An eye for an eye?
Backers of the controversial Sheepshead Bay mosque will countersue foes of the $1-million Voorhies Avenue project after winning a court battle last week.
Mosque developer Allowey Ahmed hopes to get between $100,000 and $1 million from the anti-mosque group Bay People, which has been fighting the construction of the house of worship between E. 28th and E. 29th streets both in court and on the street during several hate-fueled rallies this year.
The lawsuit seeks legal fees lost by Ahmed, plus punitive damages for defamation and violating Ahmed’s right to build the mosque, which was first floated more than a year ago.
“[We’re suing] for all the delays [the plaintiffs] have caused us and the constant harassment,” said Ibrahim Anse, the architect who designed the three-story building that will hold prayer space for 120 people and classrooms.
The Bay People sued to halt the mosque’s construction in May, citing the traffic it would bring to the area, but Judge Mark Partnow said the claims of excessive congestion and inadequate parking could not stop the as-of-right project from being built.
Last week, the group’s lost its appeal of that verdict, setting into motion the countersuit.
“We’ve been wanting to negotiate with [the Bay People and other residents] for some time — and we still hope that it will be the case — but they have to acknowledge that my client has suffered as a result of their actions,” added lawyer Lamis Deek. “Despite our pleas, the [Bay People] have chosen to continue in a campaign that intentionally seeks to expend my clients resources and slow them down.”
Opponents of the mosque talked of traffic, 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.
Deek argued at the time that Bay People’s lawsuit was “entirely motivated by racism.”
Bay People did not return calls, but in May, the group’s attorney Albert Butzel said that the fight had nothing to do with race.
“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 the court loss last week, Bay People has 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.
The constant legal battles have also caused some financial roadblocks for mosque builders: earlier this year, Ahmed admitted that the project would be built in stages because of a lack of funding.