YONKERS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Pushback has mounted in Westchester County as Muslim residents tried to establish a mosque in a residential neighborhood.
As CBS2’s Lou Young reported, an Islamic group is seeking to turn a 107-year-old run-down mansion at Grand View Boulevard and Underhill Street in north Yonkers into a piece of worship.
There is substantial neighborhood resistance, although reasons are not always fully articulated.
“The whole Islam issue comes up inevitably with this whole situation, but that isn’t the bottom line,” said Pat Penge of Yonkers.
Purchased for $750,000, the people at the Islamic Cultural Center of Mid-Westchester said the renovations they plan will all be improvements.
“It won’t look much different from what it does now, other than a couple signs to just notify people that it’s a place of worship for Muslims,” said Dorian Jashari of the center. “We picked this spot mainly because there’s a lot of Muslims in the area, and we don’t have an established place of worship yet.”
But opponents questioned the repurposing of the historic house.
“It originally opened as a private home, and that’s what it’s been for 120 years, and that’s probably what it should remain,” Penge said.
Opponents have gone so far as to try and designate the house as a historic landmark, which would limit what could be done with the structure. The city’s preservation board has so far has said no.
“Old is not enough,” said Richard Halevy of the Yonkers Preservation Board. “Yonkers is an almost 300-year-old with a lot of old buildings in it — some of which are very beautiful, but not necessarily historic.”
In fact, the 225-year-old church across the street is not a historic site either. The pastor there welcomes the new Muslim neighbors.
“We feel like it’s great for the neighborhood to have as many different ways to pray and worship as possible,” said the Rev. Kristin Kopren, pastor of St. John’s Episcopal Church.
The group hopes to have its permits and zoning variances approved in the coming year. They expect resistance.
An opposition group is meeting this weekend to discuss strategy.