By Jill Colvin and Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — Gov. David Paterson offered to help the developers of the controversial Ground Zero mosque and community center move if they were willing to relocate.
The potential compromise was floated by Paterson not out of opposition to the proposed 13-story project, but to help quell a debate about the mosque that has raged nationwide for months.
"I don't have any objection to it being built there, but I'm very sensitive to the desire of those who are adamant against it to see something else worked out,” Paterson said Tuesday morning at a press conference in Midtown.
“And frankly, if the sponsors are looking for property anywhere at a distance that would accommodate a better feeling among the people who are frustrated, I would look into trying to provide them with the state property they would need,” he continued.
The developers of the 13-story mosque and community center, called Park51, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. They have already acquired the land for the center on Park Place, two blocks north of the World Trade Center site.
Paterson said he made the offer not because he opposes the project — in fact, he said, “there is no reason why the mosque should not be built” — but rather because New Yorkers are still dealing with the pain of 9/11.
“[The mosque] obviously ignites tremendous feelings of anger and frustration,” Paterson said, “and I think those of us in public service are going to have to create a greater dialogue right now to try to make sure that those feelings are heard and that to whatever extent we can so we can ease what may be the frustrations of [the opponents].”
Paterson’s comments came as Marist Poll released a new survey showing that 53 percent of New York City voters oppose the mosque and community center. Thirty-four percent support it and 13 percent are undecided, the poll found.
Manhattan residents were the most supportive of the center, with 53 percent in favor of it and just 31 percent opposed.
Marist also asked New Yorkers whether the center would foster understanding about Islam or offend the memories of 9/11 victims. Fifty percent of New Yorkers said the project was offensive, 34 percent said it would create understanding and 16 percent were unsure.
Marist spoke to 696 registered voters between July 28 and Aug. 5. The results have an error margin of 4 percent. The Manhattan results encompass 140 registered voters, with an error margin of 8.5 percent.