Another city, another mosque, another city council . . . Waiting for another Lackawanna six…or sixty…or six hundred????
Posted: January 25, 2014 by a12iggymom in Uncategorized
Waiting for another Lackawanna six…or sixty…or six hundred????http://www.buffalonews.com/city-region/lackawanna/2nd-mosque-is-point-of-contention-in-lackawanna-as-variance-is-sought-20140124
What is it with these city councils that so many so often go against what their constituents want them to do?
2nd mosque is point of contention in Lackawanna as variance is sought
By Jay Tokasz| News Staff Reporter | Google+
on January 24, 2014 – 8:37 AM, updated January 24, 2014 at 11:56 AM
Lackawanna’s 1st Ward has long been considered the Muslim part of town – home of a bustling mosque and school, Arab-owned corner stores and the first native of Yemen to serve on the City Council.
But increasingly, Muslims are dispersing across all of Lackawanna. In a sign of the continued growth, they want to establish another place to pray. And this time, they’re looking clear across to the other side of the city, to a busy commercial stretch of Abbott Road in the 3rd Ward.
A group affiliated with the Lackawanna Islamic Mosque wants to create a second prayer center inside a former office building at 1446 Abbott Road, and it could face fierce opposition from residents in the surrounding neighborhoods.
“We’re a bigger community than the 1st Ward. We should have another place to worship in the city we live in, the city we love and want to grow in,” said Michael Algawani, who requested the variance.
Members of the group appeared Thursday evening at a meeting of the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals to request a variance because they don’t have enough parking space on the property, according to city code. The variance request for the mosque was the only item on the board’s agenda, but the meeting lasted more than an hour and percolated throughout with a palpable tension from 3rd Ward residents opposed to the idea of a mosque in their neighborhood.
Most meetings of the Zoning Board draw a handful of spectators, or fewer. But a spillover, standing-room-only crowd of more than 100 people jammed into Council Chambers to hear more about the mosque plan. Three Lackawanna police officers stood inside Council Chambers during the proceedings. At one point, board member Anthony J. Nicometo urged people to refrain from pitting themselves against one another.
Ultimately, the board voted 3-1 to table the request for further consideration.
The Lackawanna Islamic Mosque bought the brick building in 2012 for $45,000. It was once the home of a New York State unemployment office. It also has been the site of a pool hall and a collections agency.
Drawings by F.J. Wailand Associates filed with the city show the 8,400-square-foot brick building subdivided into separate prayer spaces for 125 men and 44 women, along with an office for the imam, or prayer leader; restrooms; and a small meeting space. However, on Thursday, Algawani said the prayer spaces would accommodate just 75 men and 24 women.
The group is seeking a variance because the building’s parking lot has 43 parking spaces, and city code requires at least 82, based on the square footage of the building.Code enforcement officer Steven J. Bremer said he calculated the need for 82 parking spaces based on a seating capacity of about 400 people for the building. Bremer said he used a state standard of an allotment of 15 square feet per person – applied only to the prayer space – to determine the capacity. The city’s zoning law requires one parking space for every five people.
But Algawani argued that the standard Bremer used isn’t applicable to a mosque. “The math formula that is used is only set to Christian standards,” he said. “Church and mosque are two different settings.” Muslims, he said, stretch out during prayer, using as much as a 32 square feet per person [man, that is some lonnnng stretching. They look all crammed together to me in all the pictures I see. Doesn't it look like that to you?]. “Our prayer area is going to consist of a space for 75 men and 24 women,” he said. ["So, a fatwa on your rules and space, infidel! We need more, so change the way you figure your math! What need do we have for math? Allah knows all! Accommodate us!"]
But Bremer said the state’s standards are his guide. “I have figures I have to use. I can’t change the figures,” he said.
At the meeting, opponents of the mosque plan brought up concerns about increased traffic, possible negative effects on nearby businesses, and the removal of a sizable piece of property from the city’s tax rolls.
“They’re saying they’re growing bigger and bigger, so they’re going to need more and more parking,” said resident Daniel P. Geercken.
Privately, some residents expressed concern about the Muslim call for prayer sounded over loudspeakers, saying they consider the sound grating and intrusive.
Since 9/11, communities across the country have increasingly resisted the construction of new mosques, so it was no surprise to find unease about a second mosque in tightknit Lackawanna, a community slow to embrace change and sensitive about its national image as the home of the Lackawanna Six, the young Muslim men arrested in 2002 on suspicion of plotting terrorism and later convicted of attending a terrorist training camp overseas.
Faith K. Gordon, chairwoman of the Zoning Board, cautioned spectators Thursday not to delve into concerns unrelated to the issue at hand. [I'll betcha she was the 1 in the 3-1 vote.] “This is about a parking situation,” she said. “This would not be addressed any differently if this were a Baptist organization.” [It wouldn't be addressed at all, because the Baptists wouldn't ask to change the rules.] Prior to suggesting that the Zoning Board table the variance request, Gordon encouraged the Muslim [yup, she's gotta be the 1] group to ask state officials to change their parking capacity standards for mosques.
But Mohamed T. Albanna [of CAIR, maybe? With a name like that, who knows?], who stood with Algawani to lobby on behalf of the variance, said the city was the proper entity to handle the decision. “With all due respect, you’re punting the ball,” he said. “If we can’t have an answer from our own Zoning Board, do you expect us to get an answer from New York State?” Later on, Albanna set aside his objections and agreed that the request should be tabled for more discussion. [Well, probably not CAIR. They never agree to anything.]
Only board member Jeffrey P. DePasquale voted against tabling the measure. [Well, there you go, color me surprised!] After the meeting, DePasquale said the group was far too short of parking spaces for the board to be able to grant a variance. “When you’re asking for one-third of what you legally need, that’s a stretch,” he said. [Oh, so maybe he wanted to vote no to the variance, but didn't get that option?]
If the proposed mosque is given a variance for parking, it will still need to be reviewed by the city’s Planning Board.