August 2nd, 2010
06:27 PM ET
By Allan Chernoff, CNN Senior Correspondent
New York (CNN) - The building slated to house a proposed Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero leads Tuesday's agenda for a meeting of New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission.
The 11 commissioners will vote whether to grant landmark status to 45-47 Park Place. It and an adjoining building are owned by real estate developer Soho Properties which intends to build an Islamic center two blocks north of Ground Zero.
While the public vote has been the focus of much debate about the planned Islamic center and mosque, the commission cannot prevent the developers from building such a community center. The commission, by designating the building a landmark, can only prevent Soho Properties from demolishing the building or significantly altering its exterior.
"We will continue going forward with the project. It's a project that will build bridges," said Oz Sultan, spokesperson for the Cordoba Initiative, the organization behind the planned center that says it is "committed to promoting positive interaction between the Muslim world and the West."
Cordoba opposes landmark status for the five-story building because it would like to build a taller, modern building. "It's not minarets," said Sultan, who described a mock-up of the proposed center as consistent with the latest architecture found in New York City.
New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and other city leaders support the Islamic center.
Opponents, including former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, have argued against a mosque being so close to the scene of the nation's worst terrorist attack.
"Peace-seeking Muslims, pls understand, Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Pls reject it in interest of healing," tweeted Palin last month on her Twitter account.
The Anti-Defamation League, an organization that battles anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry, is asking for the Islamic center and mosque to be built further away from Ground Zero in consideration of families who lost loved ones during the September 11, 2001, attacks. "Building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain - unnecessarily - and that is not right," said the organization in a statement.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission points out its decision has nothing to do with the planned use of the structure.
"The purpose of tomorrow's 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," commission spokeswoman Elisabeth de Bourbon said Monday.
Most recently a Burlington Coat Factory retailer, 45-47 Park Place was completed in 1858. The Landmarks Commission describes it as "a prominent example of the store and loft structures that dominated the dry goods warehouse districts of Lower Manhattan" during the era.
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