The tone was hushed this morning inside Pace University, where the Landmarks Preservation Commission met before a slew of cameras and the public and voted unanimously not to protect the building at 45-47 Park Place in the Financial District, standing since 1858. That site, as countless outraged individuals will point out, is two blocks north of where the new World Trade Center is now rising, and where plans to build a new Islamic community center called Park51 (aka Cordoba House and the "Ground Zero Mosque") have become a hot topic. Here's how the most controversial landmark vote of the year went down.
A solemn remembrance of September 11 was given by Commissioner Christopher Moore (the building's roof was damaged by a jet engine on the morning of the attack), but he noted that the building in question doesn't rise to the level of an individual landmark, and the rest of the LPC concurred. It wasn't until the vote was finalized and the meeting adjourned that the public's raucous opinions were heard. First there was applause, with cheers of support for the commission. Then came cries of "Shame on you" and "It's a Trojan horse" from those opposed to the what one commissioner tagged "the most famous community center in the world."
The press jockeyed to get interviews with the more colorful characters on both sides, and the scrum moved out to the sidewalk along Spruce Street, opposite the shining slopes of Mount Gehry, where everything was far more civil than might have been expected. The vote clears the way for the developer, SoHo Properties, to move ahead with the 13- to 15-story building housing prayer rooms, performance spaces, a swimming pool and other enticements. The next step will be raising the projected $100 million needed to make the plan a reality, and fending off a lawsuit. No doubt this saga will continue.
· 45 Park Place coverage [Curbed]