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Friday, April 26, 2013 - 6:07pm
NEW YORK (CNN) — A piece of one of the airliners that hit the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001, has been found behind the planned site of an Islamic community center near ground zero, the New York Police Department said Friday.
Part of a landing gear was discovered wedged between 51 Park Place -- the site of the controversial community center -- and another building just blocks from ground zero and "includes a clearly visible Boeing identification number," police said in a written statement.
The part was discovered Wednesday by surveyors hired by a property owner. They called 911 to report that they'd found "apparently damaged machinery," the police said.
"The NYPD is securing the location as it would a crime scene, documenting it photographically ," the statement said.
The plane part will not be moved until after the medical examiner's office completes a health and safety inspection. At that time, a decision will be made whether to sift the soil for possible human remains, the police statement said.
The plane part is about five feet long, three feet wide and a foot and a half deep, NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said. It was discovered between the two buildings, in a space just slightly wider than one and one-half feet, he said.
The discovery of the plane part comes more than 11 years after the two airliners slammed into the towers of the World Trade Center.
In the years since, a number of pieces of debris as well as human remains have been discovered in Lower Manhattan.
"We are cooperating fully with the appropriate authorities to make sure this piece of evidence is removed with care as quickly and effectively as possible," said Sharif El-Gamal, president of Soho Properties, the owner of 51 Park Place.
The building has been the site of furious protests, pitting those opposed to putting an Islamic center near ground zero and those who say it is a center meant to bring people together.
-- CNN's Rob Frehse reported from New York; Chelsea J. Carter reported and wrote from Atlanta.