A state judge ruled that the construction of a controversial mosque in Sheepshead Bay can move forward shortly after a lawyer for the developer hinted that opponents of the plan are terrorists — citing inflammatory graffiti cheering the death of Osama bin Laden at the mosque site.
On Tuesday, Judge Mark Partnow dismissed a lawsuit filed by the anti-mosque organization Bay People and neighbors of the as-of-right project on Voorhies Avenue between E. 28th and E. 29th streets, ruling that the mosque wouldn’t adversely effect the neighborhood.
The ruling came shortly after the lawyer for mosque builder Ahmed Allowey accused opponents of the plan of acting like racist terrorists.
“This is entirely motivated by racism,” said attorney Lamis Deek. “[The Bay People] has forced my client to expend his resources for no good cause and terrorize people with the vitriolic rallies that they hold.”
She added that the anti-mosque group would never have complained if a church or synagogue was being constructed.
“[They] claim that the mosque will be a nuisance and will be out of character with the neighborhood,” she said. “They’ve held rallies, protests and filed repeated complaints with the city, but have never done anything like this to a nearby church that doesn’t have any on site parking or a nearby synagogue that’s twice the size of the mosque.”
The Bay People do have a reputation of holding protests laced with anti-Muslim sentiment. Some protestors have even claimed that the Muslim American Society — which will take over the operation of the community center once it’s built — has ties to terrorism, although no direct evidence connecting the two has ever surfaced.
On top of that, the decision comes on the heels of a vandal spray painting a “happy face” and the words “He is dead” on the fence surrounding the mosque site in an apparent attempt to taunt mosque supporters over the death of bin Laden.
The graffiti was discovered on May 5, four days after bin Laden’s killing by Navy Seals.
But a lawyer for the Bay People claimed the group is not anti-Muslim.
“We do not have a problem with the fact that this is a mosque,” attorney Albery Butzel said, pointing out that the mosque would have no on-site parking. “This is a residential neighborhood and the mosque has been plunked down in the center. Problems with street parking will be extreme.”
During the half-hour hearing, Partnow hammered Butzel over the parking issue, demanding to know what evidence the attorney had proving that most congregates would drive there.
Butzel provided a list of potential worshippers, claiming that most of the people on the list lived “more than a half-mile away” from the mosque.
“My clients live there and they say that there are not a lot of Muslims in a four to five block area,” Butzel said. “It’s a mixed area, but there are not a lot of Muslim families around.”
But Deek claimed that the Bay People were blind to their surroundings.
“[The Bay People] simply refuse to acknowledge the existence of Muslims in their community,” she said. “More than 90 people who will be coming to the mosque live within 10 blocks of it.”
After the ruling, opponents lashed out against decision and accused Deek of “playing the race card.”
“This is very painful for us,” said one opponent, who only identified herself as Tatiyana. “We are being hurt by this mosque and all [Deek] did was play on the judge’s emotions and make false accusations that she couldn’t prove. Anyone with common sense would see that this mosque is going to affect the welfare of people living on Voorhies Avenue.”
Allowey celebrated Partnow’s decision.
“We knew that the justice system was not going to fail us,” he said. “We’re going to continue with the construction and continue to be good neighbors.”