Hizzoner Plays Constitution Card; Lawsuit To Be Filed

NEW YORK (CBS 2/1010 WINS) ― With support from Mayor Michael Bloomberg the path was paved Tuesday for a mosque and community center near ground zero.

But opponents said the fight isn’t over.

CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer has the latest on this festering mosque controversy.

It was like a tale of two cities. On the one hand there were images of furious, placard waving opponents of a plan to build the mosque.

“Three thousand murdered. You betrayed them all. You betrayed our firemen and policemen who gave their lives willing to save innocents,” demonstrator Linda Rivera said.

“Be sure to look in those cameras and apologize for this disgrace that has just transpired here. I hope Mayor Bloomberg is satisfied,” Andy Sullivan added.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission met and quickly refused to grant landmark status, in effect agreeing that the building on Park Place near ground zero can be torn down so developers can erect 13-story, $100 million mosque and community center.

And a unanimous round of “ayes” came from the commission.

Several members of a crowd of 50 or 60 applauded, while others shouted “Shame!”

“I have come to the conclusion that 45-47 Park Place does not rise to the level of an individual landmark,” Landmarks Preservation Commission chairman Robert Tierney said.

On the other hand, there was the stark contrast of a press conference held by Bloomberg on Governors Island. The mayor was flanked by religious leaders with the majesty of the Statue of Liberty in the background as he argued that the developers’ right to build a mosque near ground zero was protected by the constitution and the right to religious freedom.

“The World Trade Center site will forever hold a special place in our city, in our hearts, but we would be untrue to the best parts of ourselves and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans if we say “no” to a mosque in lower Manhattan,” Bloomberg said.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said that if you try to exclude one religion from a neighborhood you are trying to exclude all religions.

This may not be the last chapter of this controversial project. Opponents said they’re filing suit Wednesday. The lawsuit will be filed by the American Center for Law and Justice. It is representing a New York City firefighter who survived the 9/11 attacks.

After winning the right to tear down the 152-year-old, developer Sharif El-Gamal was hard to pin down. CBS 2 kept following him to ask about his plans for the mosque, but when we called it a mosque he got defensive.

“It’s a community center. If you call it a community center we will talk,” El-Gamal said.

Others in the Muslim community had plenty to say about the importance of building the mosque.

“We’re trying to send a message that Muslim Americans are not represented by the people who attacked us on 9/11. They don’t represent our religion and they don’t represent us and they violated everything that is Islam,” said Zead Ramadan, president of the Council of Islamic-American Relations of New York.

The imam promoting the project was represented by his wife, Daisy Khan.

“In the words of John Lennon, let’s give peace a chance,” Khan said.

Some opponents said its fine to build a mosque — just not near ground zero.

“I find it unalterably offensive that they would want to establish a huge and very tall mosque where none needs to be,” Marion Dreyfus said.

“More important to the seemliness argument is the fact that they wanted to open this mosque on 9/11, 2011. This is an issue of Islamic dominance,” Sam Numberg added.

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