The endless war over the controversial Park 51 Islamic community center and mosque planned for Lower Manhattan spilled into court yesterday, as Pat Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice—using former firefighter Timothy Brown as a prop—accused the Landmarks Preservation Commission of being Mayor Bloomberg's puppet. The plaintiffs say the LPC did the bidding of City Hall when it ruled that the 150-year-old building on Park Place didn't merit landmark status, but a lawyer for the city said that's just a bunch of tinfoil hat ALL CAPS 9/11 GRASSY KNOLL STUFF.
During arguments yesterday, the Times reports that attorney Virginia Waters insisted that the notion that the mayor had influenced the panel was "a conspiracy theory made up of whole cloth." She WOULD say that, wouldn't she? Waters also asserted that Brown, who does not reside in NYC, lacked any special standing to question the decision. Brown's lawyer argued that because he was a first-responder at ground zero on 9/11, he has a say in what becomes of the building, on which landing gear from one of the planes fell.
But "the judge suggested that by that logic, every police officer and firefighter who worked that day would have the right to intercede in every development project near ground zero," according to the Times. And Thomas argued that 56 other buildings were hit by plane parts, but nobody wants those structures to get landmark status. "Planes were not aimed at the Burlington Coat Factory," she said, the Post reports. "Century 21 is not a monument to 9/11. Nor is 45-47 Park Place."
A lawyer for the property manager also stressed that the building "is not at Ground Zero. You can't see it from Ground Zero. You can't throw a football and hit it from Ground Zero." The proceedings focused on legal issues like standing, but outside the courtroom the elephant in the room was turned loose. Brown called the developers “un-American" and one of the anti-mosque lawyers told reporters, "This building, which is a monument to 9/11, should not be torn down and replaced" by a mosque. To which a lawyer for the mosque developer replied, "Anyone has the right to pray where they want."