a few blocks from the center’s site — and who lost his first shop and nearly his life in the Sept. 11 attacks. “There is a principle involved,” Mr. Akhtar, 58, said. “We believe in the American Constitution.”

Yet with equal confidence, both men — who squared their shoulders and seemed to address an imaginary town hall meeting when discussing the issue — embrace a seemingly contradictory conviction about the center: It does not have to be two blocks from the site of the attacks.

“If they want to put it 10 blocks away, that’s fine,” Mr. Akhtar said. “I believe in compromise, too.”

Read the whole thing and you’ll see a lot reasonable people, and patriots. These are folks with whom a real compromise is possible.

Meanwhile, I have been navigating the New York buildings department bureaucracy to ask a few questions about the 51 Park Place property. Today I got a press flack — who sits in an office a few blocks from Ground Zero and whose job it is, mind you, to field media inquiries about the construction and re-purposing of buildings in the city. When I told her I was interested in the Park51 property, she had me repeat the address. Twice.

“Is this a residential building or . . .” she asked.

“Um, no, it was a Burlington Coat Factory, but it’s been vacant for some time.”

“Burlington . . . Coat . . . Factory. . .” she repeated to herself, writing it down.

That should give you an idea of how big a deal this is in New York, versus how big a deal it is around the country. This town’s got 8 million stories. This is just one of them.


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