NEW YORK (AP) — The property owners who want to build an Islamic cultural center and mosque two blocks from ground zero are suing previous occupant Burlington Coat Factory for removing a sign from the building as it became the focus of a national debate.

The lawsuit filed Friday in Manhattan Supreme Court claims the May 2010 removal of the 161-square-foot sign bearing the Burlington name from the side of the building was illegal.

The papers claim Burlington ordered the sign removed from the building it no longer leased partly because of the company’s displeasure with the media spotlight turned on the building.

The lawsuit also names several sign companies and seeks more than $7 million in compensation for lost advertising income and damages because zoning laws forbid replacing the sign.

None of the defendants responded to calls seeking comment.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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