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August 3rd, 2010
10:14 AM ET

Panel denies landmark status for Islamic center and mosque site near ground zero

From CNN Senior Correspondent Allan Chernoff in New York:

New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission denied landmark status Tuesday for a building at the site of a proposed Islamic center and mosque near ground zero.

The commissioners voted unanimously against landmark status for 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 the former site of the World Trade Center.

While the public vote was the focus of much debate about the planned Islamic center and mosque, the commission could not have prevented the developers from building such a community center. The commission, by designating the building a landmark, could only have prevented Soho Properties from demolishing the building or significantly altering its exterior.

There is a prayer site in the building currently, so Muslims are peacefully praying in the building already.

"We will continue going forward with the project. It's a project that will build bridges," said Oz Sultan, spokesman for the Cordoba Initiative, the organization behind the planned center. It says the group is "committed to promoting positive interaction between the Muslim world and the West."

Cordoba opposed 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," Palin said last month on her Twitter account.

The Anti-Defamation League, an organization that battles anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry, is asking that the Islamic center and mosque be built farther 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," the organization said in a written statement.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission pointed out prior to its decision that it would have 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 the home of a Burlington Coat Factory retailer, 45-47 Park Place was completed in 1858. The Landmarks Commission described it as "a prominent example of the store and loft structures that dominated the dry goods warehouse districts of Lower Manhattan" during the era.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: 'Ground zero mosque' • Faith Now • Houses of worship • Interfaith issues • Islam • Mosque • Muslim • New York • United States

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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.