ACLJ Asks Commission to Make N.Y. Building a Landmark to Keep 13-Story Mosque from Being Built at Ground Zero

July 25, 2010 - 3:06 PM
A conservative civil liberties group has requested landmark status for a building near Ground Zero that an Islamic group wants to replace with a 13-story mosque and community center.

This photo is a collage of photographs of almost 3,000 victims, nearly all of those who were killed during the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The photo was Exhibit #P200336 in the case of United States v. Zacarias Moussaoui. (Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Justice)

(CNSNews.com) - A conservative civil liberties group has formally requested landmark status for a building in lower Manhattan that an Islamic group wants to replace with a 13-story mosque and community center.
 
Jordan Sekulow, attorney for the American Center for Law and Justice, said the group has filed written testimony with the New York Landmark Preservation Commission to try to halt the joint plan of the Cordoba Initiative and the American Society for Muslim Advancement to build a mosque to replace a building just two blocks from Ground Zero. The landing gear of one of the planes commandeered by Muslim terrorists on Sept. 11 crashed through the roof of the building that the ACLJ wants to preserve.
 
"This battle is important because this doesn’t prevent who owns the land, it doesn't stop them but it would not be good for them," Sekulow told CNSNews.com.
 
According to the ACLJ Web site, the group is "urging city officials to landmark the site because it stands as a symbol of America's strength and survival in the face of brutal, sadistic terrorism.
 
In its written testimony to the commission, the ACLJ argued that the current building's "overwhelming historical significance" and "unique architectural features" provide solid reasons for the site to be named a landmark.
 
The commission is under pressure to decide soon if the 152-year-old building, an Italianate Renaissance palazzo style warehouse, would become one of the few current landmarks that preserves the palazzo style -- and would also preserve the historical events that happened in 2001.
 
"We're concerned that the City of New York is trying to fast-track and sidestep a well-documented process in order to clear the way for this sacred site to be used as a location to build this mosque," Sekulow told CNSNews.com.
 
Sekulow said that his group had discovered that the landmark commission has violated its own procedures while dealing with the petition to landmark the building.
 
"After we got involved, somewhat later in the process, we realized right away they were violating their own procedure. These (violations) open the door to possible court cases regardless of how they vote," Sekulow said.
 
Tim Brown, the decorated New York City firefighter who survived the attack on the Twin Towers and is represented by ACLJ, said "political correctness" and "politics" seem to be interfering with the process to landmark the building.
 
"Now, it seems the political correctness and politics have suddenly driven (the commission) to rush this thing through and break the city charter out of political correctness. It is ridiculous," Brown told CNSNews.com.
 
Brown said it isn't just a matter of naming the building a new mosque in place of a landmark rather, it is about building a mosque steps away from Ground Zero.
 
"This is as anti-American as you can get. The families lost their loved ones to terrorists, Islamic, Muslim terrorists who do not believe in religious freedom. The families believe in religious freedom. America believes in religious freedom. That is what we are fighting to preserve," Brown said.
 
"We are asking them to do this fairly and to give fair consideration to the building being landmarked. The building itself, on its own, deserves to be landmarked. The historical event that occurred on Sept. 11 directly affected this building. "
 
Many prominent figures in the political sphere have come forth and echoed Brown's sentiments.
 
Last Wednesday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich released a statement saying he opposed the construction of the mosque so long as churches and synagogues were banned from Saudi Arabia.
 
"The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over," Gingrich wrote.
 
“The proposed Cordoba House overlooking the World Trade Center site – where a group of jihadists killed over 3000 Americans and destroyed one of our most famous landmarks - is a test of the timidity, passivity and historic ignorance of American elites.
 
Earlier, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin “tweeted” on the social media mega site Twitter that she opposes the mosque's construction.
 
"Peace-seeking Muslims, pls understand, Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Pls (please) reject it in interest of healing," Palin wrote.
 
However, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters at a press conference last Monday that he is in favor of the mosque and "could not disagree more" with Palin.
 
"I think our young men and women overseas are fighting for exactly this – for the right of people to practice their religion and for government to not pick and choose which religions they support, which religions they don’t,” he said.
 
“Everything the United States stands for and New York stands for is tolerance and openness, and I think it’s a great message for the world that unlike in other places where they might actually ban people from wearing a burqa or they might actually keep people from building a building, that’s not what America was founded on, nor is it what America should become,” Boomberg added.
 
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, chairman of the initiative, said the project is an attempt to heal the wounds of 9/11. Muslims in Manhattan had been victims of 9/11, too, he said at the news conference.
 
“This is also an expression of the 99.999 percent of Muslims in the world, including in America, who have condemned – and continue to condemn – terrorism,” Feisal said.
 
But Brown said he and others are prepared to continue a full-force fight against the building of the mosque -- whether the commission landmarks the current building or not.
 
"We will continue fighting the mosque until, they stop it. And they will stop it. They will never build this mosque. Until they decide they are not going to build the mosque there, this will go on," Brown said.
 
"If the landmarks preservation commission decides they want to break the city charter, we will litigate against them. We are going to hold their feet to the fire because they are not doing the right thing."
 
Sekulow said the commission could vote on this issue as soon as Tuesday, though the vote would "likely come sometime the following week," he said. ACLJ is prepared to continue opposing the mosque regardless of the decision the commission delivers.
 
"Those who are the supporters of the mosque -- the funders of the mosque, the owners of the project -- they should know that this is not the end of the battle, regardless of how the commission votes," Sekulow said.
 
The proposed Islamic cultural center, if built, would be located just two blocks north of where the twin towers stood. In addition to the Muslim prayer center, the complex would contain a 500-seat performing arts center, a cooking school, swimming pool, restaurant and other amenities.