NEW YORK – A conservative legal group asked the New York Supreme Court on Tuesday to halt construction of the Islamic cultural center near ground zero.
The American Center for Law and Justice, which represents 9/11 first responder firefighter Tim Brown in a lawsuit against the Park51 project, is seeking an injunction in any demolition and construction at the downtown Manhattan site.
The group alleges that Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his office overstepped their legal boundaries in assisting the developers of the $100 million project.
Court filings revealed several emails between Bloomberg's office and the Park51 developers.
In one email, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is spearheading the project, wrote to a commissioner of the Community Affairs Unit in the mayor's office thanking her for drafting a letter to the Lower Manhattan Community Board 1 advocating for the project.
ACLJ counsel Brett Joshpe also asked the court to grant discovery in the case, noting that the mayor's office has not fully responded to the group's Freedom of Information Law request for communications between Bloomberg, the New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission, and the Islamic center's developers.
"There is a disturbing pattern of stonewalling by the City and Mayor's Office in providing information about what's clearly been a politically tainted process from day one," said Josphe in a statement.
"The limited release of documents by the Mayor's Office underscores our concerns."
Filed last August, Brown's lawsuit alleges that the LPC abused its discretion and acted arbitrarily in its deliberations last summer about whether to give landmark status to the building at 45-47 Park Place, which would have made it difficult for Rauf to develop the Islamic center and mosque there. The LPC denied landmark status to the building, located just two blocks from the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The lawsuit names the LPC, the New York City Department of Buildings, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and the project's developers.
In its request for injunctive relief, ACLJ said it believes destruction of the building is imminent, citing two complaints of unauthorized work without proper permits at the site.
The group also pointed to the developers' application for $5 million in public funding through the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation as an indication that the project is moving forward.
The proposed center is expected to include a mosque, a daycare, gym, an interfaith prayer space, and a 9/11 Memorial cultural center, among other things.
Opponents of the mosque have vocally demanded that the center be moved elsewhere.
Activist Pamela Geller is expected to lead another protest against the mosque next month.