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Crews Begin Sifting Through Plane Wreckage Found Behind Park51

By Nikhita Venugopal | April 29, 2013 1:09pm | Updated on April 29, 2013 3:34pm

FINANCIAL DISTRICT — Investigators pored over the alley behind Park51 on Monday, sifting through airplane wreckage that was discovered there last week and likely came from one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center towers, officials said.

Officials spent Monday morning preparing the area behind the mosque and community center at 51 Park Place, following health and environmental safety protocols, according to a spokeswoman for the Medical Examiner's office.

Detectives also discovered Monday that the rope found with the aircraft piece was actually placed there by an NYPD officer who had used it last week to try to tilt the gear to find a serial number, police said. The rope had fueled speculation that the wreckage might have been lowered into the alleyway.

The Medical Examiner planned to begin searching the soil around the aircraft piece for human remains at 8 a.m. Tuesday, cops and the Medical Examiner's office confirmed.

The piece of airplane wreckage found last week behind Park51 was confirmed to be a "trailing edge flap actuation support structure" of a Boeing 767, officials from Boeing confirmed to cops.

The wreckage is believed to be a part of one of the two airplanes destroyed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, police said Monday.

Emergency Service Units were expected to remove the airplane from behind the Lower Manhattan building on Wednesday, cops said. The NYPD property clerk would then take custody of it.

Surveyors found the plane part on April 24 at one end of a narrow 94-foot-long air shaft between 51 Park Place and 50 Murray St.

Boeing told NYPD crime scene investigators that the serial number on the aircraft came from one of their wide-body planes, but they could not confirm that the plane was one of the two that hit the World Trade Center, police said.

The National Transportation Safety Board took custody of previously recovered pieces of the 9/11 aircrafts years ago and they have been treated as historical artifacts. The recently discovered plane part will remain with the NYPD until officials decide what to do with it, cops said.