NYC panel clears way for mosque near ground zero
Linda Rivera holds up a sign in opposition towards the proposed mosque at 45 47 Park Location throughout a meeting with the Landmarks Preservation Commission to vote on giving the developing landmark status in New York, Tuesday, Aug. three, 2010. The commission voted unanimously not to landmark the developing, generating way for the construction with the mosque. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
NEW YORK A city panel Tuesday cleared the way for the construction near ground zero of a mosque that has brought on a political uproar more than religious freedom and Sept. 11 even as opponents vowed to press their case in court.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to deny landmark status to a developing two blocks from the Globe Trade Center website that developers wish to tear down and convert into an Islamic community center and mosque. The panel stated the 152 year old lower Manhattan developing is not distinctive sufficient to be regarded as a landmark.
The choice drew praise from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who stepped prior to cameras on Governor's Island using the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop shortly following the panel voted and known as the mosque project a important test of Americans' commitment to religious freedom.
"The Globe Trade Center website will forever hold a unique location in our city, in our hearts," stated Bloomberg, a Republican turned independent. "But we could be untrue towards the greatest component of ourselves, and who we're as New Yorkers and Americans, if we stated no to a mosque in lower Manhattan."
The vote was a setback for opponents with the mosque, who say it disrespects the memory of those killed in the hands of Islamic terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001. Jeers and shouts of "Shame on you" might be heard following the panel's vote.
The American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative advocacy group founded by the Rev. Pat Robertson, announced it would challenge the panel's choice in state court Wednesday.
ACLJ attorney Brett Joshpe stated the group would file a petition alleging that the landmarks panel "acted arbitrarily and abused its discretion."
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The proposed mosque has emerged as a national political problem, with prominent Republicans from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to former Home Speaker Newt Gingrich lining up against it. The Anti Defamation League, the nation's most prominent Jewish civil rights group, recognized for advocating religious freedom, shocked numerous groups when it spoke out against the mosque last week.
The League stated developing the Islamic center "in the shadow with the Globe Trade Center will trigger some victims much more discomfort unnecessarily and that's not correct."
Bloomberg stated Tuesday that denying religious freedom to Muslims would play into terrorists' hands. He stated firefighters along with other initial responders who died within the Sept. 11 attacks had carried out so to safeguard the U.S. Constitution.
"In rushing into those burning buildings, not 1 asked, 'What god do you pray to? What beliefs do you hold?'" Bloomberg stated with the initial responders. "We don't honor their lives by denying the extremely constitutional rights they died protecting."
Former Rep. Rick Laziobvlgari watches, a Republican running for governor of New York, attended the commission meeting having a handful of opponents towards the mosque, which is becoming created by a group known as the Cordoba Initiative.
"This isn't about religion," Lazio stated. "It's about this specific mosque known as the Cordoba Mosque, it is about it becoming at ground zero, it is about it becoming spearheaded by an imam who has related himself with radical Islamic causes and has created comments that ought to chill each and every single American, frankly."
Lazio stated the group's imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, had refused to call the Palestinian group Hamas a terrorist organization. Rauf also stated in a "60 Minutes" interview televised shortly following Sept. 11 that "United States policies had been an accessory towards the crime that happened."
The Cordoba Initiative says on its web site that its objective would be to foster a much better relationship in between the Muslim globe and also the West, "steering the globe back towards the course of mutual recognition and respect and away from heightened tensions."
"We think it'll be a location exactly where the counter momentum against extremism will start," the imam's wife, Daisy Khan, told The Related Press Friday. "We are committed to peace."
The center's board will consist of members of other religions, the project's backers stated. There also will probably be a Sept. 11 memorial towards the victims with the attacks, Khan stated.
The commission's choice not to designate the existing developing as a landmark indicates that the developers can tear it down and begin from scratch. If the developing had been declared a landmark, they could have developed a smaller mosque and community center there.
A partner within the project, SoHo Properties, purchased the property for almost $5 million. Early plans call for a 13 story, $100 million Islamic center.
Cordoba desires to transform the developing into a glass tower having a swimming pool, basketball court, auditorium and culinary school besides the mosque. The center, known as Park51, also would have a library, art studios and meditation rooms.
Landmarks Commissioner Stephen Byrns stated the building's proximity to ground zero and also the reality it was struck by airplane debris throughout the Sept. 11 attacks do not qualify it as a landmark.
"The debris field about ground zero was widespread, and 1 can't designate hundreds of buildings on that criterion alone," Byrns stated.
SoHo Properties CEO Sharif El Gamal stated he was "deeply grateful towards the landmarks commission and to its staff."
Park51 spokesman Oz Sultan stated there was no timeline for beginning demolition or construction, adding the developing phase was expected take 18 to 48 months.
"It's going to be some thing that fits in using the New York skyline," he stated.
Whilst landmarks commission members went more than the existing building's architectural functions like cornices and colonnades, some within the audience of about 60 at Pace University in lower Manhattan held signs telegraphing their opposition.
Linda Rivera's sign read, "Don't glorify murders of three,000. No 9/11 victory mosque." She cried following the board's vote.
"I lost three,000 American brothers and sisters, such as courageous policemen and firemen, and this really is a betrayal," she stated.
But Zead Ramadan, president with the board with the New York chapter with the Council on American Islamic Relations, stated Islam is "a religion of peace and justice."
"The individuals here are attempting to connect this vile attack on our nation towards the religion Islam," he stated, "though that precise act stands against every thing that Islam stands for."