HopeTracker| New York Magazine spins a different tale of the now sensationalized attempts to build an Islamic Center in lower Manhattan. The notion that 37-year-old Sharif El-Gamal, the owner of the former Burlington Coat Factory at 45–51 Park Place, set his eyes on a spot “at Ground Zero” is not correct, according to writer Mark Jacobson.
“Listen,” said El-Gamal, “do you have any clue how the Manhattan real-estate market works, what is involved? People seem to think that we picked that building to make some kind of point. But that is simply insane. This is New York; no matter who you are, you just don’t choose a building, move in, and take over. Do you know how many places I looked at? I looked at Chambers Street. I looked at Vesey Street, Broadway, Greenwich Street, Warren Street, Murray Street. Maybe half a dozen more, I can’t even remember now. It was only after all that that Park Place came up. Even then, it was the most grueling negotiation of my life. So many times I told myself, Wow, this just isn’t worth it. One minute the deal was on, eight months later it was off. The whole thing almost drove me nuts.”