The developer of a planned Islamic center in lower Manhattan says project won't be moved away from Ground Zero.
Sharif El-Gamal wrote in The New York Daily News Friday that "contrary to some confusing statements reported in the press, Park51 will not move its location."
"It has taken us nine years to find and purchase this unique piece of real estate, and we have worked hard to win approval from Community Board 1," he added. "More importantly, we believe it violates American values to essentially declare what would be a Muslim-free zone here or anywhere else in the country."
El-Gamal also set out to clear up some misconceptions about the project.
"It is not a mosque, nor is it on Ground Zero. Park51, which is the name of the project, is first and foremost an Islamic community center, modeled after the Jewish Community Center on the upper West Side," he wrote.
"When completed, the center will contain a gym, a pool, a pre-K, a daycare facility, an amphitheater, a culinary institute, a 9/11 memorial and more. There will be a separate prayer space for the Muslim community living and working downtown."
He continued: "Park51 has pledged that our financing will be made public, that we will not take any funds from entities or governments hostile to America. We will work with the relevant government agencies to make sure all our funding is vetted and approved."
Opponents have pressed for the community center's organizers to move to another location further from Ground Zero in deference to the charged public sentiment. Former New York Governor David Paterson (D) even offered state land for an alternate site.
Controversy over the center has mostly subsided after a number of protests last summer.
Opponents at the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) earlier this year hoped that releasing their movie titled "The Ground Zero Mosque: The Second Wave of the 911 Attacks" would put the project back in the spotlight.
A poll last year found that 80 percent of New Yorkers believed that Muslims had the legal right to build the Park51 center near Ground Zero.
-- with AFP