President Obama has expressed his support for the construction of a Muslim community center and mosque near the World Trade Center site in downtown Manhattan, as many protest the plan, saying it is wrong to build a mosque so close to the site of the Sept. 11 attacks.
A Manhattan lawyer with ties to the Saudi royal family is floating to officials and community leaders a potential plan to move the controversial Ground Zero mosque away from its proposed site near the World Trade Center to another Manhattan neighborhood.
Attorney Dudley Gaffin is claiming King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia might want to buy shuttered St. Vincent's Medical Center in the West Village and transfer the mosque to a new Islamic cultural center he would build on a plot at the site, say sources who have heard Gaffin's pitch.
The king, worth more than $20 billion, would also save the hospital, reopening most of the units that closed when St. Vincent's filed for bankruptcy on April 14, the sources said.
They say that Gaffin, who heads his own firm in lower Manhattan, is floating the idea to gauge what the reaction might be -- and to ready a bid to rival the Rudin Organization, which is trying to snap up St. Vincent's in bankruptcy court with an eye on tearing down six hospital buildings for luxury housing.
"He's asking what it would take to put in a bid," said one community leader who did not want to be identified.
"He says the king wants to do this as a PR move -- to save the hospital and move the mosque away from the World Trade Center site," the source added. "He wants to show that Muslims can do good works."