A New York City panel on Tuesday cleared the way for the construction near ground zero of a mosque that has caused a political uproar over religious freedom and the Sept. 11 terror attacks even as opponents vowed to press their case in court.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to deny landmark status to a building two blocks from the World Trade Center site that developers want to tear down and convert into an Islamic community center and mosque. The panel said the 152-year-old lower Manhattan building isn’t distinctive enough to be considered a landmark.
The decision drew praise from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who stepped before cameras on Governor’s Island with the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop shortly after the panel voted and called the mosque project a key test of Americans’ commitment to religious freedom.
“The World Trade Center site will forever hold a special place in our city, in our hearts,” said Bloomberg, a Republican turned independent. “But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves, and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans, if we said no to a mosque in lower Manhattan.”
The vote was a setback for opponents of the mosque, who say it disrespects the memory of those killed at the hands of Islamic terrorists on Sept. 11. Jeers and shouts of “Shame on you” could be heard after the panel’s vote.
The American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative advocacy group founded by the Reverend Pat Robertson, announced it would challenge the panel’s decision in state court yesterday.
The proposed mosque has emerged as a national political issue, with prominent Republicans lining up against it.
Bloomberg said on Tuesday that denying religious freedom to Muslims would play into terrorists’ hands. He said firefighters and other first responders who died in the Sept. 11 attacks had done so to protect the US Constitution.
“In rushing into those burning buildings, not one asked, ‘What god do you pray to? What beliefs do you hold?’” Bloomberg said of the first responders. “We do not honor their lives by denying the very constitutional rights they died protecting.”
Former US representative Rick Lazio, a Republican running for governor of New York, attended the commission meeting with a handful of opponents to the mosque, which is being developed by a group called the Cordoba Initiative.
“This is not about religion,” Lazio said. “It’s about this particular mosque called the Cordoba Mosque, it’s about it being at ground zero, it’s about it being spearheaded by an imam who has associated himself with radical Islamic causes and has made comments that should chill every single American, frankly.”
Lazio said the group’s imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, had refused to call the Palestinian group Hamas a terrorist organization. Rauf also said in a 60 Minutes interview televised shortly after Sept. 11 that “United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.”
The Cordoba Initiative says on its Web site that its goal is to foster a better relationship between the Muslim world and the West.
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
They stand as eyesores to most passers-by and potential public health risks to authorities, decaying buildings wrapped in tangles of exposed wire, studded with protruding leaky plastic pipes, vegetation billowing from cracks and terraces where particulates from polluted air have accumulated over time. With skyscrapers and ultramodern developments on every side, some of these “nail houses” are also sitting on land worth millions of dollars in Shenzhen’s inferno of a property market, where new-unit and second-hand home prices rival London. In battles over land and development, the nail house phenomenon has become widespread throughout China over the past two decades, with owners
An Italian alpine resort on Friday remained on high alert over fears that a vast chunk of a glacier on the slopes of the Mont Blanc massif could plummet in high temperatures. “No one gets through! No cars, bikes or pedestrians,” was the message at a checkpoint where an automatic barrier and two guards blocked the small road snaking up into a lush valley below the Planpincieux glacier, near the town of Courmayeur and the Italian-French border. The blockade has largely been greeted with contempt by the locals, one of whom said: “It’s a joke.” The huge ice block measuring around 500,000 cubic
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong (FCC) yesterday said that reporters in the territory were experiencing “highly unusual” visas problems, and called on the US and China to stop using the media as a political weapon. Journalists have been caught up in US-China tensions, with both sides placing limits or expelling reporters from their territories in the past few months. Now the spat is filtering into Hong Kong, a regional press hub nominally in charge of its own immigration policies. The FCC said in a statement that multiple media firms had reported delays getting visas in recent months. “The delays have affected journalists