Was 9/11 landing gear found beside mosque lowered there by opponents of development? Extraordinary claims following stunning find
- 5-foot piece of landing gear from one of the planes from 9/11 was discovered just blocks from Ground Zero
- Found near 51 Park Place, the site of the Islamic center Park51
- Lawyer for mosque developer calls the part discovery a ‘gimmick’
- Police probing whether the piece was intentionally planted by opponents to the Islamic community center
- Area is being treated like a crime scene as investigators search for human remains
By Meghan Keneally, Joshua Gardner, Snejana Farberov and Associated Press Reporter
New York City police are looking into the extraordinary claims that the landing gear from a 9/11 plane, found this week in downtown Manhattan, could have been planted by opponents to the proposed Ground Zero mosque.
The airplane part was discovered wedged between 51 Park Place, the site of the proposed 13-story Islamic cultural center Park51, and 50 Murray Street, a luxury apartment building in TriBeCa.
Now a lawyer for the proposed religious site has suggested to the New York Post that the piece was intentionally placed near the center as part of a ‘gimmick.’
Found: part of a landing gear from one of the 9/11 planes was discovered wedged between buildings with a mysterious rope around it
After news emerged this week about the discovery of the part, a lawyer for Park51 called the find a ‘gimmick’ organized by those who seek to block the center’s development.
‘I don’t believe it for one minute,’ said Adam Leitman Bailey, the lawyer for the project’s lead developer, Sharif El-Gamal, in comments tothe Post.
‘I think this is a prank, and there’s no way this all of a sudden showed up. It’s hard to believe they now have found evidence that wasn’t put there recently.’
New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said that police would consider the possibility that the part had intentionally been situated between the two buildings.
‘We are also looking at the possibility that it was lowered by a rope.. We are not ruling it out … there’s a rope that is intertwined in the part itself,’ he told reporters at a press conference late on Friday.
Discovery: The piece was found between Park51 (left, an artistic rendering of the planned project) and 50 Murray Street (right, a luxury apartment building in TriBeCa)
Controversy: Instead of the state of the art facility in the plans, the Islamic center underwent renovations and opened to the public on Sep. 21, 2011 (pictured an NYPD officer standing guard on the center’s opening night)
The piece was discovered on Wednesday, 11 years after the terrorist attacks on September 11 when two Boeing 767s, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, crashed into the World Trade Center Twin Towers around 9:00am.
Within two hours of the attack, both towers collapsed – killing 2,753 people in New York.
But the developer himself tried to downplay the possible controversy over the part’s proximity to the religious center.
‘Adam Leitman Bailey has no authority to speak on behalf of Sharif El-Gamal, Soho Properties or Park51,’ a spokesman for El-Gamal said.
‘We are cooperating fully with the appropriate authorities to make sure this piece of evidence is removed with care as quickly and effectively as possible.’
The plans for Park51 have attracted considerable attention given the center’s location in the neighborhood near Ground Zero.
When plans for the center became public in 2010, opponents said they didn’t want a mosque so close to where Islamic extremists attacked, but supporters said the center would promote harmony between Muslims and followers of other faiths.
The current building that stands at the location is from the 1850s. It had been previously owned by Burlington Coat Factory before it was damaged in the September 11 attacks.
The developer plans to construct a 13-story, 4,000-square-foot center with a 500-seat auditorium, theater, performing arts a fitness center and swimming pool among the amenities. Construction costs have been estimated to top $100 million.
The prayer space for the Muslim community would accommodate 1,000–2,000 people.
But the plans sparked outrage from the families of 9/11 victims and the developer has since pared down the development.
In September 2011, the renovated building was opened to the public. The space remains under renovation.
The space now features a prayer center and space for artistic events and lectures but not the ambitious fitness and recreation center the developer had hoped to rival the 92 Street Y, on the Upper East Side.
The twisted metal part – jammed in an 18-inch-wide, trash-laden passageway between the buildings – has cables and levers on it and is about 5 feet high, 17 inches wide and 4 feet long, police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Friday.
‘It’s a manifestation of a horrific terrorist act a block and a half away from where we stand,’ he said after visiting the alley.
Commissioner Kelly said in a news conference on Friday that surveyors were working in the narrow space on Wednesday when they came across an unidentified mechanical part.
Police received a report about the discovery, but officers who responded were not sure what the large piece of metal was resting in a very confined space littered with debris.
The FBI, the National Transportation Safety Board and the Medical Examiner’s Office were notified.
Pilots who were consulted ruled that the large piece of steel measuring 5 feet by 4 feet by 17 inches at one time was part of a plane’s landing gear.
Mystery: Commissioner Kelly (pictured) told reporters a rope was wrapped around the gear and that aspect of the find would be investigated