The much-protested Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero is being used for worship services, but not community programs, despite promises made when it was first opening.
The site is popular among worshippers, reports the New York Post
, but the Arabic classes, Muslim classes, film screenings and art exhibits aren’t happening. Even the teacher of the one class that’s held there — for an Afro-Brazilian martial art — says she only has five students.
Park51 organizers aren’t answering questions about programs that had been offered last fall and spring. Sharif El-Gamal, the lead developer for the mosque, is not commenting on what happened to his plans for the site which was to be a $100 million, 15-story center.
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And development plans seem to be on hold over fund-raising and a dispute with Con Edison, which owns half the site. El-Gamal’s company bought half the site and leased the other half from the utility. But the utility threatened a year ago to evict Park51 over $1.7 million in unpaid rent.
El-Gamal sued Con Edison, saying its appraisal and formula figuring the rent were wrong. A judge ruled for the utility on the appraisal, with the rent lawsuit continuing this week.
But in an interview this past year, El-Gamal said he was exploring other uses of the property, including an office tower or condominiums, while leaving a prayer space. So far, the prayer space — which admittedly, is thriving — is the only thing at the controversial mosque site.
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