Builders of the controversial Sheepshead Bay mosque say they are getting ready to unload a new barrage of civil litigation after their countersuit against opponents of the Voorhies Avenue house of worship was shot down by a Brooklyn judge.
Attorneys for mosque builder Allowey Ahmed say they have prepared a follow-up claim to the one Judge Mark Partnow recently denied on the grounds that Ahmed hadn’t proved opponents, led by the group Bay People, hurt Allowey’s reputation and finances.
Attorney Lamis Deek asked Partnow to order the Bay People to pay Ahmed’s legal fees, plus punitive damages for defamation and violating Ahmed’s right to build the mosque.
Her request came just after Partnow denied the Bay People’s second attempt to halt the mosque’s construction. Opponents contend that if the mosque was built the neighborhood would be inundated with additional traffic and would not be able to accommodate worshiper’s cars, but Partnow said claims of excessive congestion and inadequate parking could not stop the as-of-right project from being built.
Yet Partnow wouldn’t award any damages to Ahmed either, ruling that Deek has yet to prove that he had suffered from the protests and court battles.
“I think it’s unfortunate that my client could not be empowered by the court to defend themselves against what is a gross and costly abuse of process,” Deek said. “I hope that, eventually, the court will see that my client deserves compensation and that [the Bay People] are made to pay for the damage they have caused to not only my client but to society at large.”
But it doesn’t appear that Ahmed’s new suit has been filed. Attempts to find it in the county clerk’s office were unsuccessful.
Bay People members say they haven’t received any notice of Deek’s counter-claim either — but they’re too busy preparing a new lawsuit of their own.
“Bay People and the residents whose homes are immediately adjacent to the construction have filed an appeal with the Board of Standards and Appeals — the highest appellate body within the city’s Department of Buildings,” a Bay People spokesman told us. “We will also appeal the judge’s decision on the nuisance and injunction cases because mosque construction attorneys have filed false and misleading documents in their [paperwork].”
The Bay People say that some of the legal documents Allowey’s team filed have missing signatures — a clerical error that could get them a new trial.
But they may be grasping at straws: both the city and the courts have repeatedly denied their attempts to halt the mosque’s construction, despite widespread protests joined by hundreds of Sheepshead Bay residents.
Opponents say that traffic is their driving concern in demanding that the mosque close, but the tenor of their rallies over the last year has been more anti-Islamic rather than anti-congestion, with neighborhood protestors and Brooklyn Tea Party members waving signs reading, “Islam not welcome here,” “New York is not Islamabad” and “Do not forget 9-11!”
At one point, one resident even claimed he was going to “blow up the mosque” if it was built.
During a recent court appearance, Deek claimed that the Bay People’s protests and lawsuits are “entirely motivated by racism.”
But Albert Butzel, the Bay People’s attorney, says that isn’t true.
“We do not have a problem with the fact that this is a mosque,” Butzel explained. “This is a residential neighborhood and the mosque has been plunked down in the center. Problems with street parking will be extreme.”
Despite its legal losses, the Bay People have already had some success in halting the project’s completion: the building is moving ahead at a snail’s pace: only the foundation and basement have been built.
Earlier this year, Ahmed said that the project would be built in stages because of a lack of funding.