THE BRONX - After staying quiet while controversy swirled, the imam behind plans to build a Muslim community center near ground zero says he?s moving forward with the plan.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf wrote an op-ed posted on The New York Times website late Tuesday.

The proposed center is a $100 million YMCA-like community center with a swimming pool, classrooms and separate prayer spaces for Christians, Muslims and Jews located several blocks away from the World Trade Center site.

Imam Abdul Muheimin Ladan has met with Rauf and thinks the controversy is surprising. He believes the debate challenges people to decide their stance on American values of religious freedom and tolerance.

Opponents say the mosque should be moved farther away from whereIslamic extremists destroyed the World Trade Center and killednearly 2,800 people. Supporters say religious freedom should beprotected.