The imam and developers of the proposed Downtown Manhattan Islamic community center say that their project is not moving away from a location near the World Trade Center, despite numerous claims that a deal has been reached to move the mosque.
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, developer Sharif El-Gamal and Soho Properties said in statements Thursday that the Park51 Islamic community center and mosque is not moving from the current location on Park Place, adding, "We are not going to toy with our religion or any other. Nor are we going to barter. We are here to extend our hands to build peace and harmony."
NY1 will have special, live coverage of the events in honor of the anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks – starting at 8 a.m. Saturday morning.
NY1's Kristen Shaughnessy will be speaking with relatives of those lost in the attacks, the station will be live as their names are read.
Plus, the station will cover other memorials and tributes throughout the day and evening -- including the "Tribute in Light," which will shine from dusk until dawn.
Adding to the controversy is a Florida pastor who now says he could still go through with a planned burning of the Koran.
Pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville, Fla. originally called off burning the Muslim holy book this Saturday because he says he was assured the controversial mosque and Islamic center planned for Lower Manhattan was going to be moved.
The project's developer denied such a deal was made.
Jones has been under intense pressure from political and religious leaders -- even receiving a personal call from U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
The pastor claimed he had plans to visit the city Saturday to meet with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. He now says he was lied to and is rethinking his decision to cancel Koran burning event.
"I was told exactly the Imam would move the mosque from Ground Zero. I was told he cannot move it tomorrow; I said that is fine but it cannot be in 10 years. These are the exact words that I said. The man said that is fine. I said now he has agreed to move the mosque away from Ground Zero area. Yes he has. That is what I was told," Jones said.
In yet another twist, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf says he never spoke to Jones, and there is no meeting scheduled between the two this weekend.
In a statement to CNN, Rauf said, "I am glad that Pastor Jones has decided not to burn any Korans. However, I have not spoken to Pastor Jones or Imam Musri. I am surprised by their announcement. We are not going to toy with our religion or any other. Nor are we going to barter. We are here to extend our hands to build peace and harmony."
Meanwhile, real estate mogul Donald Trump offered Thursday to buy out one of the main investors of the proposed Downtown Manhattan Islamic community center, to end the controversy over the proposed project.
In a letter sent to Hisham Elzanaty, Trump offered to buy back the property in cash, plus 25 percent.
The offer comes with the condition that the proposed Islamic community center and mosque cannot be built within five blocks of the World Trade Center site.
Trump writes he is making the offer to put an end to a situation that is "serious, inflammatory, and highly divisive situation that is destined, in my opinion, to only get worse."
Elzanaty, an Egyptian-born businessman, previously said he is willing to sell his share in the development.
A lawyer for one of the mosque's investors, Wolodymyr Starosolsky, told the Associated Press that Trump's offer was "just a cheap attempt to get publicity and get in the limelight."
Those who spoke with NY1 late Thursday had mixed opinions on Trump's offer.
"He's a real estate mogul. He's in a position to do so but I think it will cause more controversy so I don't know really. I think long term it's not going to lead to any solution," said one New Yorker.
"They need to end this nonsense and go north. They have more freedom than anybody in the world in this country. But what needs to happen is they need to respect Ground Zero," said another.Earlier on Thursday, supporters of the Park51 community center held a news conference in Downtown Manhattan to discuss their plans for a Saturday rally near the World Trade Center site..
The organizers of the September 11th March and Rally Against Racism and Anti-Muslim Bigotry were surrounded by reporters and police had to move the crowd onto the street to clear the sidewalk.
"These racists think they want to target Muslims? They're picking a fight with everyone," said rally organizer Larry Holmes.
The organizers also denounced Jones' original intentions to burn Korans.
"To burn the Koran, that minister should be 'deministerized,' if he can," said Brooklyn Councilman Charles Barron. "He should get his license taken away. How dare you burn a holy book of millions of faithful people because you have some concerns? This is a cheap publicity stunt."
Meanwhile, many prominent leaders who have previously weighed in on the controversy are saying it is inappropriate to hold political demonstrations on the anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks.
"I won't be there, and nobody from my group is, either," said Andy Sullivan, a leading opponent of the mosque. "For us, 9/11's going to be a day when everybody just does their own morning, whatever they do. We felt that a protest just didn't feel right."
Another group that supports the Islamic community center is holding a candlelight vigil on Friday night in protest of "racist, anti-Muslim" sentiment, in lieu of September 11.
On Wednesday night, Rauf had his first televised interview with CNN and said that nothing is off the table when it comes to moving the proposed house of worship.
"If I knew this would happen, it would cause this kind of pain, I wouldn't have done it. My life has been devoted to peacemaking," said the imam.
In a radio interview Thursday morning on WOR 710, Governor David Paterson said that the imam's responses showed progress in the conversation over the controversy.
"I do feel the slightest bit of movement. That some of the people of goodwill, all of them, the people who are putting this together, are starting to see that how could their mission ever be realized, if it is born out of such conflict?" said the governor.
Due to the memorial ceremonies being held near the World Trade Center site on Saturday in remembrance of 9/11, there will be many street closures and changes to parking regulations in effect. Here is the complete list.