By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — The Florida pastor who threatened to burn Korans in protest of the Park51 Islamic center visited the center’s proposed site near Ground Zero for the first time Tuesday.
Pastor Terry Jones first spoke to reporters at the World Trade Center site about 11 a.m. Tuesday and then walked two blocks up to the future mosque and community center on Park Place.
"We feel the mosque should not be built there," Jones told DNAinfo after the press conference. "I consider it in bad taste so close to Ground Zero. I also question the motivations behind it. Is it a victory mosque?"
Jones, 59, originally planned to visit lower Manhattan around this year’s 9/11 anniversary, but Police Commissioner Ray Kelly asked him not to for security reasons.
Jones said he decided to try a second time to come downtown because he wanted to pay his respects to the first responders killed on 9/11.
Jones also wanted to promote his new organization, Stand Up America, which he said would combat radical Islam worldwide.
"We will speak out about human rights issues," Jones said, "especially in Muslim-dominated countries, where Christians are treated unfairly."
During his trip, Jones admitted that many members of his congregation had left his church because of his crusade against Islam, the Daily News reported.
"People come to church and want to hear, 'God loves you, you're a good person,'" he said, according to the paper. "That's true. God does love you. But there's more we need to tell people, and they don't want to hear it."
Jones’s visit to Park51 Tuesday coincided with the celebration of Eid al-Adha, a major Muslim holiday. Park51 held Eid services at the site of their future center Tuesday morning, followed by a public feast.
Jones said the timing was "purely an accident." He wanted to get the visit in before Thanksgiving, he said.
After Jones’s suggestion of an "International Koran Burning Day" created a national firestorm over the summer, he has since promised not to burn any Korans.
But that doesn’t mean he’s done criticizing the Muslim holy book.
"We are thinking about doing something similar," Jones told DNAinfo Tuesday. "Maybe 'Internationalal Judge the Koran Day'…to put that book on trial. But as far as actual burning, that’s not in our plans."