You are here

A Proposal Without Positives


In my time as neighborhood activist, I have supported and opposed many development ideas. The arguments—at least the public arguments—always revolved around the benefits, costs, and risks of a given proposal.

The near-WTC mosque supporters are not engaged in this sort of development and planning argument:

listen to the defenses being put up by the backers of the mosque. Boil it all down, and that is their argument in its entirety: "it's not illegal."

"We have the right to build our center here, or any place else."

"The Constitution guarantees our right to have our houses of worship."

"Those opposing us are bigots and prejudiced against Muslims."

Notice what's missing? That's right. Any argument about how the mosque/community center is a good thing. Any argument about how the building will be a boon to the neighborhood and the city. Any argument about how it will demonstrate respect for the sensibilities of those who were so gravely injured by the 9/11 attacks.

It’s like a neighbor who wants to build an oversize garage. There’s no benefit to anyone else, so all that person can argue is that “it is his property and he should be able to build whatever he wants”.

At the root, I agree with the garage-builder’s sentiment. But the mosque is not a garage. It is a commercial property in a commercial district. Under the current systems of planning, zoning and regulation, commercial proposals require more scrutiny and must past more difficult tests before approval.

A difference is that this national debate is not a community-level process. Perhaps all the finer-grained development points have been addressed, and there are some genuine benefits to lower Manhattan should a mosque be built there.

If so, why aren’t the pro-mosquers making those points part of the national argument?

H/T: Maggie’s Farm