Brighton Beach’s newest house of worship may be a mosque.
Brooklyn-based congregation Masjid Al-Arqam aims to build a five-story mosque on Banner Avenue. Congregant leaders filed plans with the Department of Buildings last month to erect the house of worship in the residential neighborhood between Brighton Seventh and Brighton Eighth streets, as first reported by the real-estate website YIMBY.
Neighbors had fought every step of the way against a mosque going up on Voorhies Avenue in Sheepshead Bay back in 2010 through 2012, because they claimed it would bring unwanted noise and traffic to the area — but supporters fired back, accusing them of Islamophobia for rejecting a Muslim community center in the largely Jewish and Russian neighborhood. And this time around, critics may still oppose the Brighton Beach mosque out of fear it could bring excessive traffic and noise, but it will have nothing to do with Islamophobia, according to Yelena Makhnin, who heads the neighborhood’s business improvement district.
“What people are going to be concerned about from our point of view is traffic, and the sound if they have calls for prayers, because it’s a residential neighborhood. I don’t see any concerns with it being a mosque, but the only concerns might be its traffic and sound,” said Makhnin. “Any kind of religious or education or community center built is the same concern. There are people who are against any kind of construction, any kind of developments, regardless of its nature, because of traffic, because of construction.”
And Little Odessa is progressing — despite marchers choosing the conservative Russian enclave as the base for the country’s first Russian-speaking pride march on May 20 — and its residents are keeping up with the changing times, said Makhnin.
“It was expected because, it’s not the same neighborhood anymore. It used to be — years, years, years ago — Brighton Beach’s spoken language was Yiddish. It’s not as Russian as it was, and new communities are coming in and that’s what’s going on everywhere. I don’t see any opposition because lately everyone understands that it’s not the same,” she said. “Brighton, it’s a multi-ethnic, multicultural place, and many Muslims and Jews and Christians in the area. I hear nothing against it, I do believe that this is what the United States is all about, for people of all colors, religion, unity.”
And if history repeats itself, the anti-Mosque noise quickly quieted down as soon as the one on Voorhies Avenue opened its doors to worshippers, said the chairwoman of Community Board 15.
“I have not, since it’s been built and open, I have not heard one complaint,” said Theresa Scavo.
Developers plan to build a congregation hall on the first, second, third, and fourth floors, caretaker apartments and offices on the fifth floor, and a recreation area on the roof, according to plans filed with the Department of Buildings. But the city rejected the proposal for the Banner Avenue mosque on May 15 because of an incomplete application, according to a spokesman from the Department of Buildings. It is not uncommon for developers to go through multiple applications before getting approved, the spokesman said.
Congregant leaders declined to comment at this time.
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