A group of lawyers for a retired firefighter want to legally stop Park51 from building its planned Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero.
The group, the American Center for Law and Justice, filed a motion in the New York Supreme Court on Tuesday asking for an injunction against any demolition or construction at the site of the old Burlington Coat Factory in downtown Manhattan. A group of developers and an imam want to turn the building into a community center.
But the firefighter, Timothy Brown, is one of those trying to stop the center from being built. With the ACLJ, he sued the city in August, challenging the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s decision not to grant the building landmark status, which would have prevented developers from building their community center.
The lawyers argue that the commission improperly approved Park51’s plans to build on the property, saying the commission “acted arbitrarily” in deciding not to grant the building landmark status.
The city, however, believes the commission acted properly.
“These allegations are simply an attempt to divert attention from the fact that the lawsuit is baseless,” a spokeswoman told the New York Times.
The ACLJ also wants the mayor’s office to release more of its emails between the city and the center’s developers, accusing the mayor of “stonewalling” their Freedom of Information Law request. A conservative group filed a similar lawsuit in December, demanding communications from the mayor about the project.
In the ACLJ’s court filings, they quote from the emails the group has already received. They seem to show the mayor’s office offering advice to Imam Feisal Rauf as he navigated the city bureaucracy.
Although much of the fervor around the “Ground Zero mosque” waned after the election, some diehard opponents, like Brown, are still fighting. Pamela Geller, the blogger who has become the face of the opposition, is holding another rally early next month. The rally will be both anti-mosque and pro-WalMart, which is trying to build its first store in New York City.
They may be getting all worked up over nothing. The construction project, which is expected to cost $100 million, has not even begun — although a spokesman for Park51 told the Times that they do plan to “open one section of the first floor area as a temporary space for public use for a multicultural art exhibit later in the spring.”