NEW YORK (CBS) - In a building damaged by debris from the Sept. 11 airliners that brought down the World Trade Center and soon to become a 13-story mosque, some see the bridging of a cultural divide and an opportunity to serve a burgeoning, peaceful religious population. Others see a painful reminder of the religious extremism that killed their loved ones.
Anything having to do with that day, that place, carries enormous meaning. Now two Islamic organizations have partnered to build something that they say will bring some good from something very bad.
Organizers say the project will create a venue for mainstream Islam and a counterbalance to radicalism. It earned a key endorsement this week from influential community leaders.
"This is a community center, a community and cultural center, which would include certainly prayer space for Muslims and we hope for non-Muslims as well, to bring about a new discourse in the relationship between the United States, New York City, and the Muslim world," said Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf of the Cordoba Initiative.
He's hoping the 13-story, $100 million Islamic center will join the other buildings; the banks, offices, and apartments, going up at ground zero. It will serve a growing Muslim population in lower Manhattan.
The closest mosque to this area is a dozen blocks away and very over-crowded, but this site was also chosen for exactly what happened here on 9/11, and what America stands for, Rauf told CBS station WCBS-TV in New York City.
"Definitely, this is a victory of American tolerance over hatred," Rauf said.
But some 9/11 victims' families say the issue isn't tolerance.
"I don't like it," said Evelyn Pettigano, who lost a sister in the attacks, during a phone interview on Thursday. "I'm not prejudiced. ... It's too close to the area where our family members were murdered."
"I lost my brother, Sean. He was a fireman," Rosaleen Tallon said.
"As an American I am so proud of our freedom of religion, but I also think we have to be historically sensitive to what happened in that area," Tallon said.
Tallon wants to teach her son, Paddy, to be tolerant of other religions. But she wonders if other religions, like Islam, are teaching their children to be tolerant of hers. There are other places in the city, she said, for another mosque.
"I don't think that they would build a German cultural center right near Auschwitz. Just because you're looking at what happened to the people that died there. That's all that should be focused on," Tallon said.
The organizations publicly unveiled the preliminary plan for the project, known as the Cordoba House, on Wednesday at a meeting of the finance committee of the local community board, which is composed of influential stakeholders in lower Manhattan. While the agency has no authority over what can be developed at the site, their support is viewed as key to gaining acceptance from residents.
Edward "Ro" Sheffe, the chairman of the financial district committee for Community Board 1, said the 15 members passed a resolution of support for the project, though he emphasized that the board had no authority to approve or disapprove of a house of worship, per se. Indeed, he said the developers could do whatever they wanted with the building, which they own.
"They came to tell us what they had in mind and see what we felt about it," he said. "The understanding we came away with was that this was an ongoing dialogue."
The members' only concerns had to do with the aesthetics of the building, and whether it would fit with the surrounding architecture, he said. The overall feeling was one of goodwill because the financial district, a fast-growing residential area, lacks for amenities such as community centers.
"We very much need residential amenities for the people who live here," he said.