E-mails and other public records requested by opponents show a Bloomberg administration acting behind the scenes on behalf of the Park51 project — aka the Ground Zero Mosque — and a development board member looking for “political cover” before allowing the project to go forward.
Bloomberg administration officials are working “very closely with the organizers of the project. . . to combat public opposition and navigate various governmental hurdles.” One administration official even ghost-wrote a letter for Park51 organizers.
In one email from May, Shelly Friedman, the organizers’ lawyer, wrote that Manhattan Community Board 1′s vote in support of the project would be helpful as organizers urged landmark commission Chairman Robert Tierney and other panel members to reject landmark status for the building currently on the site. “I do know that chairman Tierney was looking forward to having the ‘political cover’ their support would bring him,” Ms. Friedman wrote.
Brett Joshpe, counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, one of the groups that sought the documents and is suing the city, said Ms. Friedman’s email is telling.
“Our allegation all along has been that politics tainted this process and that the Landmarks decision was not actually based on a faithful review of the architectural or historical value of the building but based upon political influences,” Mr. Joshpe said.
The exchange of emails also reveals how heavily involved the administration was in the project’s development. One email shows that Nazli Parvizi, the city’s community affairs commissioner, drafted a letter that Daisy Khan, the wife of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, wrote to the community board. City officials also intervened to help the organizers get permits to conduct prayers at the site. In one email, organizers agreed to help fund a 2009 Ramadan celebration at Gracie Mansion.
Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, said the emails are proof that the mayor’s staff was coordinating with the Islamic center’s leaders.
“They were getting press advice from the mayor’s office, they were editing letters for them,” he said. “They were advising them on the all important landmark issue.”
“They were told what to do in order to get approval and there was never any question of getting approval,” he said. “It was obviously political.”