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Board Advises Against Ground Zero Landmark Status

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Sept. 11 families turn out to oppose the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero.

Sept. 11 families turn out to oppose the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero.

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A community board is recommending no landmark designation for a building that would be used for a mosque near the former World Trade Center site.

Community Board 1 voted 24-11 Tuesday to recommend that the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission deny historic designation to the building. The designation would complicate the mosque’s construction.

Opponents of the mosque favored the designation.

The mosque is a project of the nonprofit Cordoba Initiative, which says it promotes cross-cultural understanding between Islam and the West. Cordoba purchased the property for $4 million. It plans to build a $100 million Islamic center.

The board voted overwhelmingly last spring to back the project even as it drew emotional opposition from some local residents and relatives of 9/11 victims.

Emotions ran high earlier this month at a meeting of the Landmarks Commission. The vote, however, won’t be held until later this summer.

“It’s called Islama-phobia pure and simple and do not allow … Now, you see, if this is the voice, if this is the voice of reason then we’ve got a lot to contend with,” said Zead Ramadan of the Council on Islamic-American Relations New York.

“It would be a travesty to permit this building to be removed. It would be like removing the sunken ships from Pearl Harbor to erect a memorial for the Japanese kamikazes killed in the attack,” said Sam Nunberg of the Center for Law and Justice.

Site owner Sharif El-Gamal asked the commission to “understand the importance of this project to revitalizing New York.” And he begged the group not to grant landmark status to the 1857 Italian Renaissance-inspired building. That would make it difficult, if not impossible, to build the mosque because changes to historic buildings are hard to get approved.

“The landing gear from one of the planes from the 9/11 attack crashed into that building, went through the roof and down into the basement and that should be a museum,” Murray Hill resident Barbara Paolucci said.

Which is exactly why 9/11 families and other groups want the landmark status to be approved. They see it as a backdoor way to stop the mosque from being built near ground zero.

The Landmark Preservation Commission won’t vote until later in the summer. Members of the commission are appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He supports the mosque.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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