Park51 developer fires back at 9/11 firefighter

By David Jones | January 15, 2011 07:56PM

Park51 developer Soho Properties yesterday filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit to block the proposed Islamic mosque and community center, arguing that the Ground Zero firefighter challenging the project lacks standing to make the complaint and that he failed to name the correct owner of the site of the proposed mosque.

Retired New York City firefighter Timothy Brown filed suit in New York State Supreme Court in October challenging a Landmarks Preservation Commission ruling in August 2010 that denied landmark status for the site, at at 45-47 Park Place, therefore allowing the proposed Islamic center to proceed.

Lawyers for Soho Properties, led by chairman Sharif El-Gamal, argued that Brown lacks any legal standing to sue, as he failed to demonstrate how he personally would be injured by the LPC ruling. Brown, one of the first firefighters to respond to the Sept. 11 attacks, claimed to be part of a preservationist group that had an interest in the historical significance of the building and the surrounding area near the World Trade Center site.

In addition, lawyers for the developer argued that Brown named the developer, Soho Properties, but failed to name the actual owner of the building, 45 Park Place Partners, which must be a named party in such a lawsuit. Lawyers said the statute of limitations for Brown to name the owner ran out Dec. 3, and therefore the suit must be thrown out.

“They didn’t sue the proper party,” said attorney Adam Leitman Bailey, who represents Soho Properties. “The guy who is suing doesn’t have proper standing to sue. He’s not injured; he has to be injured [by the LPC ruling] to sue.” El-Gamal was not immediately available for comment.

Lawyers for the firefighter countered that the firefighter has a legitimate interest in the fate of the project, and that if the proper defendant was not named in the suit, that can be amended in a new filing.

“He has an interest in preserving the historical integrity of the building that’s so close to where he responded,” said attorney Jack Lester, one of two lawyers representing Brown. “He has an interest apart from the general public, that’s why he’s named as a plaintiff.”

A court hearing is scheduled for Jan.19.