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Board: Islamic Group Can Remove Crosses From Historic NY Church

| by Allison Geller

A group of Muslims converting a Roman Catholic Church into a mosque can cut off the crosses, a board decided.

The Syracuse Landmark Preservation Board voted to approve the removal of crosses from the steeples of Holy Trinity Catholic Church by the North Side Learning Center. Just one member voted against the decision.

Board Chairman Don Radke said federal law prohibits them from interfering with a decision related to religious freedom.

The group is planning on converting the old church, closed since 2010, into a mosque. The church was built 100 years ago for German immigrants.

About 50 people came to the meeting. Of the dozen who expressed their views, about half believed the crosses should stay.

Local resident Steve Angiolillo, whose family of 12 used to attend services at the church, said that the crosses were important to the integrity of the building.

"To change the craftsmanship, character and design of this building is not in keeping with landmark preservation," Angiolillo said.

"The crosses are an integral part of the building," said his wife, Anne.

The opposition effort gained about 200 signatures on an online petition.

But some residents approved of the center using a space that had been sitting around for four years, even if it meant changing the architecture slightly.

The North Side Learning Center, directed by Yusuf Soule, who is Muslim, provides free literacy education to adults and children. The non-profit paid $150,000 for the property.

Soule expects 5,000 people to use the mosque. But since iconography is not allowed in Islam, the crosses must be removed first, he said.

The board also approved the center’s request to put up a fence around part of the property. The group will have to check with the preservation board about the proper method of removing the crosses.

Sources: Post-Standard (2), Associated Press