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October 23, 2014 / 29 Tishri, 5775
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‘Ground Zero Mosque’ Developer Switches to Mid-town Shul Building

The man who sought to develop the Ground Zero Mosque has instead turned to develop a high rise in Mid-Town. With an Orthodox synagogue inside.
The Garment Center Congregation, an Orthodox synagogue in Mid-town Manhattan, was founded in 1931 to serve Jewish workers in the shmatte industry

The Garment Center Congregation, an Orthodox synagogue in Mid-town Manhattan, was founded in 1931 to serve Jewish workers in the shmatte industry

After several years of ferociously heated arguments, the proposal to build an Islamic community center with mosque in a location within a stone’s throw – actually, within the boundaries of where building fragments fell – from New York City’s destroyed Twin Towers slowly died.

But the developer behind the Ground Zero Mosque (or Park51, as it was formally known), Sharif el-Gamal, has now set his sights on mid-town.  He and a partner, Murray Hill Properties, signed a contract to buy a building at 205 West 40th Street. The building there is currently occupied by the New School for Design. And there is a synagogue in that building.

The synagogue in the building is called the Garment Center Congregation. That congregation was founded in 1931 to serve the large number of Jewish workers in the shmatte business. At one time there was also a Fur Center Synagogue and a Millinery Center Synagogue, all serving Jewish workers in the apparel industry.

Today there are still several hundred members of the GCC, and services are still held three times daily, although attendance swells during the high holidays.

El-Gamal’s plan is to tear down the current six-story building, synagogue and all, to build a new 23-story high rise. The new building is expected to include three floors of retail space and a 260-room hotel.  The synagogue will be housed on the ground floor.

El-Gamal and his partner are paying $61.5 million for the property. The New School announced last year it was putting up the building for sale, because it moved the department to a building in Greenwich Village, according to the New York City real estate media outlet, Curbed. The building was given to the New School by a financial supporter who bought it in 1975.  The Garment Center Congregation had already been in the building for a decade by then, and List gave it a 99-year lease for $1.

The synagogue and El-Gamal now have an “excellent, ironclad agreement” for their new home, according to Curbed. Demolition has not yet begun, but it is expected to get underway this spring.

A 2010 article in the Daily News recounted that el-Sharif had several serious legal problems in the past, including assaults and patronizing a prostitute.  El-Gamal claimed that all those problems were in the past, that he turned to Islam after 9/11, and that his religious awakening followed a troubled youth.

About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.


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24 Responses to “‘Ground Zero Mosque’ Developer Switches to Mid-town Shul Building”

  1. so now a shul instead of a mosque?

  2. Doesn't he also owe a lot of money? I seem to remember there were bad real estate issues. How does this goniff buy a building?????

  3. Clo Clo says:

    That’s more like it. Celisa Seidel…muslim extremists brought down many destructive terrorists plots on US soil & our barracks in Beirut & the USS cole…not the Jews!!! Jews & Christians worship God/Yahweh…mosques push islamic hatred & racism & the worship a “prophet” mohammed & Allah the moon God…with doctrine to kill Christians & Jews. BIG DIFFERENCE. Pray for Mulsims to be freed from oppressive teachings & demonic ideologies. many Muslims have found the true God of love & not a deceiving spirit

  4. Leon Vig says:

    He and a partner, Murray Hill Properties

  5. Is it the money that’s offered, the location of the building, a strong political lobby behind it?
    The money will never bring respect. But wish the consciousness be stronger than the money.
    Money= power and override values. Thats slavery.
    Fellow fallen. May your souls RIP.

  6. Can we build Church or Temple closer to Macca?

  7. This is SO a repeat of the Jerusalem Mosque built on the Temple!!! What is WRONG with America??? Wake Up!

  8. Les Legato says:

    " El-Gamal claimed that all those problems were in the past, that he turned to Islam after 9/11,"

    In other words HE SUPPORTED THE ATTACKS.

  9. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot !

  10. Something doesn’t seem right…

  11. Murray Hill Properties needs a wake up call!!!

  12. He turned to Islam after 9/11? Well, that explains everything.

  13. That is exactly what went through my mind.

  14. He was (is?) a slum lord, owning a bunch of apartments with serious problems that posed dangers for the tenants. At the time our government was giving him thousands of dollars in grants for his trips abroad to "promote peace" he owed well over $75,000 ordered by the court to fix his property and was in violation for not appearing as ordered.

  15. Hinda Blas says:

    Believe that and I'll sell a bridge that is from the new and future coast of the Grand Canyon to Hawaii. Any takers?

  16. Tracy Matthews , me too!

  17. The very same mosque builder, Sharif el-Gamal, has raised his ugly head again after his 5 year battle to build the Mosque @ Ground Zero ended in failure. I pride myself in having been active in that fight and now have to repeat my call for action again. This time it's a Synagogue building in Mid-town Manhattan (Garment district) where el-Gamal has partnered with a NYC real estate company, Murray Hill Properties, to build a mosque.

    Don't we have enough mosques in neighborhoods where hardly any Muslims live or work? Americans need to learn that mosques are much more than meeting places for religious services. Mosques are built first so Muslims can move in later. It's stealth Jihad…colonizing by creating a core to expand around. This is what has happened in cities around the country…and is part of the global colonization for a global caliphate.

  18. JanSuzanne Krasner Good, you nailed it for just what it is…the act of islamic insurgents against US all!

  19. What is a recovered lawyer?

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