A landing gear part that's probably from one of the planes that rammed the World Trade Center on 9/11 has been found wedged between two buildings in lower Manhattan, police said Friday.
Because of the possibility of human remains, the NYPD is treating the site at 51 Park Place as a crime scene, complete with barricades and officers standing guard.
Calling the part an "historic artifact," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the discovery was made Wednesday morning by a crew of surveyors. The remnant of the doomed commercial jet has a "clearly visible" Boeing identification number on it, police said.
"The way it was wedged, it had to go in just the right way for it to go undetected for over a decade," said police spokesman Paul Browne.
The Park Place location had been part of the proposed site of the controversial Ground Zero mosque.
Investigators Friday were photographing the scene. Access will be restricted until officials from the medical examiner's office conduct an evaluation, possibly on Monday, Browne said. Afterward, authorities will decide whether to sift the soil in the area for human remains before removing the part.
The scene drew dozens of onlookers Friday afternoon, including Cesar James, 53, an attendant at a nearby parking garage. "This is weird," he said. "How did it get there? And why did it take this long to find it?"
The discovery was made when surveyors hired by the property owner, Soho Properties, were inspecting the rear of the building about 11 a.m. Wednesday.
Soho Properties president Sharif El-Gamal said the city and NYPD were immediately alerted. "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," he said in a statement.
On Sept. 11, 2001, two passenger planes smashed into the Twin Towers, which later collapsed. The terrorist act claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people.
After the crashes, pieces of landing gear smashed through the roof at 45-47 Park Place, also owned by Soho Properties.
Friday, the father of a 9/11 victim called the belated recovery "amazing" -- and a message to not forget loved ones lost. "If we only remember 9/11 on 9/11, shame on us," said Lee Ielpi, 68, of Great Neck, who lost his son Jonathan, 29, a New York City firefighter.
With Zachary R. Dowdy and Maria Alvarez