9/11 Firefighter Challenges Mosque Decision on Architectural Grounds

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Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

Forget all of that "proximity to ground zero" stuff, the key controversy related to the approved Islamic community center and mosque is, according to one firefighter, a matter of architecture. Timothy Brown, a firefighter who survived 9/11, filed a suit Wednesday challenging the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s decision to not grant landmark status to the current building at 45-47 Park Place in order to make way for the mosque.

The building, which used to house a Burlington Coat Factory, “recalls not only mid-19th century New York City, but also 16th-century Rome and Florence,” he writes in the suit. It goes on to cite the origins of the building, constructed for “shipping-industry pioneers” Paul Spofford and Thomas Tileston who had “refused to navigate their ships under foreign flag” during the Civil War. Brown argues that the building “stands as an iconic symbol to an uninterrupted linkage of the rise of American capitalism with our current quest to preserve our freedom and democracy.”

But the commission appears to be unaffected. During the Tuesday hearing, members lumped the building’s architecture in with similar structures in the area. And today the Law Department came out with the following statement: “We are confident ... that the Landmarks Preservation Commission carefully applied all legal standards and followed appropriate procedures.”

In Battle Over Mosque, a Defender of Architecture [City Room/NYT]