The so-called Ground Zero mosque has sparked much controversy ever since a Muslim organization announced that they wanted to build an Islamic Cultural Center in lower Manhattan near the site of the 9/11 attacks. That effort has polarized the city as advocates stand on property rights principles while opponents stress the insensitivity of erecting such a structure in the area.
Now the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ ) is contending that Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office acted inappropriately when they got involved with mosque developers to advance the project.
The ACLJ, filing a lawsuit on behalf of Tim Brown a fireman and first responder who survived the attacks against the Twin Towers, contends that New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission “…acted arbitrarily, abused its discretion, and violated administrative law by allowing political pressures to influence its decision not to landmark a building where the proposed mosque would be built.”
Led by attorney Jay Sekulow, the ACLJ has sought to obtain documents from the city of New York as part of the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) act. Initially, Bloomberg’s office resisted, but eventually complied.
Said Sekulow, “The documents released underscore what we’ve believed all along-that the Mayor was working behind the scenes-in a secretive manner-to promote and advance a project that offends most New Yorkers and most Americans. The fact that the Mayor’s Office waited four and a half months to respond to our FOIL request and then released only a portion of the documents right before Christmas validates the substance of our claim and clearly indicates that the Mayor continues to hide the full nature of his involvement in this process. We intend to seek a full disclosure from the Mayor in court shortly after the New Year.”
The mayor’s office released 21 pages of disclosures which revealed that City Hall was in direct contact with the mosque developers and assisted them in the political process. In addition, Bloomberg’s office was involved with discussions between the developers and the Community Board 1, supposedly ensuring that the aged structure standing on the proposed site of the community center was not granted preservation status.
The ACLJ does not have legal standing to stop the Muslim center from being built on the grounds of being culturally insensitive or is simply inappropriate. What Sekulow is attempting to do is to show that the city refused to follow through with classifying the building as a landmark, a move which would have kept a new building being erected in its place, in this case a cultural center or mosque.
See Also — Mosque or Cultural Center: Who’s to Say?