MIDLAND PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Residents in Midland Park, New Jersey took no issue with a church in their backyard, but on Friday, some neighbors were saying they do not want a mosque to replace it.
As CBS 2’s Christine Sloan reported, the building at 218 Irving St. in Midland Park now houses the Korean Han Ma Um Reformed Church. But the El-Zahra Islamic Education Foundation is closing in on a deal to turn the building into a mosque.
Some residents do not like the idea at all.
Kathy Peppes told CBS 2’s Sloan she was worried her street will see more traffic.
“My main concern is the safety of my family, and my son, and all his friends that play on the street,” Peppes said.
Peppes’ home is next to the parking lot for the building.
She said she was also concerned about “the noise this might create, because I know that they also pray and chant outdoors.”
But Henry Stapel, whose backyard faces the property, said the church was not a problem. He is not worried about the mosque either.
“It doesn’t matter,” Stapel said. “They’ll be good neighbors, and that’s all we’re concerned about is that they’re good neighbors.”
But the mosque controversy has gotten ugly on the Facebook page for the Midland Park Press.
“I know more about Muslims than you do. They are not nice people. They are mean and ruthless ok. And yes they should all live on an island,” wrote one woman, Ruth Smith.
The comment drew a response from another woman, Jeannie Parrish Kimball: “I would be concerned having some of you as neighbors. So much anger and hatred.”
Other comments claimed that a mosque would bring property values down in the neighborhood and made reference to terrorism and the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Bergen County resident Hammad Farooq said the detractors are misinformed.
“Our religion does teach peace, so to anybody that calls us out and says all that bad stuff – nasty stuff – I think they should really look into it first,” he said.
The Islamic Foundation currently rents space at a mosque in Teaneck. The street is packed each Friday for prayer services.
But the imam raising money for the Midland Park mosque said he will not have as many people as in Teaneck.
“We found a house of worship to meet the needs of our families and the Muslim community around Midland Park,” Imam Mohammad Charaf said in a statement.
Town officials said for 50 years, the Irving Street building has been zoned for a house of worship, so there was no problem issuing a zoning certificate.
A planning board meeting is scheduled Monday, and residents such as Peppes said they will be there.
Imam Charaf declined an on-camera interview. He would not say when the foundation would close the deal for the mosque.
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