Five years ago, a local land-use issue here in New York City became the subject of national debate. Two Muslim men—a real-estate developer and an imam—proposed to build a Ground Zero Victory Terror Mosque two blocks away from the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center. Haha, no: They proposed to build a fifteen-story Islamic cultural center. Still, while many New Yorkers were ambivalent about this (although it seems worth noting that the local community board voted overwhelmingly in favor of the project), people outside of New York were stridently against it (because dog whistles work). Anyway, demolition at the site began earlier this year, and, if all goes according to plan, a seventy-story ultra-luxury condominium tower will have risen there by 2017. Wait a minute, what happened to the cultural center, you ask?
In January 2013, Soho Properties acquired the adjacent 43 Park Place for eight million dollars. That April, The Real Deal reported that El-Gamal was talking to brokers about how best to build and market condos in the neighborhood. “Plans for the site will be announced at a later date,” El-Gamal’s spokesman Hank Sheinkopf, a consultant and Democratic political operative who once gave a very interesting interview to kabbalah.info on the financial crisis and the future of humanity, told The Commercial Observer after Soho Properties applied for demolition permits the next year. In May 2014, after announcing earlier that they would not be building a fifteen-story cultural center, but rather a three-story museum (including a sanctuary for prayer services) Soho Properties filed permits to build condos. “The original plan did not work,” El-Gamal told the Real Deal later that summer. “However, I never backpedaled or shifted from what the dream has always been. I did not want to subject my children to [other]… kids saying ‘that’s the child of the man who backed down.’ This [plan] is going to show the excellence of Muslims and the Islamic culture.”
Last week, Soho Properties released details of the project to Bloomberg Businessweek: a seventy-story, ultra-luxury condominium tower, including at least fifteen full-floor units to be marketed at prices higher than three thousand dollars per square foot. There will be a fifty-foot swimming pool in the basement and concierge service. A public plaza will connect the condos to the (much reduced) Islamic museum and prayer space at the site. Above three hundred feet, all of the apartments will be full-floor units with private elevators and twelve-foot floor-to-ceiling windows offering unobstructed views of Midtown, the Hudson River, and the Statue of Liberty. “You can’t see Ground Zero from our current building and on completion of our planned building some years from now, there won’t be any views of the Ground Zero memorial from the building,” El-Gamal said in his July 2010 interview with beliefnet.com. Now, however, the 9/11 Memorial would appear to be visible from the planned condos above three hundred feet. Plans change.