Too close, or just right?
"Two blocks away"
"600 feet away"
"Near Ground Zero"
"A stone's throw away"
"Not at Ground Zero"
There are many ways to describe in words the location of the controversial "Ground Zero Mosque" --- all colored, of course, by your personal take on the project. While the above phrases are technically accurate, or at least "truthy" in a Stephen Colbert way, both individually and collectively they fail to convey a real sense of where the Park 51 center would be situated.
As the debate over the "right" and "wisdom" of building an Islamic cultural center and prayer space in lower Manhattan rages on (and to be clear, there should be no debate whatsoever about anyone's "right" to do so), I wanted to see whether mapping the site would resolve any of the big issues about which reasonable people seem to be disagreeing. So for a more eyes-on approach, I dug around the web and plotted the location on a few freely available mapping services.
The results were more ambiguous than I had expected. The 13 different views of the Park 51 site shown below will, I expect, help confirm both critics' contention that the site is "too close" to Ground Zero and the counter-argument that in a city as dense as New York, two blocks is a world away. The maps and overhead views reveal an urban landscape where buildings quickly can blend into the background and jarring juxtapositions abound (strip clubs and churches and who knows what else). Yet they also remind us that the pit that is today's Ground Zero was once a larger scar that included neighboring buildings now reconstructed, and that in the context of a huge metropolis, two blocks is a very short distance indeed.
Here are the views...
#1 Map on Park51.org website
Ground Zero is artfully cropped from this sliver of a map that is found throughout the Park 51 website. (Elsewhere on the site, a directions page includes a Google Map with a fuller view of the neighborhood.)
#2 Wall Street Journal graphic
This map illustrated a recent story on the controversy, and shows three other area houses of worship.
#3 Current close-up Google aerial view
The Ground Zero site is at the center, with Park 51's location marked by the red "A" pinpoint. The center would occupy the middle part of that block on the north side of the street.
#4 Aerial view prior to start of reconstruction
This undated view looking west predates the reconstruction of the building and park at the corner of West Broadway and Vesey St., one block from the Park 51 site, which would not occupy the entire Park Place block, as marked by the red box.
#5 Google Map of walking path from Ground Zero to Park 51
This Google Map shows a sampling of businesses and landmarks in close proximity to Ground Zero and Park 51. The roughly 600 feet it takes to walk between the two locations is less than the diameter of the current construction site.
#6 Current close-up Bing aerial view
The orange pin marks the Park 51 site on this aerial view from Bing.
#7 Helicopter-style view from Bing
This is perhaps the best view of the urban fabric of the immediate Ground Zero area, but the superimposed streets also makes it confusing. The orange pin accurately marks the site of Park 51 relative to the superimposed streets, but appears to sit on the tall building located one block closer, on Barclay St. The former Burlington Coat Factory space that would house Park 51 is not visible in this shot.
#8 Aerial view from Google Earth looking south
In this view, the Park 51 site is at the bottom of the screen and Ground Zero two blocks to the north.
#9 Lower Manhattan on Sept. 30, 2006
An overhead view via Google Earth of the tip of Lower Manhattan, looking east, that shows the Park 51 site marked by the blue crosshairs.
#10 Close-up view of Park Place, Barclay St. and Vesey St.
This view, also from imagery captured on Sept. 30, 2006, looks east overtop the building and park reconstructed at the corner of Vesey and West Broadway.
#11 Ground Zero on Dec. 31, 2001, from Google Earth
A slice in time showing the site of the attacks three and a half months later.
#12 Ground Zero on Sept. 12, 2001
This southward view from the day after the attacks shows the debris cloud still rising up from Ground Zero. The Park 51 site is visible in the lower left.
#13 Google Earth rendering of area
Google Earth's 3D rendering of the Ground Zero area based on imagery from Sept. 30, 2006, showing the same approximate view as the Sept. 11 photo above. The Park 51 block is highlighted in purple at bottom left.
Do these views of the physical location of the Park 51 project change your opinion of it? Do they reinforce what you already thought? Let us know in the comments.