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Paterson proposes finding compromise site for Islamic center

By the CNN Wire Staff
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New York governor: Wounds of 9/11 not healed
  • New York governor says he'd like to discuss plans for center with its developers
  • Gov. David Paterson says wounds from the 9/11 attacks haven't healed
  • Some New Yorkers reject idea of Islamic center two blocks from ground zero
  • Paterson: Alternate site would be "noble gesture to those who live in the area"

New York (CNN) -- New York Gov. David Paterson says he'd like to discuss plans for an Islamic community center and mosque near ground zero in Manhattan with its developers to see whether a compromise site can be found.

"If people put their heads together, maybe we could find a site that's away from the site now but still serves the ... area. That would be a noble gesture to those who live in the area who suffered after the attack on this country, and at the same time would probably in many ways change a lot of people's minds about Islam, which is really a peaceful religion practiced by peace-loving people," Paterson told CNN's "Larry King Live" on Wednesday.

Paterson had been scheduled to meet with the center's builders Monday, but the meeting was postponed because developer Sharif el-Gamal was traveling.

"We're hoping to get together, but only if they want to get together," Paterson said. "There's no attempt at pressure or coercion here. I'd just like to talk about what might be a magic moment in our history."

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  • David Paterson
  • Islam

The Islamic center's leaders say they plan to build the $100 million, 13-story facility called Cordoba House two blocks from the site of the 9/11 attacks. El-Gamal describes the project as an "Islamic community center" that would include a 500-seat performing arts center, a lecture hall, a swimming pool, a gym, a culinary school, a restaurant and a prayer space for Muslims.

Some New Yorkers say an Islamic center two blocks from the site of a terror attack by Islamic extremists that killed more than 2,700 people is a painful affront, and a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released August 11 marked nationwide opposition to the proposed facility at 68 percent.

"What that tells me is the wounds of 9/11 haven't healed, and I think if they haven't, perhaps we can find ways to bring about that healing by perhaps creating a situation where people will feel more comfortable," Paterson said.

The governor did, however, note that "there is no local, state or federal statute, or any clause of the Constitution that would prohibit the mosque from being there, and so, therefore, anybody that thinks otherwise clearly is not realizing what has really been the bedrock core of the principles of our liberty."