By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — Hundreds of people are expected to attend a hearing Tuesday on whether a historic building near Ground Zero can be torn down to make way for a new 13-story mosque and community center.
Opponents of the $100 million project, called Cordoba House, are pushing the city to landmark the existing 152-year-old building at 45-47 Park Place, as a way to hinder plans for the mosque.
Because the contentious issue has garnered so much attention, the city Landmarks Preservation Commission will hold Tuesday’s hearing in a 2,000-seat hall at Hunter College and will use a countdown clock to keep speakers to the three-minute limit, said Lisi de Bourbon, spokeswoman for LPC.
The commission’s 11 members, appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who supports Cordoba House, will not make a decision on whether to landmark the building until later this summer, de Bourbon said.
“They want to have time to digest the testimony,” she said.
Pamela Geller, executive director of Stop Islamization of America, expects many anti-mosque groups to attend, including the conservative American Center for Law & Justice and the Coalition for the Preservation of Ground Zero.
Several local preservationists said the fractious debate and political posturing dissuaded them from attending Tuesday’s hearing.
“The debate here isn’t really about whether it’s a landmark — it’s about the use of the building,” said Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy, explaining why she would not testify.
Breen said 45-47 Park Place is a “perfectly nice building” but it is not clear whether the structure rises to the level of an individual landmark.
Community Board 1’s Landmarks Committee issued an advisory opinion last week that the building ought not be landmarked.
Another leader of the city’s preservation community said the five-story building had undergone significant alterations that make it less worthy of protection.
“If the building were in better shape, and if it weren’t for the political ramifications, people would say, ‘Sure, we should [landmark] this,” said the preservationist, who declined to speak for attribution.
The city Landmarks Commission last held a hearing on 45 Park Place in 1989 but never voted on whether to designate the building, so it has remained in limbo since then.
After Tuesday’s hearing, the commission may choose to landmark the building or remove it from consideration.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission will meet at 2 p.m. July 13 at 681 Park Ave., entrance on East 69th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues.