Local Leaders Speak Out On Issue

NEW YORK (CBS 2/1010 WINS/AP) — While the local issue of the so-called “Ground Zero mosque” proposal is now dominating the local stage, many politicians and pundits are calling it a game of politics.

But for the thousands of New Yorkers who live and work around the site that may become home to the planned mosque and Islamic cultural center two blocks from Ground Zero, it’s about much more than talking points. To many, it’s much more personal.

“It sounds like everyone is not happy with it,” said Joe Tracy, a lower Manhattan resident.

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And now that plans for the center are finalized, residents who live near the site are coming to terms with what it will mean for them in their daily lives.

“I do have alternative concerns about it being built right here,” said Michelle Massaro, a lower Manhattan resident. “Being that I live right next door…In the construction sense, and for people protesting it.”

Others share in Massaro’s concerns.

“Oh, I’m definitely cautious,” said Tracy. “You should be, because it’s something that’s very raw to a lot of people.”

Still, there are others who say the construction – and the attention – is just a part of living in the Big Apple.

“Not an issue,” said Tom Shannon, another lower Manhattan resident. “I live here. I went through the whole thing…Build it. It would be an asset to the community.”

Meanwhile, developers of the proposed mosque say they are unaware of a planned meeting with New York Gov. David Paterson to discuss the project, even though Paterson’s office says one is in the works.

A Paterson spokesman said Tuesday that the governor’s staff and representatives of the proposed Islamic center have been working to set up a meeting. Paterson said last week he would consider offering state land as an alternative site for the project, which is two blocks from the World Trade Center site.

A spokesman for the project said no meeting had been scheduled but that the developers appreciated Paterson’s interest.

Republican Rep. Pete King said he had spoken to Paterson, who said he expected to meet with representatives of the project this week.

Mayor Bloomberg, however, has not waivered in his support of the construction, and he’s taking his case for the controversial mosque on the road.

“I happen to believe that that is the most important right that we have, the right to say what we want to say, which includes pray to whomever we want, in any place we want, in any manner we want,” the Mayor said during an appearance in Philadelphia. “I think that another mosque in New York City would add to its diversity and be good to the city…Our firefighters and police officers ran into two Twin Towers they didn’t ask anybody what you believe, what you said in the past, they just went in.”

Former Mayor Ed Koch is also sounding off on the issue.

“I think the President is absolutely right, and I think that Mayor Bloomberg is absolutely correct,” he said.

A spokesman says President Barack Obama isn’t worried about the furor over his comments on the planned mosque, or that the Senate’s top Democrat opposes the idea.
Deputy press secretary Bill Burton said Tuesday that Majority Leader Harry Reid is “fiercely independent,” and just one of many Americans with strong views.
Obama said Friday that Muslims have a right to worship where they please, including near Ground Zero. But on Saturday he said he wasn’t endorsing the specific plans.

Although the center is years away from completion, Islamic services are already taking place in one of the existing buildings.

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