Panel's landmark denial frees NYC mosque site

NEW YORK - (AP) - Ignoring jeers and cries of "Shame on you," acity commission on Tuesday denied landmark status to a buildingnear the World Trade Center site that can now be demolished to makeway for an Islamic community center and mosque.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission said in voting 9-0 thatthe 152-year-old building isn't distinctive enough to qualify as alandmark.

"This is not a building of special aesthetic character," saidCommissioner Diana Chapin, echoing the remarks of her colleagues.

The proposed mosque has emerged as a national political issue,with prominent Republicans from Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to formerHouse Speaker Newt Gingrich lining up against it. TheAnti-Defamation League, the nation's most prominent Jewish civilrights group, also opposes it.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, speaking on Governor'sIsland against the backdrop of the Statue of Liberty, praised thecommission's ruling.

"This building is private property and the owners have a rightto use the building as a house of worship," Bloomberg said. "Thegovernment has no right whatsoever to deny that right, and if itwere tried the court would almost certainly strike it down as aviolation of the U.S. constitution."

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