NEW YORK – Landing gear believed to be from one of the commercial jetliners that crashed into the World Trade Center towers during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks has been discovered wedged behind a building that became the site of a controversial Muslim center in Lower Manhattan.
The bizarre discovery was announced Friday by police, who said the gear was between the rear of a building on Park Place and the building behind it, on Murray Street. According to the statement from police spokesman Paul Browne, the gear was found during an inspection of the rear of 51 Park Place, and includes a clearly visible Boeing identification number.
The site is about 2½ blocks from the former World Trade Center towers, which were destroyed when hijackers slammed two jets into them. At that time, the building at 51 Park housed a clothing store, which was damaged in the 2001 attacks and subsequently closed.
The next owner’s plan to use the building for an Islamic center, including a prayer space, divided politicians and relatives of Sept. 11 victims, with some saying the project was an insult because it was so close to the World Trade Center site. Supporters of the project, including Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, said opening an Islamic center at the site was an ideal way to improve ties among New York’s diverse groups.
The Islamic center opened quietly in 2011 and has operated since then without drawing protests.
The discovery of the landing gear was a reminder of how the 2001 attacks, which killed 2,606 people in the towers and on the ground in New York, continue to haunt the city. Hundreds of the victims’ remains have yet to be found amid the mountains of debris left from the towers’ collapse, and the city medical examiner continues sifting through trucks full of dirt and dust in search of bone chips or other human remains.
Browne said the spot where the landing gear was discovered would be secured as a crime scene and could be scoured for human remains.
American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 crashed in New York on Sept. 11, 2001. Both were Boeing jets. It was not immediately clear which of them might be linked to the landing gear.
A third jet, American Airlines Flight 77, crashed into the Pentagon, killing 125 people. United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a field in rural Pennsylvania, killing 40 passengers and crew.