The embattled veterans group, the Wounded Warriors Project, is planning to roast a pig over an open fire on a Lower Manhattan street, directly in front of a mosque. This could arguably constitute a grave offense to Muslim sensibilities, in which pigs are viewed are profoundly unclean.
The Iron Horse, a bar located at 32 Cliff Street (between John and Fulton Streets), is partnering with the charity for the event, which requires an activity permit to close Cliff Street for the afternoon of July 4. Such a permit requires approval from Community Board 1 (CB1), which became the forum for a lively discussion of the subject at its April and May meetings.
The Wounded Warriors Project is a non-profit organization that raises funds to offer a variety of programs, services and events for injured veterans of the military actions that followed the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The Iron Horse is a tavern that one online review describes as a place where, “scantily clad female bartenders swap actual bartending for choreographed boot stomping à la Coyote Ugly or a ride on the saddle suspended over the bar.”
The Iron Horse bar is visible at left (at 32 Cliff Street), while the Masjid Manhattan mosque is located in the unmarked building directly to the right, at (30 Cliff Street).
At the April 26th meeting, CB1 member Tom Goodkind began the debate by noting that, “I’m going to be voting against this. They are guilty of many improprieties.” This was a reference to a scandal that came to public attention in March, when the board of the Wounded Warriors Project fired several top executives amid allegations of lavish spending. (A spokesman for Wounded Warriors did not respond to a request for comment.)
This point of view was disputed by CB1 member Marc Ameruso (a Navy veteran who served in Afghanistan), who said, “they have fired everyone who needed to go, and they do a tremendous amount of good.”
Paul Hovitz, co-chair of CB1’s Youth and Education Committee, then offered, “this pig roast is taking place in front of a mosque,” which elicited from the crowd a chorus of gasps and shocked utterances, like, “that’s disrespectful,” “that’s terrible,” “oh, God,” and “oy!”
Mr. Hovitz was referring to Masjid Manhattan, located at 30 Cliff Street, which holds a minimum of five Muslim worship services each day, as well as numerous prayer sessions, weddings, classes, and holiday observances. (A spokesman for Masjid Manhattan was unavailable to comment for this story.)
“Some people have taken exception,” Mr. Hovtiz continued. “The mosque has not complained, but they are right next door.”
CB1 member Tammy Meltzer then asked, “did Wounded Warriors reach out to the mosque or do any due diligence? No matter what, it’s an affront. We’d all complain if it was in front of a church or a temple and they were doing something funky. It’s a religious organization — period. And the question is, were they approached?”
Marco Pasanella, chair of CB1’s Seaport/Civic Center Committee, answered, “we don’t know if Wounded Warriors approached the mosque, but we know they’ve done this before, and the mosque did not complain.”
“We should approach the mosque and ask if they have any objections,” Ms. Meltzer insisted.
CB1 member Bruce Ehrmann concurred, saying, “no one ever went to the mosque and asked, ‘excuse me Imam, do you mind if we roast a pig in front of your door?’ That’s why we have to approach them.”
CB1 member Deron Charkoudian disagreed, saying “this has been going on for seven or eight years, now. We discussed the location two years ago and it was not an issue then.”
At the April 26th meeting, the resolution approving the street activity permit for the July 4 pig roast was defeated, with 17 votes in favor, 14 votes opposed, and nine abstentions, which count as “no” votes.
CB1 agreed to reconsider the issue at its May meeting, once the leaders of Masjid Manhattan had been given the opportunity to weigh in. When the Board convened again last night, Mr. Pasanalla explained, “the mosque said they had no problem as nobody smoked or drank on their doorstep.”
Mr. Hovitz interjected, “I actually spoke to and visited the Imam. He said this was the first time the Community Board has actually reached out to them and the first time they felt like a member of the community. They were delighted that we asked. And he requested that the owner of the bar make sure that patrons do not sit on the mosque’s steps drinking or smoking, which is against the Islamic faith.”
Pat Moore, the chair of CB1’s Quality of Life Committee, felt that simply acknowledging this request in the text of CB1’s resolution approving the request for a street activity permit was not sufficient. “The bar needs to have a dedicated person outside all the time,” she said.
Mr. Pasanella agreed, saying, “somebody responsible for enforcing the request” should be on the street during the event. The resolution was amended to reflect this change, and was then passed by CB1.