In response to the continued Homeland Security cuts, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Chairperson of Community Board 1 Julie Menin have joined forces to make a public outry against the cuts.
According to an article published in this week’s Downtown Express the pair asks, “Why does New York City, one of the top terrorist targets in the world, continue each year to face cuts to its homeland security funding? Just this year, the Obama Administration, several days after the attempted plot to bomb Times Square, cut New York Cityâ€™s transit security by 27% and its port security by 25%.Â While the Administration argued that the $53 million in budget cuts to the cityâ€™s homeland security funding would be made up by stimulus dollars, those are one-shot funds. When the stimulus money runs out in two years, replacing those missing dollars will be a Herculean task.”
Both claim that controversy surrounding the Park51 Islamic community center has taken away the focus and concentration towards general safety in our area.
“Instead of arguing about the precise location of the Islamic center, why donâ€™t we put aside our differences and focus on the common goal of keeping our children and all of us safe?” asks Stringer and Menin.
We can’t help but agree. The rest of the article can be read here.
Publishing a public statement this morning, Julie Menin, chairperson of Community Board #1 in Manhattan, made a public statement about the Park51 development.
CB#1 has been one of the earliest proponents for the development, but in today’s statement — shows that in light of national discord, the community board may be changing their tune. Julie Menin suggests an interfaith project should replace the original intent of the Park51 development.
The statement published in the NY Daily News reads as follows:
“The lowerÂ Manhattan community board 1 chair, Community Board 1, voted overwhelmingly to support the Islamic cultural center to be built two blocks away from Ground Zero when the project was presented to our board in May.
I stand by my vote.
That said, the project has now become a symbol of discord and dissidence, the white hot emotional center of a volcanic shouting match. Raw nerves have been exposed on both sides of an ugly religious and ethnic divide – and the gulf between supporters and opponents has only grown with each protest, each argument, each accusation.
Both sides claim the moral high ground – sustained on the one side by religious freedom and the other by preserving the sanctity of hallowed ground.
What started out as largely a local issue has now been overtaken by national partisan politics, with national politicians, many with their own agendas, weighing in on what is best for this community.
Now it is very clear that something must be done to address this dissension and to move to heal, not divide. I believe it is still possible to bridge the gap without compromising the core principles of what this project is about – not by moving the mosque further away from the site of the attacks, but by bringing other faiths in.
The mosque and community center near Ground Zero should not be enshrined as a battleground of discord, but rather be transformed into an inter-faith center for reconciliation and peace-containing nondenominational houses of worship to be shared by Muslims, Christians and Jews. Its purpose – to bring us closer together, not split us further apart – could be reaffirmed in modified plans.
Under this idea, there could be, as currently planned, two floors for the mosque – but there could also be a floor dedicated to an inter-faith, nondenominational space. In addition, a major national or local organization dedicated to spreading religious tolerance could establish a meaningful presence there. There are many such reputable groups that would surely welcome the opportunity to help heal.
The project, open to all, would celebrate all faiths and inter-faith understanding.
Government, of course, has no role, and should have no role, in determining the use of an as-of-right project (meaning, a project such as this that requires no city zoning approvals to be built.) This is particularly true when a religious use is involved. Only the developer of the project can and should decide what the use of the project will be.
With that said, the dissension surrounding this issue is simply not productive. We need to try to overcome the divide on this issue and teach the next generation howÂ New York andÂ America unified after 9/11 and how this country was founded on respect for all religions, freedom of religion and the right and ability for religions to peacefully co-exist in the melting pot that characterizes New York and America.
It may be hard for many to imagine in the wake of 9/11 that we can rise above gut feelings of pain and retribution. But we can take the harrowing horrors of 9/11 and bridge our differences, without erasing them.
There actually already is such a facility dedicated to bringing us all together. It exists on the grounds ofÂ the Pentagon, which was also attacked on 9/11. As part of an effort to heal and recover, an interfaith chapel was built on that hallowed ground. Its construction stirred no controversy. It is a place where Christians, Muslims and Jews can and do worship.
It is a small interfaith chapel, but it shines as a bright beacon.
How inspiring it would be for a similar beacon of hope to shine in lower Manhattan. We are the survivors of two attacks by terrorists. We need to reach out once again to our better selves, find common ground that reasserts our commonality of purpose and that unifies our community, our city and our nation.
The proposedÂ Park51 cultural center offers many benefits, including recreational, cultural, educational and meeting facilities that our growing lower Manhattan community needs. And a floor or two devoted to celebrate Jewish, Christian and Muslim worship in a nondenominational setting would not simply help to overcome divisions, but serve as a model to the world of the resourcefulness, harmony and strength of this city, and this nation of immigrants we call America.
Menin is chairperson of Community Board 1 in lower Manhattan.”
In a vote yesterday, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) will allocate nearly $200 million dollars initially earmarked for a variety of utility costs around the World Trade Center site allocated instead for quality of life programs in the downtown area.
The variety of utility costs include those associated with the World Trade Center Memorial, transportation, cultural institutions, affordable housing and other programs.
Another vote will be scheduled to appropriate specific costs from the funding from this decision.
Con Edison is unhappy with the decision, as the utilities company was the sole recipient of the $200 million funding for the rebuilding of their infrastructure after September 11th.
Con Edison’s current costs of rebuilding amount to Â $186 million, but has already received $161 million for those costs. Con Ed claims without the subsidies, the Public Service Commission can allow Con Edison to increase energy costs to its customers.
Julie Menin, chairwoman of Community Board 1 and an LMDC board member, “It’s the first step in what will result in a very large amount of funding going to the Lower Manhattan community, and that’s what Congress intended,” according to a report in Crain’s New York.
The vote is seen as a win for the community groups, but is not over yet as representatives from the Mayors office and LMDC have meet with Con Edison to hammer out utilities deals.
Besides the World Trade Center Memorial, reports have been unclear as to who these community interest groups are. One mentioned group would be the 3LD theater on Greenwich street, which has faced bankruptcy in recent years.
The LMDC is charged with allocating almost $800 million in September 11th funds before the corporation is formerly shut down.