A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ISLAMIC CULTURAL CENTER OF NEW YORK
By Mohammad A. Abulhasan, Chairman of the Board of Trustees
The Islamic Cultural Center of New York is a religious and cultural organization, established in the early 1960’s. The original plan of the Center was to become a Muslim institution comprising a Mosque, school, library, a lecture hall, a museum, and a residence for the Imam. Its objectives include: (1) serving the neighboring Muslim community of Manhattan in particular, and the entire Muslim community of America, in general. This would be done by answering their religious needs and providing them with a place of worship, classes to assist them and their children where they learn detailed knowledge about their religion, Islam; (2) enlighten the American public opinion with the true knowledge about Islam: its teachings, ideology, philosophy and culture; (3) providing Muslim communities in the Americas with religious guidance and correct religious opinions and legal rulings of the Islamic law concerning religious, cultural and social critical questions; (4) promoting a good understanding and friendly relations between Muslims and non-Muslims.
From the beginning, the Islamic Center was privileged to be established by Muslim ambassadors representing several countries at The United Nations who form the Board of Trustees. This affiliation implies that the Center enjoys the support of Muslim countries and that its true religious attitudes are representative of the worldwide Islamic community.
Early in the 1960’s, when the center started to function with activities in a five-story building located at 72nd Street and Riverside Drive in New York City, the Board of Trustees at the Islamic Center aspired to build an Islamic structure that would be one of the landmarks of New York City. It was agreed upon that the first phase of this project would be a Mosque
Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Libya donated $754, 394.00.USD for the construction of a Mosque in New York City. An 88,000 square feet piece of property was purchased in Manhattan for During the time period between 1966 and 1987, the Board of Trustees undertook an aggressive fundraising effort and handled the administrative details of initiating a large construction project in the State of New York.
In 1987, an agreement was reached with an architectural firm, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. They were entrusted with the task of producing a design that was in line with traditional Islamic architecture and at the same time compatible with the modern style buildings of New York City. At that time there was a house of worship for every religion except a mosque that represented Islam.
On May 16, 1987 the groundbreaking ceremony of this project took place in the presence of the Mayor of New York and a large gathering of the Muslim community and the Muslim Diplomatic Corps.
Al Hamdu Lillah, the building was completed despite delays in 1990. During the final construction phase, 3,000 worshippers attended the Eid prayers of 1988 in the basement of the Center.
The official opening of the Mosque was held on September 25, 1991 in a ceremony presided over by H. H. Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Jaber Al Ahmed Al Jaber.
The construction of the mosque cost approximately $17-Million USD.