NYC Panel Denies Landmark Status; Opens Way for Ground Zero Mosque

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission on Tuesday denied landmark status to the building near Ground Zero, opening the way for a "mega mosque" to be built two blocks from the site of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The panel voted 9-0 against designating the building as a landmark.

The building at 45-47 Park Place is on the site where the Cordoba Initiative plans to build a 13-story, $100-million Islamic cultural center. Landmark status would have made it difficult for the Muslim group to build the center there.

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Ahead of the vote, commission spokeswoman Elisabeth de Bourbon said that their decision has to do with the character of the building.

"The purpose of [the] vote is to decide whether the building has 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," she told CNN Monday.

The Cordoba Initiative and the American Society for Muslim Advancement own the property at 45-47 Park Place. They are currently using it to hold prayer meetings.

Since news of the proposed "mega mosque" near Ground Zero broke several months ago, opponents of the idea have been fiercely fighting to block it.

Family members of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks argue that a large Islamic center near Ground Zero is insensitive because the terrorists were inspired by their Islamic faith to kill thousands of innocent American civilians.

Christian leaders likewise say a mosque that close to Ground Zero is insensitive and insulting to the family members of the 9/11 victims. Some Christians also point out that while they are not opposed to Muslims building mosques in New York City, they have to question why Muslims want to build one that close to the tragic site.

"Why was this particular site selected? Because the need for a $100 million mosque is so great? Because 45-47 Park Place is the only place left in Manhattan to put a mosque?" posed Mosab Hassan Yousef, author of the bestselling book Son of Hamas, in July.

"No. Because it will make a powerful political and religious statement," said Yousef, who is the son of one of the founders of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. He is now a Christian and lives in California.

Supporters of the mosque proposal, however, assert that allowing the construction of the Islamic cultural center would demonstrate America's religious tolerance and improve interfaith relations. They say the center would serve as a place for moderate Muslims.

The 152-year-old building at Park Place has been described by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission as "a prominent example of the store and loft structures that dominated the dry goods warehouse districts of Lower Manhattan" during the mid-19th century. It was most recently used as a Burlington Coat Factory retailer.

Last year, the Cordoba Initiative and the American Society for Muslim Advancement paid $4.85 million cash to Soho Properties, a Muslim-run real estate company, for 45-47 Park Place. According to proposed plans by the Muslim group, the Islamic cultural center on the site will include a 500-seat auditorium, a swimming pool, art exhibition spaces, bookstores and restaurants.

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