Islamic Center near ground zero holds first event

September 21, 2011 2:38:31 PM PDT
The project has drawn criticism from the start. Opponents saying they don't want an Islamic cultural center near the site of ground zero.

Now after much controversy, Park 51 is officially open.

Its first event is a photo exhibit of immigrant children from all over the world.

The exhibit is called "New York Children" and it features photos of children who now live in New York, but come from every country all over the world.

Photographer Danny Goldfield is generating plenty of buzz for his whimsical pictures and good eye, but also because his exhibit is the very first at this new Muslim cultural center.

"I guess that since I've gotten to know the people behind the center, I don't really understand what the problem is," Goldfield said.

But there are plenty of people who do have a problem with it. Some calling it "the ground zero mosque" and an insult to September 11th's victims. They are fighting the developer in court.

"Because in the end, what he needs to do is go away. He needs to sell his property, and move somewhere else, and leave us alone to grieve," Tim Brown, a 9/11 survivor, said.

They say an exhibit here is one thing, but will this Muslim prayer space that has already been open here for quite some time eventually become a much larger mosque?

Founders of this project hope people understand it this way "If you look at a YMCA or a JCC, Jewish Community Center, it's pretty much the same programs that you actually would find there as the programs of what you would find here," Nour Mousa, Park 51 founder, said.

They call Goldfield's exhibit a good pilot program and perhaps a good start.

The rest of the Park Place building has yet to be renovated. The developer has said it will be years before the project, envisioned ith a mosque, health club and theater, is fully realized.

Park51 Chief of Staff Katerina Lucas says the exhibit, shot by artist Danny Goldfield, will hopefully show those opposed to the Islamic center what kind of space it's meant to be.