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STEVE CHIOTAKIS: Tomorrow’s the ninth anniversary of the
September 11th terrorist attacks on our country. There’s a memorial service at ground zero in New York. And a few blocks north, rallies are planned
in front of the now very well-known site of a planned Islamic center and mosque.
Ashley Milne-Tyte asked some business owners in the neighborhood whether the center might help or hurt their bottom line.
ASHLEY MILNE-TYTE: For such a controversial place, the future mosque sits on a pretty dull block. The back of an office building towers over one side of the street. On the other there’s a bar, a supermarket and a couple of smaller stores.
One block away, Pemba Sherpa is huddling behind his tiny candy and newspaper stand. He says business never quite recovered after 9/11. Then some of his customers got laid off during the recession. He says the mosque is fine with him, but he’s not sure it’ll help sales much.
PEMBA SHERPA: I don’t think it’s any difference, no. I don’t think it’s any difference — good for or bad for the business, you know what I mean? I’m hoping more people come down here — not only the mosque, but some other things also, you know, so our business will grow up.
Across the street, customers search through the sale racks at clothing store De Janeiro. Manager Vadwatty Preshad says the Islamic center is boosting her sales even before it’s been built. Muslim men already come to pray at the current site.
VADWATTY PRESHAD: And especially now is the Muslim holiday, they bring the kids, and the wives they come, and when they come to the mosque they come in my store.
She says the new building will help improve the area.
PRESHAD: A lot of buildings over here, they’re closed out, they’re for rent, nobody coming down this area to rent.
You can see abandoned storefronts nearby. Still, according to the Downtown Alliance, last year more businesses opened in this area than closed. Convenience store owner Alpesh Jani is happy to talk about how well he’s doing.
ALPESH JANI: I don’t have any complaints. So far it’s very good.
But when I bring up the mosque he turns away.
JANI: I am Indian and I am Hindu so I don’t want to give any comments.
A lot of other store owners wouldn’t talk either. The debate over the mosque has become so heated, it seems even the economic angle is off-limits.
In New York, I’m Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.
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