The NYPD reported on Friday that a piece of landing gear, seemingly from one of the airplanes that crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001, has been found behind the Park 51 Islamic cultural center.
Surveyors hired by the property owner were inspecting the area behind 51 Park Place on Wednesday, April 24, and called 911 around 11 a.m. to report what they apparently described as damaged machinery.
Con Edison is the owner of 51 Park Place, but has been leasing it for years to Soho Properties.
Soho Properties has been trying to develop it into an Islamic community center, but plans have been repeatedly delayed due to financial and legal troubles. The Islamic community center has also been the subject of a great deal of controversy, often referred to as the "Ground Zero mosque" due to plans to include a prayer space in the building.
The landing gear is wedged in an 18-inch space between 51 Park Place and 50 Murray Street, according to a diagram provided by police. It is more than 80 feet from the nearest entryway, a door behind 45 Park Place that lets out into 6-foot by 18-foot closed alley.
Over the weekend, NYPD officers were stationed in front of the entrance to 51 Park Place, which was cordoned off by police tape. The NYPD is treating the area as an active crime scene, and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is slated to conduct a health and safety evaluation, and then decide whether to sift the surrounding soil for possible human remains.
The NYPD will not attempt to remove the part until the Medical Examiner's investigation is complete.
The NYPD reported on Friday that the part had a clearly visible Boeing identification number. Crime Scene detectives reached out to Boeing officials who reportedly confirmed that the part is from a Boeing 767, the same type of plane that crashed into the World Trade Center towers on 9/11.
However, it is not known whether the part is from one of those specific planes.
The Post reported that the number, BOEING CSTG 65B84045, is a "casting number," which is not unique to any one part or place, according to Alan Lery of Turbo Resources International, an Arizona-based aircraft-parts seller.
A Post source reportedly said investigators suspect it's from the second plane, United Airlines Flight 175, which is believed to have scattered debris around the area after hitting the South Tower.
Wreckage from the 9/11 crashes were found this far from the site after the attack, though Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne reportedly told the New York Times he couldn't remember the last time a large piece of wreckage from the attack was discovered. The Times noted that landing gear from one of the planes crashed through the roof of 43-45 Park Place during the attack 11 years ago. The building was at that time a Burlington Coat Factory outlet.
In a photo provided by the NYPD, a rope intertwined with the machinery is visible. Police are not ruling out the possibility that the airplane part may have been lowered down into the space from the roof, Police Commission Ray Kelly told the Times.
The Post reported that a piece of rope was also found on a nearby roof.
According to the Post, the landing gear is about 17 inches wide.
In noting its positioning in the 18-inch gap between the buildings, Browne said "the odds of it entering that space at exactly that angle that would permit it to squeeze in there, it had to come in at almost precisely the right angle."
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