APNewsBreak: NY Conservatives plan TV ad to pressure building co-owner to block NYC mosque

New York's Conservative Party is planning a television ad campaign to pressure a New York City utility to use its power to block a proposed mosque near ground zero that the ad says is planned by an "un-American" Muslim leader.

The ad states "patriotic Americans" want "real answers" about the cultural center proposed for lower Manhattan in a building partly owned by Consolidated Edison. Plans call for the Muslim center to include a mosque in the building about two blocks from the Sept. 11, 2001, attack.

The ad asks viewers to contact the utility, which has more than 3 million customers, at a phone number provided on screen and is the first effort to try to get customers to target the company.

The Conservative Party's statewide ad to begin running next week says Republican candidate for governor Rick Lazio, the Conservative nominee, is asking the right questions about the effort and who or what groups will fund it.

The utility has said it is legally bound to accept the plans to sell the building under an agreement with its tenant.

"My hope is Con Ed would be civic minded and not participate in the sale," New York Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long told The Associated Press. "Our little twist is creating a grass-roots effort to put pressure on Con Ed."

Long said the ad will run statewide in all TV markets on cable television including in New York City where Con Edison has its customer base. Long said it will be a "significant" buy, but said he wasn't yet sure of the total cost.

Con Edison said Friday in a statement that its action is "consistent with the law and our core beliefs." If an independent appraiser approves of the price, the property will be sold, the company said.

"We will not allow other considerations to enter into this transaction," the utility said. "This is New York, a rich diverse city. Con Edison's values call for respecting people without regard to their racial, ethnic, or religious orientation. They are all our customers."

The ad will come after President Barack Obama on Friday sought to speak up for religious freedom at a dinner celebrating the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The $100 million proposal has ignited tensions nationwide and polls show a slight majority of New Yorkers oppose the mosque if it's located so close to the site of the Sep. 11 attacks.