The piece found behind 51 Park Place and 50 Murray Street in Manhattan’s financial district includes a “clearly visible” Boeing identification number, New York City Police spokesman Paul Browne said, reports Reuters.
The piece of landing gear was discovered Wednesday by surveyors inspecting a lower Manhattan Islamic community centre as they were asked by the building’s owner to carry it out.
One of the inspectors was examining a roof when he noticed the debris and called police, who secured the area as a crime scene, documenting it with photos.
As The Telegraph writes, only a very narrow space exists between the buildings, which could explain how the part eluded investigators for nearly 12 years.
“The NYPD is securing the location as it would a crime scene, documenting it photographically and restricting access until the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner completes its health and safety evaluation protocol, after which a decision will be made concerning sifting the soil for possible human remains,” Browne said in a statement.
“It’s a manifestation of a horrific terrorist act a block and a half away from where we stand,” New York Police Department Commissioner Raymond Kelly added. “So, sure, it brings back terrible memories to anyone who was here or who was involved in that event.”
Ground Zero and the neighbouring building were at 51 Park Place and 50 Murray Street, about three blocks from the World Trade Center where the attacks were carried out twelve years ago.
51 Park Place has faced a controversial proposed Muslim Community Center, a project later branded by critics as the “Ground Zero Mosque”.
When plans for the mosque and community centre were first announced a few years ago, there were those who protested that putting a Muslim facility near Ground Zero would become a sign of disrespect regarding to the victims of the 9/11 attacks.
However, supporters cited freedom of religion and said it was not too close to the scene of the al-Qaeda attacks.
U.S. President Barack Obama has backed plans for the mosque, explaining in 2010 that “this is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.”
He went on, adding: “The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are.”
According to police reports, 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.”
Two hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center towers in 2001, killing 2,753 people. It was a series of attacks as another plane smashed into the Pentagon while a fourth crashed in Pennsylvania.
No remains of 1,122 of the victims in New York have ever been found, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
Since 2006, authorities have selected 6,134 bone fragments and 1,845 other remains for special DNA testing, which helped to identify of 34 victims.