NEW YORK (AP) — Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office worked behind the scenes to help the organizers of a mosque and community center near ground zero, intervening with city administrators to get a temporary prayer service permit and having an official ghostwrite a letter to community leaders.

E-mails released by the city Thursday document the cooperation between Bloomberg’s Community Affairs Unit and the Cordoba Initiative, even as a furor erupted this year over the center’s proposed existence two blocks north of ground zero. The city released the documents in response to a public-records lawsuit by Judicial Watch, a conservative group.

Bloomberg’s spokesman said the city has extended similar help to other religious groups. But Judicial Watch says the e-mails show the city government went too far with its assistance.

Bloomberg has been one of the strongest supporters of the project, which drew huge protests on both sides in the months before the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Opponents argued that locating a mosque so close to the attack site is insensitive to the victims’ memories. Bloomberg and other supporters have said allowing the center to be built reflects American values of tolerance and religious freedom.

The city’s help was no different than the assistance it gives other organizations, Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser said.

“It is nothing out of the ordinary. This is what the Community Affairs Unit does,” he said, citing assistance the mayor’s office gave Roman Catholic officials in composing a letter to community boards asking for their help with a papal visit and in rushing through a permit for a temporary hut erected for a Jewish holiday.

In May, Nazli Parvizi, the head of the city’s community affairs unit, composed a 500-word letter to send to Community Board 1, an advisory council in lower Manhattan, about the mosque project. The draft of Parvizi’s letter describes the center as a “wonderful expression of our religion” and laments “media distortion” of the project. The letter in e-mails was signed by Daisy Khan, the wife of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man behind the project.

In August, Bloomberg cited the community board’s support in a speech endorsing the project.

In January the Cordoba Initiative asked Bloomberg’s commissioner of immigrant affairs, Fatima Shama, for help getting a temporary permit to hold Friday worship services at the proposed site. The city had approved permits for previous weeks, and the group believed the omission was due to a clerical error.

Shama responded a few hours later, saying the problem had been fixed.

As public anger over the mosque began to spread in May, supporters turned to the city for advice.

“Is there a good time to chat tomorrow. We need some guidance on how to tackle the opposition,” Khan wrote to Shama.

The e-mails also document donations of $300 from the Cordoba Initiative and $150 from the American Society for Muslim Advancement, a sister group, to help pay for an Aug. 24, 2009, dinner celebrating the holy Islamic month of Ramadan at the mayor’s residence.

It was at that event that Rauf first told Bloomberg about his plans for the Islamic center, and the mayor responded that it sounded like a good idea, Loeser said.

Loeser said the donations did not influence the mayor’s support of the project.

The center’s developers envision a 13- to 15-story facility with a health club, a playground, a day care center, an auditorium, a Sept. 11 memorial and a prayer room for 2,000 worshippers. The developer of the site has said groundbreaking is about three years away.

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said the documents show the city was an active proponent of the project.

“The mayor’s office was at the beck and call of the ground zero mosque folks,” Fitton said. “He obviously feels strongly about it, but he shouldn’t turn the taxpayers of New York into advocates for this group.”

On Thursday the Cordoba Initiative said the Islamic center would bring economic development to lower Manhattan, and it thanked the Bloomberg administration for its help.

“I don’t think they’ve acted improperly at all,” said Leyla Turkkan, a spokeswoman for the project.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Comments (10)
  1. Chris says:

    See, that’s the kind of ignorance that the terrorists have instilled in you. NOT ALL MUSLIMS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DEATH OF YOUR FAMILY MEMBER.

  2. your mom says:

    name on mosque, or official muslim orginazation that CHEER the 9/11 attacks. you cant. You all look like a bunch of racists. MUSLIMS didnt conduct 9/11 a bunch of nut jobs did.

  3. Les says:


    1. jeannette says:

      As a family member of someone who was injured and later died because of the 93 bombing, I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT THIS MAYOR AND HIS ADMINISTRATION HAVE THE %@$$# to go behind the people of NYC and the nation in regards to this mosque. Take it elsewhere, Gracie Mansion if you like, just keep it WAY away from Ground zero. Let our dead rest in peace.

  4. Alex says:

    This is so ugly! When Greek Christian Orthodox Church started to demand that their building should be restored which was next to Ground Zero and was demolished by 9/11, nobody from the city government has intervened. In case of Muslims, all city powers are involved. Nobody cares about vast majority of citizens against this mosque. Muslims are encroaching over the city and over the country. same Muslims who killed us on 9/11. Does this government represents us?

  5. chris says:

    Why do we want Arabs in ground zero?

  6. aldous huxley says:

    1) Bloomberg is a billionaire.
    2) He is the ruler of the NYC – greatest city on earth!

    How do we expect him to act? Do you think he gets to this position by being a really nice guy who cares about the “regular joe”.. Uhm, doubtful.

    He sees NYC as his property – the people are just cogs in his great machine. He doesn’t want feedback from the people – that is not what CEO’s do. He hates having to play “nicey-nice” for the press, which is why he usually doesn’t come off well.

    He was correct in his comments about Obama’s arrogance, but it’s just kind of funny from coming the 2nd place winner.

    We need to keep billionaire CEO’s from getting elected to these positions.

  7. ironhd1k says:

    Why are any of you surprised. This mayor has done nothing but insult and disregard the concerns of the actual citizens of the city. He is too rich to live in Gracie Mansion; he has changed from Democrat, to Republican, to Independent. He has put his agenda above and against the people of New York in his move to repeal Term Limits. He has consistently lied to the people and has moved behind the scenes to get his way. The fact that he has “deep pockets” simply assures the rest of us that he will not be going away anytime soon and with his billions will continue to see the world from his “elitist” point of view. He will run for president because his ego demands it. He would love to be the first Jewish President of the United States.

  8. phil konner says:

    Just wait till the “peaceful” occupants of the ground zero mosque, celebrate the next attack on NYC in the streets as New Yorkers suffer.. Bloomberg can then rejoice at the ground zero mosque at the death of more New Yorkers. NYC is pit and I am so glad I left. (If you are reading this, vote against the dictator/mayor by moving your tax dollars out of the state and city. )

  9. Lovin' It says:

    ‘How you like him now?” As they slowly pull the knife out of their backs, I hope Bloomberg’s “supporters”, as they finished celebrating Hannukah, felt the love. Good job getting him his third term. Be careful what you wish for…….

Leave a Reply