ACLJ Amends Lawsuit Over Ground Zero Mosque

A lawsuit seeking to stop the development of the proposed Islamic center near New York City's Ground Zero has been amended to include the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB), the owners of the proposed development and project, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The new court documents, submitted Wednesday, specifically allege that the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) "acted in an arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable manner" when it denied landmark status to the building that currently stands where the proposed Islamic center seeks to be.

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which submitted the original and latest suits, further claims in the amended suit that the LPC "allowed the intended use of the Building and political considerations, including pressures from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who appoints the LPC commissioners, to taint what should be a deliberative, unbiased and apolitical process."

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"This was accomplished in violation of procedural safeguards set forth in the New York City Charter and Administrative Code of the City of New York," the legal group stated.

At the heart of the complaint is the $100 million Islamic mosque and cultural center that supporters say will promote integration and tolerance and improve Muslim-West relations.

While Muslim leaders behind the project say the Islamic center "will provide a place where individuals, regardless of their backgrounds, will find a center of learning, art and culture," opponents of the the proposed "mega mosque" argue that an Islamic center just two blocks away from Ground Zero is insensitive and insulting to the families of the 9/11 victims. Furthermore, critics say the project would mark a victory for those who sought to terrorize the American people.

In an effort to stop the development of of the Islamic center, ACLJ earlier this year urged New York City officials to grant landmark status to the current building on the site - a former Burlington Coat factory on Park Place that housed a piece from one of the hijacked airplanes that crashed into it. Landmark status would have made it difficult for the leaders of Park51 to raze the building and build its center there.

The city commission voted 9-0 in early August, however, to deny landmark status to the building, effectively saying the building does not have a special character or special historical or aesthetic interest or value as part of the development, heritage or cultural characteristics of New York City, New York State or the nation.

ACLJ announced shortly afterward that it was preparing legal action to challenge the vote.

"It has been clear from the beginning that the city has engaged in a rush to push this project through-ignoring proper procedure and ignoring a growing number of New Yorkers and other Americans who don't believe this site is the place to build a mosque," said ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow.

Now, two months later, ACLJ is accusing Bloomberg of remaining silent and ignoring requests for "critical information" about his involvement in the approval process for the Islamic center.

"By refusing to provide pertinent information about his involvement in the project, the Mayor is ignoring the very laws that he has sworn to uphold," noted Sekulow.

Such refusal, ACLJ adds, raises questions about whether the mayor used political pressure to get the city agency to approve the project.

"The people of New York City deserve to know what role the mayor played - and what political pressures were employed to jam this project through," said Sekulow. "We will continue to aggressively pursue our legal challenge to the mosque and remain hopeful this mosque will never be built on this site."

Presently, the ACLJ is representing Tim Brown, a firefighter and first responder who survived the Twin Towers' collapse in 2002 and lost nearly 100 friends. The ACLJ filed its initial lawsuit with the Supreme Court of the State of New York in August. It is seeking to have the LPC's decision overturned.

Additionally, the ACLJ is requesting an injunction against the DOB from issuing any building permits and disclosure of all relevant information from public officials and agencies named in the suit through the Freedom of Information Law

Ultimately, ACLJ seeks to stop the development of the proposed "ground zero mosque," the site for which is actually two blocks away from Ground Zero.

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