NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Nearly 12 years after terrorists attacked New York City by flying two commercial airliners into the World Trade Center, the NYPD said Friday that a piece of the landing gear from one of those planes had been found.Police said the 5-foot-long by 3-foot-wide hunk of twisted metal was discovered wedged between the rear of 51 Park Place and the rear of the building behind it, 50 Murray St., in lower Manhattan. That area is the site of a controversial mosque and community center development, which is currently used as prayer space and hosts some community events.
The site has come to be known by some as the "Ground Zero Mosque" for it's proximity to the World Trade Center site, which was about two blocks away.
NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne told WCBS 880's Wayne Cabot and Steve Scott that the space between the buildings is barely big enough for a person to navigate, as it is less than 2 feet wide.
When asked if he was surprised the find was made so many years later, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said in the confusion of Sept. 11, 2001, a lot of things were hidden.
"If you see how confined this space is, you realize the chaos that existed down here on this street. I think it's understandable, not that surprising," Kelly said.
Browne also spoke with 1010 WINS' Lori Madden on Friday afternoon, saying that the discovery was made after the owner of the property was having the area surveyed. Surveyors who were inspecting the rear of 51 Park Place on April 24, called 911 to report what they thought "was some kind of damaged machinery, didn't know what it was. They reported it to the police," Browne said..
"Soho Properties recently discovered a piece of the aircraft from the World Trade Center tragedy," Sharif El-Gamal, President of Soho Properties, said in a statement Friday. "We immediately alerted the city of New York and the New York Police Department, and they are currently removing the piece of evidence from the site. 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."
Browne also said it is unknown which of the planes the piece of metal belongs to at this time, but said the National Transportation Safety Board will help to see if that determination can be made.
The NYPD was securing the location as it would a crime scene Friday night, documenting it photographically and restricting access until the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner completes its health and safety evaluation protocol.
After that, a decision will be made concerning sifting the soil for possible human remains.
The aircraft part will not be removed until the process is completed, at which point it will secured by the NYPD property clerk.
The NYPD said the part includes a clearly visible Boeing identification number.
"On the part, you can see a serial number and you see the word 'Boeing' before that serial number - can't say with certainty what that part is, but the assumption is it's part of a landing gear," Kelly said.
A New York teen told CBS 2's Lou Young he barely remembers the 9/11 attacks, but for a good reason.
"I was starting kindergarten that year so I was 5 or 6," Jake Jiler said, adding when asked his reaction to finding a piece of the plane all these years later, "Yeah that's pretty remarkable."
An immigrant from Romania who watched it all on television said Friday's discovery evoked a similar feeling.
"I'm sure they're going to put it in a museum, so years and years from now people can remember what happened," said Galina Covaliv of the West Side.
"I think it really is a historical artifact and we want to make sure it doesn't involve any human remains," Commissioner Kelly added