Developer moves to demolish 'Ground Zero mosque'
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York City real estate developer has filed plans to raze the "Ground Zero mosque," a structure housing an Islamic community center just two blocks from the site of the September 11, 2001, attacks, city officials said Tuesday.
The Islamic center and prayer space opened in 2011 amid protests that it could become a shrine to the Islamic extremists responsible for the deadly attacks on the World Trade Center.
The New York City Department of Buildings said on Tuesday it was reviewing an application from the developer to demolish the four-story building and an adjacent property in lower Manhattan, possibly to build a new, larger structure.
Sharif El-Gamal of Soho Properties has said he eventually planned to construct a $100 million, 13-story Islamic community center on the site, complete with prayer space, recreational facilities and interfaith workshops.
But Hank Sheinkopf, spokesman for the developer, would not confirm on Tuesday that the request to demolish the existing buildings was a step towards constructing the larger project.
He told Reuters that plans for the site's development "will be answered in the future."
He also would not say where the current Islamic prayer space would be relocated, should the applications to raze the building be granted.
The location of the so-called "Ground Zero mosque" spurred months of protests, with opponents saying it was disrespectful to the nearly 3,000 people killed when two airliners hijacked by extremists destroyed two Manhattan skyscrapers.
Supporters of the project said it would serve to promote a better understanding of the Muslim-American community and its history in New York City.
(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; editing by Gunna Dickson)