FaithWorld

New York mosque project site faces legal challenge

March 16, 2011
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(A lower Manhattan building duet to make way for an Islamic cultural center and mosque in New York August 17, 2010/Lucas Jackson )

A New York building set to be demolished for an Islamic cultural center and mosque should be preserved as a monument of the September 11 al Qaeda attacks, opponents of the mosque project have said in court.  A lawsuit by a New York firefighter who survived the attacks in 2001 seeks to overturn a decision by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission last August denying landmark status to the Lower Manhattan building, clearing the way for the 16-story, $150 million center.

U.S. conservatives and many New Yorkers have spoken out against the proposed center, still at least six years from completion. Opponents of the project argue it would be insensitive to put an Islamic cultural center and mosque so close to the site of the toppled World Trade Center twin towers, considering those responsible for the September 11 attacks were Muslim militants.

The American Center for Law and Justice, or ACLJ, argued during a hearing in New York Supreme Court that the site should be deemed a landmark because it was struck by the landing gear from one of the hijacked planes flown into the World Trade Center.

“That building is a monument to that day,” attorney Jack Lester told the court on Tuesday. He and the ACLJ, founded by U.S. conservative Christian preacher Pat Robertson, are representing firefighter Tim Brown, who brought the suit.

Judge Paul Feinman raised the question as to whether that argument meant every building in the area damaged on September 11 needed to be landmarked. “No … and that’s why this case is unprecedented,” Lester said. Attorney Adam Leitman Bailey, representing building owner Soho Properties, said the reason for the legal action was the intended use of the site as an Islamic cultural center.

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