Where was Feisel Adbul Rauf going to get the $100 million needed to construct his Cordoba House, excuse me! renamed as Park51 Islamic Center proposed to be sited within the zone of destruction caused by the 9/11 attacks?
Naturally, I suspected Middle Eastern sheiks and Islamists would simply be taking so many dollars off the top of this month’s package of financial aid to Hamas, al Qaeda, and the Taliban and sending it Abdul Rauf’s way. But, no, it’s better than that.
As Reuters reports, New York City may actually provide the bulk of the needed funding for the combined victory monument and recruiting center.
The Muslim center planned near the site of the World Trade Center attack could qualify for tax-free financing, a spokesman for City Comptroller John Liu said on Friday, and Liu is willing to consider approving the public subsidy.
The Democratic comptroller’s spokesman, Scott Sieber, said Liu supported the project. The center has sparked an intense debate over U.S. religious freedoms and the sanctity of the Trade Center site, where nearly 3,000 perished in the September 11, 2001 attack.
“If it turns out to be financially feasible and if they can demonstrate an ability to pay off the bonds and comply with the laws concerning tax-exempt financing, we’d certainly consider it,” Sieber told Reuters.
Spokesmen for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor David Paterson and the Islamic center and were not immediately available.
The proposed center, two blocks from the Trade Center site in lower Manhattan, has caused a split between people who lost relatives and friends in the attack, as well as conservative politicians, and those who support the project. Among those who support it are the mayor, civic and religious groups, and some families of victims.
The mosque’s backers hope to raise a total of $70 million in tax-exempt debt to build the center, according to the New York Times. Tax laws allow such funding for religiously affiliated non-profits if they can prove the facility will benefit the general public and their religious activities are funded separately.
The bonds could be issued through a local development corporation created for this purpose, experts said.
The Islamic center would have to repay the bonds, which likely would be less expensive than taxable debt.