Hearing on lower Manhattan Islamic Center reignites debate

Lawyers representing a New York City 9/11 firefighter stand in opposition to so-called "Ground Zero mosque."

Ground Zero 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Ground Zero 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
NEW YORK – In a hearing Tuesday in New York State Supreme Court, lawyers representing a New York City 9/11 firefighter stood in opposition to the inaccurately- labeled “Ground Zero mosque” – an Islamic cultural center whose proposed location near Ground Zero has attracted headlines, and vociferous debate since last summer.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) filed suit last year, challenging the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission’s (LPC) decision not to landmark the building at the proposed site for the Islamic cultural center project, tentatively titled Park 51.
The ACLJ represents Tim Brown, a New York City firefighter and 9/11 responder, and the suit names the LPC, the New York City Department of Buildings, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the developers of Park 51.
Following a motion to dismiss the case, the ACLJ argued in yesterday’s hearing, among other points, that political pressure from Bloomberg’s office forced the LPC’s hand, and requested further discovery.
“We believe there were political influences from the Mayor’s office on the Landmarks Commission,” ACLJ attorney Brett Joshpe told The Jerusalem Post.
Since the respondents have claimed two exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act law, Joshpe added, his organization has not yet been able to tell whether there were direct communications between the two entities – an issue underlying the request for discovery.
Other issues under consideration were whether or not Tim Brown has legitimate grounds to serve as a plaintiff in the suit under New York law.
With last summer’s hue and cry over the issue, alternative sites were proposed by various parties. But as the story has receded from front page headlines, Joshpe said, offers to find or provide alternative locations seem to have been ephemeral.
“I’ve not heard anything of late that would suggest that they’re amenable to that,” Joshpe said, referencing a change of location.
Judge Paul Feinman indicated that a ruling could come as early as four weeks from now.