Opponents of the Islamic Cultural Center under construction at 2812 Voorhies Avenue plan to picket the project on a daily basis, the group Bay People has announced.
Infuriated by city officials’ stonewalling of their requests to challenge approval of the project, Bay People – founded solely to battle the establishment of the cultural center and mosque – is taking matters into their own hands. They announced in an e-mail this morning:
Residents of Sheepshead Bay have no choice but try to ensure complaince with zoning/building laws themselves! Neighbors, residents and our spporters will peacefully picket in front of the construction site at 2812 Voorhies Avenue (on a public sidewalk) every week day from 8AM-4PM until he DOB and NYC will follow their own rules and procedures and enforce the “Stop Work” order as well as force the removal of illegaly constructed structures.
When we stopped by the site at 1:30 p.m. today, no one was picketing at the site, and construction workers continued to excavate the foundation. Calls to Bay People representatives were not answered by the time this article went to web.
Bay People has had victories since the building plans were approved and the Department of Buildings issued permits. Members have been keeping a close eye on the project, with 15 complaints noted on the DOB website since the start of construction. The majority of complaints appear to have come from an engineer or another construction professional, with language noting technical problems and specific code violations not frequently seen in DOB complaints.
The group’s efforts paid off when the mosque was slapped with a Stop Work Order in the beginning of January, after a complaint rolled in about the placement of the excavator. Two weeks later, on January 14, the SWO was partially rescinded, allowing construction to move forward, except for excavation at the site of the proposed elevator pit. Still, records show that Bay People made several complaints about work being done while the SWO was in place (which the DOB found no evidence of).
The group says the DOB is “dragging its feet” in reviewing their complaints. All complaints, though, appear to have been investigated according to the DOB website, and the property owner has received a violation in addition to the SWO as a result of their criticism. The DOB found that work did not adhere entirely to plans in the case of the excavation, and a hearing will be held soon.
Bay People has also issued a challenge to the entire permit, pleading with the agency to revoke approval of the construction. Challenge results are not yet posted online, but members stated at a recent Community Board 15 meeting that there were several errors in their paperwork, such as writing “315″ to indicate the community board (In reality, this is not an error: Community Board 15 is also known as 315, where the “3″ indicates Brooklyn). They also say the property owner has manipulated the floor plan, shrinking the number of people the building will hold and thereby eliminating the requirement for parking.
But the challenge process has been mired by DOB officials, according to the group. And they seem to have found an advocate in Councilman Lew Fidler, who wrote a letter on their behalf to the agency’s Brooklyn commissioner.
Among other things, Fidler wrote that the concerned constituents have said current structural drawings have not been made available to the group, and that office workers have told them the copy machine was broken – an excuse deployed over the course of multiple visits. They also contend that calls to 311 are going unanswered.
Fidler, who has been criticized by Bay People in the past for not joining their fight against the mosque, has previously stated his support for the property owners’ right to build a house of worship. The letter urges the DOB to “evaluate the legalities of [the project] fairly, openly and consistently,” noting that “whatever decisions the agency makes will likely be challenged in Court by the ‘unhappy’ side.”
“Oversights and mistakes can give the impression of impropriety,” Fidler writes. “If this project is to proceed than it should do so by following the established legal procedure, so that an informed public may comment and there can be no doubt regarding the process that was used or the decisions that are reached.”