After the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to deny landmark status to the building that will be torn down to build the 13-story Islamic community center near the World Trade Center site, Mayor Bloomberg gave a speech on Governors Island applauding the decision. It's rather stirring, by Bloomberg's standards, and frames his commission's vote as emblematic of New York City's ideals of tolerance. Here's an excerpt:
We've come here to Governors Island to stand where the earliest settlers first set foot in New Amsterdam, and where the seeds of religious tolerance were first planted. We come here to see the inspiring symbol of liberty that more than 250 years later would greet millions of immigrants in this harbor. And we come here to state as strongly as ever, this is the freest city in the world. That's what makes New York special and different and strong...
The simple fact is, this building is private property, and the owners have a right to use the building as a house of worship, and the government has no right whatsoever to deny that right. And if it were tried, the courts would almost certainly strike it down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question: Should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here.
Daily Politics has the entire transcript of the mayor's speech, and points out the part where Bloomberg fought back tears as he recalled that on 9/11, "more than 400 of those first responders did not make it out alive. In rushing into those burning buildings, not one of them asked, 'What God do you pray to?' " Below, more reactions from the NYCLU, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Rick Lazio and Carl Paladino.
Michael Caputo, campaign manager for Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino:
Today the nine Bloomberg stooges on the Landmarks panel did exactly as they were told and cleared the way for 13-story insult to all Americans at Ground Zero. It is especially astounding that Mayor Bloomberg, who owes his rise to power to 9-11, is fast-tracking this desecration of the district where thousands of Americans were murdered.
Enough talk. New Yorkers want the entire district around the World Trade Center declared a War Memorial. As governor, Carl Paladino will do whatever it takes to stop the Ground Zero Mosque - including using eminent domain
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer:
From the racist rants of a discredited Tea Party leader to the cynical posturing of a floundering gubernatorial candidate, this process has been manipulated by those looking to get headlines and score political points. We reject their divisive tactics. What we really need is a dialogue that facilitates community healing. Real New Yorkers need to be consulted as this project moves forward, and that includes families who lost their loved ones on 9/11.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio:
Andrew Cuomo has remained silent on the matter of an investigating the finances of this project, as he was silent on whether to have the trial for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed In lower Manhattan. In the absence of leadership from Andrew Cuomo I will continue to ask the questions about this project that need to be answered to insure the public safety of New Yorkers.
The NYCLU and ACLU:
The free exercise of religion is one of America’s most fundamental freedoms. For hundreds of years, our pluralism and tolerance have sustained and strengthened our nation. On 9/11, religious extremists opposed to that very pluralism killed 3,000 Americans. Those fanatics would want nothing more than for our nation to turn its back on the very ideals that make this country so great.