There has been much public discussion centered on the appropriateness of building a mosque in close proximity to Ground Zero. The controversial project to develop an Islamic cultural center in New York City is known as Park51. The political aspects of the Park 51 project are hotly debated; however, most commentators fail to recognize the practical hurdles facing the planned construction. Construction industry experts may recognize the significance of these obstacles, but these more mundane aspects of the Park51 project rarely make the news.
Acquiring the necessary permits for the Park51 project will not be easy for developers. The construction involves the repurposing of a 152-year-old building that was formerly a retail clothing store. The design of the Park51 project is expansive and includes a 500-seat auditorium, swimming pool, restaurant, and retail space. The building’s existing certificate of occupancy was issued in 1987 and is limited to retail use of the building. Currently, the building is a worship center that is operating under temporary permits. Additional occupancy permits will be required if the building is to be converted from retail use to a community center with all the planned amenities.
Finding construction workers willing to work on the project will be very difficult, and without skilled workers, the project may be unable to get off the ground. Although it has been estimated that the Park51 project could create approximately 150 full-time and 500 part-time jobs, some New York construction workers have refused to work on the project. Although the unions have not yet taken a position on the project, Louis Coletti, president of the Building Trades Employers’ Association, said that he understands why the union’s members would be hesitant to work on the Park51 project:
It’s a very difficult dilemma for the contractors and the organized labor force because we are experiencing such high levels of unemployment . . .Yet at the same time, this is a very sacred site to the union guys.
Finally, as with any construction project, it will be a struggle to obtain sufficient funding. The Park51 project is estimated to cost $100 million and fundraising has not yet begun. The controversy surrounding the project could cause potential supporters to withdraw their funding, forcing abandonment or scaling down of the project. Even if financing is secured, it could take months to hammer out all the details of construction loans.