Thursday, August 26, 2010

موقع, موقع, موقع


Anyone even remotely familiar with the workings of real estate knows it always boils down to the same old formula: Location, Location, Location. You want the curb appeal, you want the picket fence, you want the country view but the proximity of business.

But sometimes, as much as you want the location, the location doesn't want you. There are rules in place to make sure that you don't build a liquor store too close to a school, that you don't build a strip club too close to a church, and that you don't build a high-rise in the middle of a neighborhood of single-family dwellings. These rules are enforced by a special board of politicos called a Zoning Board, and it's their job to keep things as organized as possible by making things as difficult to change as possible.

Now, there's a certain bit of real estate in New York that has attracted quite a bit of attention lately -- the old location of the Burlington Coat Factory, destroyed when the wheel housing of a jet fell through it as said jet crashed into the side of one of the World Trade Center towers. It is here that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his partners wish to establish a mosque (which quickly became a "mosque and community center," then "community center and mosque") -- a center for Islamic worship, in the shadow of a still-fresh tragedy created in the name of Islam by a group of radical extremists. At its most basic, the proponents of the mosque should see the notion as extremely insensitive. And in another example of America continuing to accommodate in the name of its core values, notably freedom of speech and religious expression, the zoning commission gives every appearance of having allowed Rauf an easy skate in getting approval to construct on the location.

Contrast this with the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, destroyed in the fall of the Twin Towers. Nearly a decade after the events of September 11, 2001, the church is still looking to be rebuilt. But negotiations have been stymied, and the church and Port Authority have broken off negotiations after too many bureaucratic impasses. All to reconstruct a worship building that pre-dated the attacks.

It is still hopeful that the mosque will relocate, should its builders come to understand the feelings of non-Muslim Americans in and around New York. A very similar situation occurred in the late 1980s when the Catholic Church prepared to build a convent: on Auschwitz. As one can reasonably imagine, even after half a century the site so pivotal to the Holocaust remained raw in the memories of Jews worldwide. The controversy was just as heated as that surrounding the so-called Ground Zero Mosque. The idea that there would be a Catholic facility on the site so sacred to Jews was seen as extreme insensitivity on the part of the Church. And, eventually, the Vatican agreed, and the convent was moved.

Would that a similar accord might be reached today.

Anyone even remotely familiar with the workings of real estate knows it always boils down to the same old formula: Location, Location, Location. You want the curb appeal, you want the picket fence, you want the country view but the proximity of business.

But sometimes, as much as you want the location, the location doesn't want you. There are rules in place to make sure that you don't build a liquor store too close to a school, that you don't build a strip club too close to a church, and that you don't build a high-rise in the middle of a neighborhood of single-family dwellings. These rules are enforced by a special board of politicos called a Zoning Board, and it's their job to keep things as organized as possible by making things as difficult to change as possible.

Now, there's a certain bit of real estate in New York that has attracted quite a bit of attention lately -- the old location of the Burlington Coat Factory, destroyed when the wheel housing of a jet fell through it as said jet crashed into the side of one of the World Trade Center towers. It is here that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his partners wish to establish a mosque (which quickly became a "mosque and community center," then "community center and mosque") -- a center for Islamic worship, in the shadow of a still-fresh tragedy created in the name of Islam by a group of radical extremists. At its most basic, the proponents of the mosque should see the notion as extremely insensitive. And in another example of America continuing to accommodate in the name of its core values, notably freedom of speech and religious expression, the zoning commission gives every appearance of having allowed Rauf an easy skate in getting approval to construct on the location.

Contrast this with the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, destroyed in the fall of the Twin Towers. Nearly a decade after the events of September 11, 2001, the church is still looking to be rebuilt. But negotiations have been stymied, and the church and Port Authority have broken off negotiations after too many bureaucratic impasses. All to reconstruct a worship building that pre-dated the attacks.

It is still hopeful that the mosque will relocate, should its builders come to understand the feelings of non-Muslim Americans in and around New York. A very similar situation occurred in the late 1980s when the Catholic Church prepared to build a convent: on Auschwitz. As one can reasonably imagine, even after half a century the site so pivotal to the Holocaust remained raw in the memories of Jews worldwide. The controversy was just as heated as that surrounding the so-called Ground Zero Mosque. The idea that there would be a Catholic facility on the site so sacred to Jews was seen as extreme insensitivity on the part of the Church. And, eventually, the Vatican agreed, and the convent was moved.

Would that a similar accord might be reached today.

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