Opponents of a plan to build a mosque two blocks from the World Trade Center filed a lawsuit Wednesday, challenging the decision not to grant landmark status to the building set to be demolished to make way for the project.
The American Center for Law and Justice, founded by the Reverend Pat Robertson, filed a petition that the Landmarks Preservation Commission acted arbitrarily and abused its discretion.
On Tuesday, the panel voted unanimously to deny landmark status to the building at 45 Park Place that would be torn down so the mosque can be built.
Commissioners said the building did not warrant protection.
That sparked protests from some attending the vote, who say building a mosque so close to the site of the September 11th terrorist attacks will cause pain to the victim's families.
"It is pretty obvious that this is being pushed by a political agenda, by political correctness and it was not fair. It was not fair to the families and it was not fair to New Yorkers," said Lawsuit Plaintiff Tim Brown.
"We feel they did not take into consideration the historical importance of this property, especially in light of September 11th," said Brett Joshpe of the American Center for Law and Justice.
A group called the Cordoba Initiative plans to build a 13-story, $100 million cultural center on the site. The plans call for a mosque as well as performing arts spaces, a gym, and other facilities.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been outspoken on this issue. He gathered with a group of religious leaders in support of the mosque Wednesday, saying our nation was founded on the freedom to worship as we choose.
"Political controversies come and go, but there is no neighborhood in our city that is off limits to God's love and mercy,” said the mayor.
Meanwhile, Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro wrote the Imam of the proposed mosque, asking him to "take the high road" and move the center.
The mosque has also become a hot topic in the governor's race.
"I don't want government telling me where I can practice my Catholicism. Freedom of religion is sacrosanct," said gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo.
Even if the building is deemed a landmark, that wouldn't necessarily halt the project.
Developers say they could still turn the property into a mosque and center, albeit one much smaller than the one originally planned.