Mosque plan approved despite contentious meeting

May 26, 2010 4:02:03 AM PDT
There was an eruption of emotions near Ground Zero Tuesday night as Community Board 1 in Manhattan approved a plan to build a 15-story mosque and cultural center right by the World Trade Center.Critics say it's a slap in the face to victims of 9/11, but supporters say it will help heal.

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The meeting got a bit ugly, and even though this project now has the green light, many family members of 9/11 victims say they still don't want this mosque near Ground Zero.

The board's meeting erupted with an intense, sometimes raw opposition to the mosque.

The old Burlington Coat Factory at 45 Park Place has sat unused since September 11th, when a jet's landing gear plunged through its roof.

"There are 200 mosques in New York, and yet another one is not a big deal," one supporter said, only to be greeted with jeers from the crowd. "Calm down."

The new owners say the mosque will be a world-class facility. One board member called it a seed of peace. But many in the audience disagreed.

"This is an insult," one woman said. "This is demeaning. This is humiliating that you would build a shrine to the ideology that inspired the attacks of 9/11."

"This house of evil will be the birthplace of the next terrorist event," another man told the crowd.

The vote was 29 to 1 in favor of the mosque, with 10 abstentions.

Now that the board has approved the plan, the only way to block construction would be to landmark the building. It has been on the list of landmark status for several years.

Construction is expected to take three years.