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N.Y. judge blocks bid to stop Muslim center

New York Times / July 11, 2011

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NEW YORK - A Manhattan judge has dismissed a lawsuit by a former New York City firefighter who is trying to stop the construction of a Muslim community center in Manhattan.

The plaintiff, Timothy Brown, sought to overturn a decision by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission to deny landmark status for a 150-year-old Park Place building that would be razed to make way for the center.

The building, which once housed a Burlington Coat Factory store, was damaged in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center two blocks away. Developers of the center, known as Park51, hope to erect a new building that would include a swimming pool, an auditorium, and a mosque.

In a decision issued Friday, Justice Paul G. Feinman of state Supreme Court in Manhattan wrote that Brown was “an individual with a strong interest in preservation of the building’’ but added that Brown lacked special legal standing on its fate.

The community center project - led by a developer, Sharif el-Gamal; the imam of a nearby mosque, Feisal Abdul Rauf; and his wife, Daisy Khan - drew the ire of conservative critics who contended that it was wrong to place a mosque so close to where the 9/11 attack was carried out by Muslim extremists.

Supporters of the project, including Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, have maintained that under the Constitution, no one has the right to dictate where a house of worship may be located.

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