A New York City State Supreme Court justice has dismissed a lawsuit brought by a former firefighter against the developers of an Islamic community center near the site of the 9/11 World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan.
Justice Paul G. Feinman in his decision Friday wrote that Timothy Brown lacked any legal standing over the project site, located on Park Place.
Brown had sought to have the site, a former Burlington Coat Factory store, declared a New York City landmark. If Justice Feinman had ruled in Brown's favor, he would have overturned the local landmark commission's refusal to have the site declared a landmark.
Brown argued that the site is worthy of landmark status because so many firefighters and police officers died during the attacks in an effort to rescue people.
The Burlington Coat Factory, located just two blocks from the World Trade Center, was also damaged during the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The developers of the Islamic center include Sharif El-Gamal and two of his associates. The group goes by the name Park51. A lawyer for El-Gamal, an imam of a nearby mosque, told the New York Times that he considers the tossed lawsuit “a victory for America.”
He added, “Despite the tempest of religious hatred, the judge flexed our Constitution’s muscles enforcing the very bedrock of our democracy.”
Those against the building of the Islamic center, which will also house a mosque, swimming pool, and an auditorium, say building the structure in such close proximity to where so many people died in an attack carried out by Muslim extremists would be disrespectful to the dead as well as to their surviving family members.
According to the Times, Brown called El-Gamal and his associates “un-American” for wanting to pursue their building project at Park Place.
Among Park51's supporters is NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and he has repeatedly pointed to the Constitution's guarantee of freedom of religion for all Americans, which he says also includes the building of religious sites and houses of worship.
A rally is planned for the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks and protesters say they will be crying out against the building of the center.
One of the rally's organizers, Pamela Geller, who is the executive director of Stop Islamization of America, announced on her blog that the rally is meant to commemorate “our war dead and to protest the 15-story mega mosque going up on Ground Zero.”
The number of people killed during the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center include more than 400 police officers and firefighters among a total of 2,753 victims.