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For Strippers Near Ground Zero, Its Business as Usual

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Author Topic: For Strippers Near Ground Zero, Its Business as Usual  (Read 64 times)
Michelle Jahn
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« on: August 20, 2010, 01:20:49 pm »

August 19, 2010, 1:34 PM ET
For Strippers Near Ground Zero, Its Business as Usual
By Andrew Grossman
New York Dolls, one of two strip clubs located within blocks of the World Trade Center site. After the World Trade Center towers fell, a stripper named Chris went to volunteer in the recovery effort for the Red Cross. Nearly 10 years later, she dances just down the street from Ground Zero at the Pussycat Lounge.

Thousands of workers spend their days toiling in the neighborhood around the World Trade Center site, a space that has gained renewed national attention amid controversial plans to build an Islamic center there.

The project, known as Park51, is opposed by a majority of New York residents in recent opinion polls. Politicians both local and national argue that the plan is insensitive to families touched by the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, among others, has referred to the area around Ground Zero as hallowed ground.

But for Chris, who declined to give her last name, and other dancers at the two strip clubs within three blocks of the World Trade Center site, the neighborhood is just where they go to work.

As supporters held signs extolling religious freedom at the site of the proposed Islamic center Wednesday, a stripper who gave her name as Cassandra was working the afternoon shift at New York Dolls on Murray Street just around the corner. She worried that calls to prayer from the mosque at Park51 might wake up neighbors. But when she was told that the organizers arent planning loudspeakers, she said she didnt have a problem with the project.

I dont know what the big deal is, Cassandra said. Its freedom of religion, you know?

Down on Church Street, one block east of the proposed Islamic center and two blocks from Ground Zero, men placed bets on horse racing at an Off-Track Betting facility. One bettor said he could see why the families of victims might get upset about the mosque and community center, but scoffed at the notion that the area around the betting parlor was hallowed ground.

The bums used to sit right in front of it, he said of the Park51 location, which would replace a former Burlington Coat Factory store damaged in the terrorist attack.

Not everyone engaged in weekday activities in the neighborhood agrees. Workers near the World Trade Center including those working in the site have expressed opposition to the proposed Islamic center. Some of the construction workers have even taken to wearing stickers and signs that demonstrate their opposition to the project, as  the news website DNAinfo reported.

But if Ground Zero has been made sacred by tragedy, its hard to say the same for the Pussycat Lounge one block south of the site. The front entrance of the strip club and bar, which has been there for more than four decades, offers a clear view of the ongoing construction at the World Trade Center site. There werent many customers on Wednesday afternoon, when a television reporter stood in the middle of the street filming a report on the Park51 controversy.

Inside, a bartender who said her name was Dasha offered brief remarks against the proposed Islamic center. She said shes uneasy about organized religion in general.

But Chris, the stripper who volunteered in the Ground Zero recovery, sat on a barstool in a tiny, shiny red dress and defended Park51. Theyre not building a mosque in the World Trade Center, she pointed out. Its all good. You have your synagogues and your churches. And you have a mosque.

Chris said she lost eight friends on Sept. 11, 2001 firefighters from the Brooklyn firehouse next to her home at the time. The people who did it are not going to the mosque, she said.
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