Volume 23, Number 9 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | July 9 - 15, 2010

For C.B. 1, Cordoba issue in the past, wants to move on

By Aline Reynolds

Community Board 1 finally closed the book as it pertains to the Cordoba House.

The issue was first introduced to the board, and the community, at the May 5 Financial District Committee meeting, when Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, creator of the Cordoba Initative, presented the plan to build a community center with a prayer space at the site of the old Burlington Coat Factory building. A resolution of support was unanimously passed by the committee that evening and approved by a vote of 29-1 at the full board meeting three weeks later on May 25.

But at C.B. 1’s June 22 full-board meeting, member Allan Tannenbaum voiced concern and stated the resolution should be rescinded.

“The language of this resolution that was passed was misleading and disingenuous,” Tannenbaum said at the meeting. “It obfuscated the fact that a mosque will be built there.”

Board members pointed out that the original C.B. 1 resolution explicitly omits any mention of Cordoba’s prayer space.

“Community Board 1 takes no position regarding the religious aspects of or any religious facilities associated with either the Cordoba Initiative or the Cordoba House project,” it says.

After several minutes of back-and-forth between board members, Menin deferred further discussion about Cordoba to Wednesday’s Financial District Committee meeting. “It sets a very dangerous precedent if we start questioning full-board decisions,” Menin said.

“Taking another bite of the apple makes no sense," commented memeber Bill Love.

Tannenbaum acknowledges that the Cordoba House is an as-of-right project needing no approval from the community board, but believes the board should not vote on what he deems a religious institution.

“It’s a separation of church-and-state issue,” Tannenbaum said in a phone interview on Thursday. “The issue is that [the Cordoba House] should never have come up before the board, and that the board shouldn’t have voted on it the way it did,” he added.

“I’d call it semantic gymnastics to say that they were separate,” he said. “It was a kind of legalistic language that tried to pretend that they’re two different entities when they’re really not.”

Tannenbaum followed Menin’s orders, showing up at Wednesday’s committee meeting with the proposed counter-resolution.

The Cordoba topic would have been added to the September agenda had the motion been approved. But the committee quickly tabled the dialogue, voting nine opposed and one in favor of Tannenbaum's resolution, officially putting the issue to bed.

“It was nothing more than a minor distraction,” said Ro Sheffe, following the meeting, of the renewed dialogue about Cordoba. “Everyone on the committee was anxious to get back to doing work and fixing the real problems in the community, rather than second-guessing the decisions we’ve already made.”

Tannenbaum said in response to the decision to not revisit the topic, “I can understand in a way why they don’t want to go through that again. But I feel that it sets a bad precedent where we can favor one religious group, and not favor another religious group.”

“I think it’s time to move on and to focus on the many pressing issues that face Lower Manhattan community,” said Menin following Wednesday's meeting.

Even Tannenbaum seemed to agree that it’s time to move on.

“I won’t pursue it, we have a lot of important work to do,” Tannenbaum said. “We brought it to their attention -- it’s democracy in action.”

 

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