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Park51 Offers Mea Culpa to Soften "Megamosque" Interpretation

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In the long, tangled saga of Park51, developer Sharif El-Gamal issues a mea culpa and a kinder, gentler face to the Muslim community center planned for Lower Manhattan. So what's new?

· A reduced height from 15 floors to "four or five"
· Separate fundraising for the mosque and community center, at a combined "$7 million to $10 million"
· A Muslim-led community center for all cultures "modeled on the Jewish Community Center on the Upper West Side, where [El-Gamals'] children learned to swim"
· More realistic outreach attract donors and build relationships with neighborhood groups and Muslim organizations—"all things he says he should have done before going public last year"
· Split from Abdul Rauf, the controversial imam who was the center's public face
· Hiring a full-time, paid staff like Katerina Lucas, a graduate of Harvard Divinity School
· A photography exhibition documenting New York City children born in each of the world’s countries

Two facts remain in Park51's favor: the group has been operating a prayer space in the "bare bones" building at 45-51 Park Place since 2009, and its location has never been in question as the project required no zoning approval, though it was voluntarily presented and approved by Manhattan’s Community Board 1 in May 2010.
· Developers of Islamic Center Try a New Strategy [NYT]
· Park51 coverage [Curbed]

51 Park Place, New York, NY