By Olivia Scheck
MANHATTAN — The developer of the proposed Ground Zero mosque and community center said Tuesday he blamed the media for rousing opposition to the project.
"The media went out and started looking for 9/11 family members that are opposed to the project, and they were specifically looking for people opposed to the project," Sharif El-Gamal, CEO of SoHo Properties and a driving force of the proposed Park51 project, told NY1.
"Because on May 5, there was nobody opposed to the project. There was a unanimous vote from the community board, and that community board, everyone looked at each other and said, 'Wow, can you guys please build this sooner?'"
Negative sentiment towards the proposed $100 million mosque and community center to be built two blocks from Ground Zero mushroomed since the unanimous vote of support by the Community Board 1 Financial District Committee on May 5.
Hundreds gathered for the heated four-hour full committee meeting on May 25, which ultimately ended in the project's approval and brought national attention to the issue.
Several politicians have weighed in on the mosque, including former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin who encouraged her Twitter followers to "refudiate" the proposal on Monday.
El-Gamal, a 37-year-old Upper West Sider, told NY1 that he laughed when he saw Palin's tweet.
"I just started laughing," the developer said. "I could not believe that a potential presidential candidate cannot spell or cannot use the English language correctly."
El-Gamal also dispelled several concerns about the project, which he said would "follow in the footsteps of the YMCA and JCC."
Sounds of prayer coming from the mosque section of the complex would not be audible from the World Trade Center site and all of the backers who helped buy the Park Place building are American citizens, El-Gamal told NY1.
The sit-down was El-Gamal's first extensive news interview.