By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — The proposed mosque near Ground Zero is about to get some competition.
Bill Keller, a televangelist from Florida, announced Monday that he is building a $1 million Christian center in lower Manhattan in response to the Cordoba Initiative’s plans for a 13-story mosque and community center there.
"If they can put a mosque near Ground Zero, we should be able to put a Christian center near Ground Zero and give people a choice," Keller told DNAinfo in a phone interview Tuesday morning. He called the Islamic center "a spit in the face of the people of New York."
Starting Sept. 5, Keller will hold weekly services at the Embassy Suites hotel in Battery Park City. By January, he plans to open a permanent center with daily services near Ground Zero, featuring a 300-seat gathering space, a 9/11 prayer room, classrooms and offices.
Keller, 52, said his 9/11 Christian Center at Ground Zero is "not just another church."
"We’re not looking to reach people who are already Christians," Keller said. "We’re looking to reach people with no faith at all."
Keller is best known for running LivePrayer.com, an evangelical site that he said has 2.4 million subscribers. His anti-Muslim rhetoric — he calls Islam a "1,400-year-old lie from hell" and Mohammed a "murdering pedophile who propagated his false religion through hatred, violence and death" — has drawn protests from the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Two decades ago, Keller served several years in federal prison for insider trading, an experience that he said recommitted him to evangelical Christianity.
He now lives in St. Petersburg, Fla., and will commute weekly to New York to lead services.
Keller is holding a planning meeting for the 9/11 Christian Center on July 17 at 11 a.m. at the Embassy Suites hotel, 102 North End Ave.