Power to the ‘People’

Several Sheepshead Bay residents opposed to a mosque on Voorhies Avenue put a full-court press on Community Board 15 last week, demanding it take a stand against the city-approved house of worship and neighborhood center, but the panel plans on holding its ground.

“Even if we did vote on the mosque, we still can’t do anything about it,” said an agitated Theresa Scavo, the board’s chairwoman, at its monthly meeting on Oct. 27. “This board is purely advisory and the mosque has already been approved by the Department of Buildings. It is not open for discussion.”

Community boards are only required to vote on items brought to them by the city, but several mosque opponents say they need the board to take a stand if they are to stop the project.

”We would like the community board to step up to the plate and oppose this mosque,” said a man, who said his name is Alex, during the open forum portion of the meeting, held at Kingsborough Community College. “This project should not be happening.”

But the board refused to issue any statement for or against the controversial building.

Alex was one of several Bay People members, a group of outspoken mosque opponents, who attended the meeting expecting the board to recommend that the mosque plans be scrapped, given what they perceive to be overwhelming community opposition. But board members insist that it is not their place to sway the Department of Buildings, which approved construction designs for the cultural and prayer center on Oct. 22.

“We don’t have any power to create an issue against the mosque,” said board member Morris Harary.

It’s CB15’s policy, Scavo said, to only vote on matters brought to them by the city.

“We don’t just issue recommendations based on how we’re feeling,” Scavo said.

The board frequently issues recommendations regarding businesses and homes that are seeking variances from the Board of Standards and Appeals, which makes the board privy to the applicants’ plans. The Department of Buildings, which reviewed the mosque plans, does not send the board any information. The agency said that it does not consider community boards’ opinions when ruling on construction applications.

“The community board has no sway in this process,” said Department of Buildings spokeswoman Carly Sullivan.

Last week, the Department of Buildings re-approved the plans for the mosque after filp-flopping on the plans earlier in the month.

Still, some members of Bay People are convinced that community board support would buoy their cause.

“We want the board to support us and express an opinion against the mosque,” said Leonid Krunik. “That would be a big help to us.”

But Scavo reiterated that a edict from the community board won’t be coming anytime soon.

“This is a group fighting for its cause,” she said. “It is not the board’s job to advocate for them.”