Hearing Tuesday on controversial mosque at WTC expected to draw crowds
The battle over whether to build a mosque just blocks from Ground Zero will culminate today at a heated public hearing that could influence the $100 million project’s fate.Plans for the 13-story Cordoba House, a mosque and community center that promotes tolerance, hinge on whether the Landmark Preservation Commission decides later this summer to protect a historic TriBeCa building. The Islamic group needs to be free to tear down the 152-year-old warehouse — damaged by an engine from a hijacked jet on 9/11 — to build its complex. The panel will hear two hours of testimony Tuesday. Opponents will argue it’s simple: Build a mosque, but not just there. “It’s just two blocks away. They will pass it on the way to the memorial,”
said Roman Gertsberg, a Queens resident who lost his only daughter, Marina, at the WTC. A growing number of officials now support the project, with Mayor Michael Bloomberg saying Monday that it would be “un-American” to investigate the religious group behind it. Last week, Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio urged his opponent, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, to probe the project’s funding source and the imam behind it, who recently hedged when asked if Hamas was a terrorist organization.
“The people have the right to know if this “charity” is using its resources in a legitimate, legal, and charitable way,” Lazio said in a letter last week to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, his opponent.
Protests against the project have tended to draw conservative groups—such as the Stop Islamization of America and the American Center for Law & Justice—more than organizations representing Sept. 11 families.
“I’ve stayed away from it,” said Diane Horning, an advocate for the proper handling of victim remains, whose 26-year-old son died in the towers.
Community Board 1, which represents the area, supports the additional community space that the building will bring, including a 500-seat auditorium, swimming pool and art exhibit spaces, and concluded the original structure needn’t be saved.Carlos Johnson, a No. 1 train operator who was the first transit worker to radio in the attacks, supports the mosque. “They should be free to have something there. That’s what this country is built on,” he said.