NEW YORK — A rusted 5-foot-tall piece of landing gear believed to be from one of the hijacked planes destroyed in the Sept. 11 attacks has been discovered near the World Trade Center wedged between a luxury apartment building and a mosque site that prompted virulent national debate about Islam and freedom of speech.
The twisted metal part, jammed in a sliver of open space between the buildings, has cables and levers on it and is about 3 feet wide and 1.5 feet deep. It includes a clearly visible Boeing Co. identification number, New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said yesterday.
“The odds of this being wedged between there is amazing,” Browne said, adding it was not surprising that it went undiscovered for more than a decade given the location. “It had to have fallen just the right way to make it into that space.”
Other World Trade Center wreckage had been discovered at the buildings and around the area in years past.
The piece of equipment was discovered Wednesday by surveyors inspecting the lower Manhattan site of a planned Islamic community center, at 51 Park Place, on behalf of the building’s owner, police said.
An inspector was on the roof and noticed the debris and then called 911. Police secured the scene, documenting it with photos.
Police detectives and National Transportation Safety Board investigators will determine whether the equipment is from the American Airlines plane or the United Airlines plane that slammed into the twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001, destroying the towers and killing nearly 3,000 people.
When plans for the Islamic center, about three blocks from ground zero, were made public in 2010, opponents said they didn’t want a mosque so close to where Islamic extremists attacked. They argued the site was “sacred” because landing gear from one of the hijacked Boeing 767 jets had punctured the roof of the building on Sept. 11.