Landmarks Review of the the Cordoba Initiative’s Plans

We hope this will be our final editorial on this issue, for numerous reasons. First and foremost Soho Properties and the Cordoba Initiative’s plans to build a community center with a prayer space at the site of the old Burlington Coat Factory is an as-of-right project.

But as it were, on Tuesday the Landmarks Preservation Commission held a public hearing at Hunter College’s Assembly Hall to consider whether or not the building deserves landmark status.

Much like the C.B. 1 full board meeting last May, the event was a media circus. Insults were hurled by opponents and proponents alike and once again it served as a breeding ground for hateful rhetoric. One audience member turned to our reporter and said she feared that she could be hurt by the person behind her based on her anti-Islamic talk.

Nonetheless, the point of this editorial is to urge Landmarks to follow the lead of C.B. 1’s Landmarks Committee and deny landmark status.

The building has been before the commission since 1989 when it was originally considered for landmark status. This 20-year debate should come to a swift end and we believe it is a rather simple decision to make. And should the commission decide to landmark the building now, what message would such a decision send? Is the commission caving to those who believe every building touched by falling debris or plane wreckage from that tragic day is untouchable?

Debris fell all over Lower Manhattan and ashes crossed the East River and landed in Brooklyn. Are we expected to declare every piece of land affected on that awful day untouchable?

And, another point that cannot be overlooked is the fact that even if the building is declared a landmark, the Cordoba Initiative can still put a community center and prayer space at the site. While they may not be able to alter the building’s façade, or add extra floors, they still have the right to do as they please with the property. The Landmarks Commission, as they duly pointed out at the beginning of Tuesday’s hearing, does not consider use of a building.

And for those who believe the building should be turned into a memorial, let us remind them the true 9/11 Memorial and Museum is set to open in just over a year.

As to GOP gubernatorial hopeful Rick Lazio’s remarks that the funding of the project warrants investigation, we turn to our mayor’s response to such an idea. Investigating religious institutions, vetting those who preach and pray, goes against everything this city and this country stands for. If we start with the Cordoba Intitiative, will it end with the Catholic Church?

We are hopeful that the Landmarks Commission will promptly remove this building from their agenda. In doing so, we hope the issue will indeed be put to bed.