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'Ground Zero' mosque: Developer rethinks unpopular plan

No longer 15 stories. A new name. Severed ties with its original founder.

No longer 15 stories. A new name. Severed ties with its original founder.

The controversial project known as the “Ground Zero mosque” is a far cry from its original vision.

“Everything was backward,” lead developer Sharif El-Gamal, 37, told The New York Times. “We’re going back to basics.”

El-Gamal is prepared to scrap the proposed 15-story structural redesign of the Burlington Coat Factory building, depending on the community’s input.

“If the community only wants four or five floors, it’s going to be four or five floors,” El-Gamal said.

He’s even recruited the aunt of a 9/11 victim to his advisory board.

But Barry Zelman, who lost his brother Kenneth in the attacks, said he will not support a mosque so close to Ground Zero, whether it’s four stories or fifteen.

“I believe they have the right to practice their religion,” said Zelman, 56, of Roxbury, N.J. “I still think it’s in bad taste. I still question the location.”

The mosque portion of the building has been rebranded “PrayerSpace.” But it may be five years before the property undergoes any changes, as El-Gamal still needs to raise up to $10 million. He has even severed ties with the project’s original imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf. El-Gamal said the two had personality and philosophical clashes.

Follow Emily Anne Epstein on Twitter @EmilyatMetro.

 
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