US authorities have approved the building of an Islamic culture centre and mosque in New York City, despite tensions over it being located near the site of the September 11 attacks in 2001.The Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously on Tuesday to deny landmark status to a building two blocks from the World Trade Center site that developers want to tear down and convert into an Islamic community centre that will include a mosque.
The panel said the 152-year-old lower Manhattan building is not distinctive enough to be considered a landmark.
The decision drew praise from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who called the project a key test of Americans’ commitment to religious freedom.
“The World Trade Center site will forever hold a special place in our city, in our hearts,” Bloomberg said.
“But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves, and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans, if we said no to a mosque in lower Manhattan.”
The vote was a setback for opponents of the mosque, who say it disrespects the memory of those killed on September 11.