Proposed Ground Zero T.G.I. Friday's Fuels Debate, Criticism
Angry relatives of 9/11 victims last night clashed with supporters of a planned T.G.I. Friday's near Ground Zero at a raucous community-board hearing in Manhattan.
After four hours of public debate, members of Community Board 1 finally voted 29-1 in support of the project. Nine members abstained, arguing that they preferred a Chili's.
While the board has no official say over whether the T.G.I. Friday's gets built, already the decision has sent shockwaves throughout the country.
Carrying signs such as, "9/11 Was A Tuesday -- Not A Friday's!" opponents of the proposed casual dining establishment several blocks away from Ground Zero called the plan an insult to the terror-attack victims.
"I mean, have you eaten there lately? It's overpriced crap that tastes like garbage. There's a better way to honor those we lost than the new Jack Daniel's Burger," said a retired FDNY firefighter.
He also raised concerns that terrorists could take advantage of the new restaurant, so close to the location of the largest terrorist attack on American soil.
"I do have a problem with having a T.G.I. Friday's on top of the site where terrorists can sit and enjoy the 3 For $12.99 dinner special," he said, referring to the popular limited-time promotion that includes an appetizer, entree and dessert for $12.99.
Harvey Fakerbean, representing T.G.I. Friday's at the community board meeting, insisted that the restaurant would help "bridge the great divide" between different cultures.
"We have Bruchetta Chicken Pasta, from Italy, the Sizzling Fajitas, from Mexico, Pot Stickers from Asia, the California Turkey Burger and the New York Strip from the United States." Fakerbean said. "We have no higher aspirations than to serve our customers in peace and harmony in this country."
But the crowd got ugly when he added, "Freedom of assembly is the right of all Americans."
Amid boos, one woman shouted, "Not at the World Trade Center!"
Fakerbean's wife, Daisy, followed him to the microphone and pitched the planned restaurant as "much needed party space and much needed dining space" for the area.
She was roundly booed.
President Barack Obama declined to comment on the wisdom of building a restaurant located several streets down and around the corner from the Ground Zero site where tourists buy souvenir t-shirts and commemorative buttons. But he did release a statement saying, "They have a right to build a place of dining and drinking on private property in lower Manhattan. But yeah, I prefer Chili's too. That Awesome Blossom. Delish."
Former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin weighed in on the debate on her Facebook page, challenging the President to take a stronger stand against the red-stripe canopied restaurant.
"We all know that they have the right to do it, but should they?" Palin wrote. "And, no, this is not above your pay grade. If those who wish to build this Ground Zero Friday's are sincerely interested in providing a fun, family-friendly atmosphere and good food at affordable prices, then why haven't they recognized that the decision to build a restaurant at this particular location is doing just the opposite? Plus, they charge for breadsticks now. Breadsticks!"
Before the meeting, the Manhattan Borough President, a supporter of the T.G.I. Friday's, stood in front of the site and said, "What we're rejecting here is outright bigotry and hatred. Friday's was born here. Just because a few of their establishments are bad quality doesn't mean they all are. The one at the Monmouth Mall in Eatontown, N.J. is one of my favorites."
Catholic priest Kyle Notreala, of St. Peter's Church, which is a few blocks away, agreed.
"I think they need to establish a place such as this for people from Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths to come together," Notreala said.
"Because after this," he added, "We could all use a few drinks."
For a more serious article on the Ground Zero mosque, click here.
Also, this great rebuttal on Slate.