A private group on Tuesday won the right to build an Islamic centre, which includes a mosque, near the site of the destroyed World Trade Center despite vocal opposition from victims of the 9/11 terrorist attack.
The Cordoba Institute said it plans to spend $100 million to rebuild the site at 45 Park Place in lower Manhattan after New York's Landmarks Preservation Commission voted 9-0 against granting landmark status to the site.
The vote removed preservation status on the 152-year-old building, opening it to development. The Cordoba Institute said the Islamic centre will include a mosque, gym and also open the site to other facilities.
The Jewish Anti-Defamation League, local community leaders, some New York politicians and families of the more than 2,700 people killed Sept 11, 2001 had strongly opposed a mosque near Ground Zero.
"This project raises serious, serious questions that must be answered," news reports quoted Rick Lazio, a Republican candidate for New York governor, as saying.
"Where does the funding come from for a 100-million-dollar mosque?" Lazio said. "The imam who's in charge of this has said America was responsible for the attacks on 9/11. In fact, his words were we were an accessory to the crime of 9/11. He has said Osama bin Laden was built in the US. These are not the words of a bridge builder."
But inter-faith groups defended the plan for a mosque, saying it would open the way to heal 9/11 wounds.
The American Society for Muslim Advancement's Daisy Khan said the new Islamic centre's board would include members of other religions. She does not rule out an interfaith chapel at the site.
"We want to repair the breach and be at the front and centre to start the healing," Khan said in The Wall Street Journal.