It’s been a while since we’ve had a proper update on the Sheepshead Bay mosque (2812 Voorhies Avenue). Last we heard, the opponents of the mosque, Bay People, lost their zoning challenge against the construction, but vowed to push forward with their lawsuit against the mosque’s backers (who, it should be noted, have filed a countersuit).
As the picture above illustrates, construction at the site has been moving along swiftly. The steel and cinder block frame is just about done on the first two stories, and work has started on the third (and final) floor. The third floor will be recessed from the front.
For what it’s worth, several readers have sent us e-mails noting that it’s not nearly as big as they expected.
That hasn’t soothed the fears of Bay People members, though. The opposition distributed an informational packet to media and local leaders in January summarizing their complaints and compiling letters to and from elected officials, attorneys, city agencies, et cetera. The packet also blasted some leaders that they felt were ignoring their concerns.
Though the group insists in the document that their concerns are about traffic, parking and quality of life, they also cast doubt on the background of the organizers.
“The organization behind the project ‘has a troubling history of associates with radical organizations and individuals that promote terrorism, anti-Semitist and reject Israel’s right to exist,’” they write.
The complete packet can be seen at the end of this post.
Muslim American Society, the mosque backers, are firing back with a renewed outreach effort.
Over the last several months, Noor Rowe, a recently hired outreach coordinator specifically serving the Sheepshead Bay Community Center (the mosque’s formal name), has been making the rounds at dozens of civic meetings over the past few months. Rowe has introduced herself at each of these meetings, distributed her contact information, and told residents she welcomes comments and concerns about their work on Voorhies Avenue.
At Community Board 15′s January meeting on Tuesday, Rowe spoke to the group about tensions in the neighborhood and the group’s intentions.
First and foremost, she noted, is that the opposition they face is part of a historical tradition.
“New York City historically has been a safe haven for people for religious freedom and a better life,” Rowe said. “Each group that immigrated here – be it Irish, Italian, Jewish, Chinese, et cetera – most were not welcomed regardless of the fact the laws said they should be.”
She argued that it’s often because of a lack of understanding or misinformation about that group, and said she looks forward to helping ease those tensions through understanding.
She also noted that Bay People has every legal right to oppose their construction, but, “whether the mosque is up or not, we all – be it Muslims, Christians, Athiests, what have you – have to live in this community together.”
And, perhaps most notably, in a message clearly directed towards those opponents who are challenging the mosque for non-quality-of-life reasons, Rowe sought to clear up any rumors about the group’s funding.
“Contrary to popular belief, we don’t have any extraneous funding from any terrorist organizations,” Rowe said. “Everything is done from our own community funding within ourselves.”
Here’s a video of Rowe’s statements to Community Board 15 this week:
And here’s the full packet distributed by Bay People: