By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — The emotional battle over the mosque near Ground Zero has up to now mostly been fought online, with dueling websites and press releases.
But on Tuesday night, the two sides will face off for the first time at a Community Board 1 meeting just a few blocks from the World Trade Center site.
At the meeting, the Cordoba Initiative’s leaders will present their plans for a $100 million mosque and community center on Park Place. The 13-story center, which would replace the long-shuttered Burlington Coat Factory, will include both secular and religious facilities.
The opponents of the Cordoba House are expected to attend Tuesday’s meeting as well, and argue that placing an Islamic institution so close to Ground Zero is disrespectful. Several anti-Cordoba House websites, including NoMosqueAtWTC.com, give the details of the meeting and urge people to attend and protest.
Although Community Board 1 has no official jurisdiction over the project, the board’s Financial District committee voted unanimously earlier this month to support it, citing the much-needed amenities it would provide.
Now, though, at least a few board members say they oppose the project. And many people think the board should not weigh in on religious matters.
“I don’t think that’s our business,” said Paul Sipos, a CB1 member.
Sipos believes the project is “insensitive” and said he hopes the board does not vote on it at all.
The resolution CB1 will consider states that the board supports the overall project and the community center aspects, including a gym, a pool and a theater. The resolution adds that the board takes no position on the religious aspects, including a mosque with room for up to 2,000 people to pray.
While CB1 Chairwoman Julie Menin is waiting until the meeting to voice her position, she and other board leaders attended Borough President Scott Stringer’s press conference last week in support of the Cordoba House.
The project has drawn tens of thousands of opponents online, and some board members are nervously wondering how many will show up at Tuesday’s meeting.
The opponents are also planning a larger protest on June 6 at Zuccotti Park, across the street from the World Trade Center site.
The Community Board 1 meeting will be held Tues., May 25 at 6 p.m. at the 3-Legged Dog, 80 Greenwich St.