Reporting Mona Rivera
SELDEN, N.Y. (1010 WINS/CBS 2) – The Islamic Association of Long Island has been in Selden for 29 years and is now planning to modernize and expand the site.
Some neighbors attended a hearing Monday night to oppose the plan.
LISTEN: 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera reports
“We’re just wondering why with a larger population of Muslims, why wouldn’t you try to find a new location,” Nicole Grimaldi said.
Leaders of the 400-member congregation, located on Park Hill Drive, said they have outgrown the 5,600 square foot mosque and intend to increase the site by over 2,000 square feet.
Many opponents are concerned about traffic and safety.
“This is not an issue with their faith,” Anthony Agostino said. “You can not get up the street with a car or with an emergency vehicle.”
An attorney for the Islamic Association told Newsday that the mosque started holding prayer twice a day on Fridays so not all worshippers are there at once.
“Since 1981 until now there are no accidents on this street, no problems on this street,” mosque director Abdullah Zarach Aziz said. “The constitution of the United States gives us the freedom of religion and freedom of speech.”
Supporters of the mosque believe opposition stems from racism.
“I think it’s probably Islamaphobia,” one woman said.
“Everybody’s scared I guess,” another said. “I’ve had no problems with them as a neighbor.”
And Monday morning, as folks like Agnes Ross got their mail, they found anti-mosque literature with the bills.
“I don’t understand why; there’s larger spaces. They could sell that and buy — a big enough thing to handle everything,” Ross told CBS 2′s Pablo Guzman.
Two doors over though, Robert Rodgers said freedom of religion is on the mosque’s side.
“I know I’m not going to be very popular with that,” Rodgers said.
Worshipers at the mosque, though, said this is all being stirred up for another reason.
“That’s probably because of Manhattan,” the Islamic Association’s Syed Hashmi said.
There’s an interesting side note to all this. Some people opposed to the mosque told Guzman that when they found the flyers in their mailboxes, put there by people opposed to the mosque, they didn’t like someone putting that in their mailboxes.
The town of Brookhaven’s planning board is expected to decide on the expansion plan by Oct. 13.