(Photo: AP Photo / Seth Wenig)
More than three-in-five New Yorkers are opposed to the plan to build a mosque near Ground Zero, revealed results of a new survey released Thursday.
Only 26 percent of New York residents support the proposed 13-story, $100 million Muslim cultural center in lower Manhattan two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center, according to survey findings from New York-based Siena College Research Institute.
“Large majorities of all New Yorkers, every party, region and age give a thumbs-down to the Cordoba House Mosque being built near the Ground Zero site,” remarked Dr. Don Levy, SRI’s director.
“But only just over half of all New Yorkers, even city residents say they have been following the news about the proposed mosque closely,” he added.
The Muslim group Cordoba Initiative is seeking to build an Islamic community center that includes a mosque, swimming pool, auditorium, restaurants, exhibition space and bookstores at the address 45-47 Park Place.
It cleared the first legal hurdle on Tuesday when the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission voted 9-0 against designating the building currently on the site as a landmark. The decision opens the way for the Cordoba Initiative to demolish the current building on the site to construct its high-tech Muslim center.
For months, there has been a firestorm of protest against the so-called “mega mosque” plan. A day after the NYC panel refused to grant landmark status to the building, the conservative American Center for Law and Justice, representing New York City firefighter Timothy Brown – a first responder who survived the 2001 terrorist attacks but lost nearly 100 friends – sued the city commission.
The ACLJ, founded by Christian Right leader Pat Robertson, said the city rushed to push the project forward and ignored procedure and the opinions of New Yorkers and Americans who do not think the site is the right place for a mosque.
According to the SRI survey, many New Yorkers are willing to consider the idea of a mosque near the World Trade Center site, but only to that end.
About one-in-five New Yorkers say they agree more with supporters of the Cordoba House than with opponents who say the center is offensive to the memory of those killed in the 9/11 attacks and displays unacceptable insensitivity. Supporters say the Cordoba House, if built, would serve as a monument of religious tolerance and demonstrate the presence of moderate Muslims.
According to the survey, 38 percent of the state’s residents say both sides have legitimate arguments, and more than half of NYC residents agree that the project would promote tolerance or, at least, are willing to listen to the idea.
“But when it comes to a yes or no vote, more than a quarter of those that agree with the supporters, nearly half of those that see both sides and virtually all of those that question the appropriateness of the mosque currently vote ‘No’ on the project,” Levy stated.
The SRI survey was conducted July 27 to 29 and Aug. 2 to 3, 2010 by telephone with 622 New York state residents.
Last month, the Rasmussen Reports conducted a national poll on 1,000 likely U.S. voters and found that only 20 percent of Americans support an Islamic cultural center near the Ground Zero site. Fifty-four percent of Americans, meanwhile, said they oppose such a building.
The Rasmussen poll, however, found that Americans on a national level do not pay much attention to the Ground Zero mosque controversy. Only 22 percent of respondents said they were following the story very closely, while another 29 percent said they are monitoring the story somewhat closely.