Community Board 1 has received threatening phone calls since members backed a controversial plan to build a mosque near the World Trade Center.
Shortly after the board voiced support for the Cordoba House, a 13-story mosque and community center two blocks north of the World Trade Center site, the community board office and at least one board member received menacing calls, and notified the NYPD.
“They were just extremely angry and in some instances used abusive language,” said Noah Pfefferblit, CB1 district manager. “They said, ‘You should die a miserable death.’ People were emotional about this issue — that became very clear.”
Pfefferblit said the calls never rose to the level of a specific threat, and he did not think the police had arrested anyone. The calls have tapered off over the last couple weeks.
One board member also received threatening calls at both his home and his mother-in-law’s apartment. The board member, who requested his name not be published, abstained from CB1’s mosque vote and argued at the meeting that the board should not weigh in at all. But that distinction did not matter to the caller.
“The guy used four-letter words and said I should die a horrible death,” the board member said. “He just launched into an attack, screaming at me.”
The board member called the police, and they tracked down the harassing caller, who had used a cell phone with a 347 area code.
Since the caller had said, “You should die,” not, “I will kill you,” he was protected by the First Amendment, officers told the board member. So instead of arresting him, the officers talked to the man and “put the fear of God in him,” the board member said. The calls stopped.
The same caller also harassed Dr. Lewis Gross, a TriBeCa dentist and former CB1 member.
The caller first told Gross, 58, that he’d been selected as a New Yorker of the week and asked whether he was a community board member. The caller then asked what Gross thought of the mosque.
When Gross said he had mixed feelings, the man “started screaming and cursing and going off the wall,” Gross said. “I said it’s a free country. He didn’t like that”.
Gross, who founded Downtown Little League in 1991, said the caller did not threaten him directly.
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