Developer: 9/11 families needed role in NYC mosque

By VERENA DOBNIK | September 21, 2011 | 2:15 PM EDT

NEW YORK (AP) — The developer of a Muslim cultural center near the World Trade Center says his "biggest mistake" was not involving the families of 9/11 victims from the start.

The center — two blocks from ground zero — opens to the public Wednesday night with a photo exhibit of children.

The developer, Sharif El-Gamal, tells The Associated Press that Park51 is modeled after the Jewish Cultural Center on Manhattan's Upper West Side.

The project, which includes a mosque, has drawn fire from opponents who say they don't want a Muslim prayer space near the site of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

El-Gamal says the center is open to all faiths and will include a 9/11 memorial. He called opposition to the project part of a "campaign against Muslims."