The Sheepshead Bay mosque is no longer living on a prayer.
A week after the city pulled its approval for the proposed Voorhies Avenue Islamic cultural and prayer center, the Department of Buildings re-approved construction designs on Friday following a meeting with property holder Allowey Ahmed and the architect for the building slated to go up between E. 28th and E. 29th streets.
“They came in to address our questions and the hold has been lifted,” agency spokeswoman Carly Sullivan said.
The approval is a stark turnaround. Last Friday, the city blocked the proposal for the as-of-right project after approving it just two days earlier. At the time, the agency told Ahmed that the project may have to undergo another exhaustive review that could take five months.
Ahmed was not alone in thinking that the city’s sudden flip-flop was spearheaded by the widespread opposition to the mosque, which has been the subject of at least three protests.
The city denied such claims.
“Additional reviews by the department are common and can be critical to ensuring submitted documents comply with all applicable laws,” Sullivan said.
The main opposition group, Bay People, has said that it objects to the mosque because it will bring too much traffic to Voorhies Avenue. But the tenor of the rallies has been frequently anti-Islamic rather than anti-congestion, with signs reading “Islam not welcome here,” “New York is not Islamabad” and “Do not forget 9-11!” carried by protesters. One resident even claimed he was going to “blow up the mosque” if it was built.
Through it all, there has been repeated assertions that the Musim American Society, which is backing the mosque, is linked to terrorism, though no direct link has been shown.
The city denied an initial set of designs for the mosque late last year. In the new set of plans, which were filed in June, Ahmed shrunk the project from four floors to three. The mosque will be on the first two floors with the third reserved for classroom space. No on-site parking is proposed.
Once built, the mosque will be able to accommodate up to 120 worshippers, but less than 20 will be coming to worship on a daily basis, Ahmed claims.
Now that this latest hurdle’s been cleared, Ahmed said plans to go ahead with the project “as soon as possible.”
At the same time, members of Bay People have vowed to continue their fight to stop the project, even if it means taking Ahmed and other mosque proponents to court.