During street protests, they clashed with supporters of the center, who said it would promote harmony between Muslims and followers of other faiths.
The building includes a Muslim prayer space that has been open for three years. After protests died down, the center hosted its first exhibit last year. The space remains under renovation.
Donna Marsh O’Connor, who lost her daughter Vanessa Lang Langer in the attacks and is a member of September 11th Families for a Peaceful Tomorrow, called the landing gear discovery “bizarre.”
O’Connor is a supporter of the Islamic center and said the fact that the plane fragment was found there “makes me think that this was the right place for a center that was going to heal the divide.”
In a statement, Sharif El-Gamal, the president of Soho Properties, which owns 51 Park Place, said workers called the city and the police as soon as they discovered the landing gear. He said the company is cooperating with the city and the police to make sure the piece of equipment “is removed with care as quickly and effectively as possible.”
The medical examiner’s office will complete a health and safety evaluation to determine whether to sift the soil around the buildings for possible human remains, police said.
Patricia Riley, whose sister Lorraine Riley was killed in the Sept. 11 attacks, called the landing gear discovery “very strange.”
“Twelve years later we are still finding remnants of the attack on our country,” she said. “... For years to come we’ll continue to find things that we didn’t see before. Hopefully they’ll serve as a reminder that we have to stay vigilant.”
Outside the Islamic center building, known as Park51, a police officer stood next to the door on Friday and a police barricade was set up to contain the many journalists who had gathered to try to see the piece of the plane.