By Arun Venugopal, WNYC News
A State Supreme Court judge heard arguments Tuesday in a lawsuit meant to block development of Park51, the proposed mosque and Islamic center near Ground Zero. But he often seemed skeptical of arguments made by the plaintiff and suggested he did not want to challenge the authority of city administrators who had cleared the way for the controversial project.
The lawsuit was brought forth by the American Center for Law and Justice, a Washington, D.C.-based group that fights for conservative causes and has argued that a mosque near Ground Zero would be "deeply offensive to many Americans."
An attorney for the ACLJ, Brett Joshpe, was joined in court by attorney Jack Lester, who represents the plaintiff, firefighter and September 11 first responder Timothy Brown. Arguing the other side were attorneys Virgina Waters, representing the city, and Adam Leitman Bailey, who represents Park51 developer Sharif El-Gamal.
Lester told the court that the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission had made an "arbitrary and capricious" decision when it declined to designate 45-47 Park Place as a landmarked building last summer. The address marks the location which will house Park 51, and landmarking would prevent developers from proceeding with their plans.
According to Lester, the LPC had declined to landmark the building for reasons including absence of a famous architect or tenants, but the attorney noted that it had landmarked other buildings nearby that didn't live up to those standards.
He also argued that the building, located two blocks from the World Trade Center, deserved to be landmarked because it had weathered the September 11 attacks, and because landing gear from the planes had dropped onto the building.
"That building is a monument to that day because of what happened that day, because of its proximity," said Lester. . . .
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