Community weighs in on mosque project

About 300 people turned out at Community Board 15’s recent meeting to air their views concerning the proposed building of a four-story mosque and community center with classrooms.

The proposed mosque and community center is on a residential street at 2812 and 2814 Voorhies Avenue off East 29th Street.

The city’s Department of Buildings has turned down one proposal, but as the project’s architect Ibrahim Anse pointed out at the meeting, new plans will be submitted shortly.

The mosque and community center can be built as of right without a zoning variance needed, he said.

That didn’t stop several local residents from speaking out against the mosque at the meeting.

“I’m not here to raise any racist or racial issue and I’m not an Islamaphobe,” said Gregory Kalman. “But I oppose the mosque on the issues of traffic and parking.”

Kalman pointed out that there is an elementary school right near the proposed mosque and between people picking up their kids and the scarcity of parking, the proposal would create a traffic nightmare.

There is also the community call for prayer five times a day, which would create a noise issue, he said.

But property owner Allowey Ahmed, 60, a Muslim immigrant from Yemen, said most of the people who would attend the mosque come from the Sheepshead Bay area within walking distance and would walk to the mosque and community center.

Ahmed also addressed accusations from some in the neighborhood that Muslims and the mosque must be investigated for ties to terrorism and extremism as very hurtful.

“We have religious rights in America like everyone else to worshipGod,” he said, adding that Muslim youth like many youth in the country need places to go to where good values are taught.

After several people spoke, all of whom signed up to speak before the meeting started, Community Board 15 Chair Theresa Scavo said no more speakers were allowed, which drew catcalls from several audience members.

Scavo then allowed several more speakers from the audience to speak, and a woman who identified herself as “Stephanie” stated that she is not a racist, but that the organization involved in the project includes the national Muslim American Society (MAS), which supports terrorist groups.

Mahdi Bray, executive director of the MAS, said in a phone conversation that the organization renounces violence and that Islam, like all other major faiths in the world, is a religion of moderation.

“The whole claim by some that there’s a fifth column trying to destroy the country from within is a rallying call for the bigots and Islamaphobes who like to frighten other Americans about Muslims,” he added.

Following the discourse about the mosque, Kingsborough Community College security and police moved those wanting to further the discussion into the hall outside the meeting room.

After about 15 minutes, whereupon speakers on both sides of the issue spoke, the security and police made everyone leave the building.

Scavo said she would have had more people speak, but felt a question and answer session would have led to more accusations and possibly turned hateful.