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Firefighter loses bid to sue over New York mosque

A man removes his shoes before entering the prayer hall at the Islamic Cultural Center of New York in the Manhattan borough of New York
A man removes his shoes before entering the prayer hall at the Islamic Cultural Center of New York in the Manhattan borough of New York

By Grant McCool

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A judge dismissed a firefighter's lawsuit over New York City's decision to allow an Islamic cultural center and mosque to be built near the site of the September 11 attacks, a ruling his lawyer said on Monday would be appealed.

New York State Supreme Court Justice Paul Feinman on Friday granted the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission's motion to reject the suit by Timothy Brown, who survived the attacks nearly 10 years ago.

U.S. conservatives and many New Yorkers have spoken out against the proposed center in lower Manhattan near the site where the World Trade Center's twin towers were destroyed.

The project generated intense national debate last year, drawing in President Barack Obama, who initially seemed to endorse the center but later said he only supported the organizers' right to build.

The judge rejected the firefighter's claim that he would be unable to properly commemorate September 11 with the mosque nearby.

"Mr. Brown's claim that his ability to commemorate will be injured, is not yet recognized under the law as a concrete injury that can establish standing," the judge wrote. "Such an injury, although palpable to Brown, is immeasurable by a court."

The preservation panel last August denied landmark status to the building that will make way for the planned 16-story, $150 million center. Construction has yet to begin.

Brown's attorney, Brett Joshpe of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), said on Monday that an appeal would be filed within weeks, an action that could extend the legal battle over the mosque for years.

"This decision fails to give appropriate consideration to first responders and others who risked their lives and lost loved ones on September 11th," Joshpe said. "If Mr. Brown does not have standing, then who does?"

The ACLJ, founded by U.S. conservative Christian preacher Pat Robertson, argued at a hearing in March that the site should be deemed a landmark because it was struck by the landing gear from one of the hijacked planes flown into the World Trade Center.

The case is Timothy Brown v NYC Landmarks Preservation, New York State Supreme Court, County of New York, No. 011344/2010

(Reporting by Grant McCool; Editing by Daniel Trotta)

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