Southern Brooklyn

Sheepshead Bay Mosque Wins First Court Battle, Bay People Push Forward

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Sheepshead Bay Mosque
The site of the proposed mosque. Local Muslims painted over where a vandal had previously spray painted "He is dead" after Osama bin Laden's death.

A Kings County Supreme Court judge refused yesterday to issue an injunction against the proposed mosque at 2812 Voorhies Avenue that would have required them to halt construction. But Bay People, the opponents of the mosque, are saying the “fight is far from over.”

The morning hearing was for a preliminary injunction to stop contractors from continuing work on the mosque until neighbors’ zoning challenges have been properly reviewed. The motion was filed in April by lawyers from the main opposition group, Bay People, after they got tired of what they believe to be administrative stonewalling.

According to members of the group, structural drawings have not been made available, and Department of Buildings office workers have told them the copy machine was broken – for several months now. Councilman Lew Fidler wrote a letter to the DOB earlier this year on Bay People’s behalf, requesting that the DOB follow the letter of the law and provide access to the publicly available materials.

Bay People has issued a challenge to the entire permit, pleading with the agency to revoke approval of the construction. They say the property owner has manipulated the floor plan, shrinking the number of people the building will hold and thereby eliminating the requirement for parking.

The group argued before the judge yesterday that an injunction was needed until they exhaust all administrative remedies so that “construction cannot take place and cause irreparable harm to the neighboring properties and the community at large, while it is being challenged.” The judge, Hon. Mark Partnow, apparently found the argument without merit.

Bay People members, though, aren’t flinching.

The mosque’s attorney, Lamis Deek, presented “lies by [the proposed site’s landlord] Allowey Ahmed and the mosque builders,” Bay People said in a press release last night. “[Judge] Portnow denied a preliminary injunction without giving a reason for his decision. He ruled from the bench within minutes, which appears that his ruling was pre-determined. Lamis Deek, the defense attorney, had only one argument, the ‘race card.'”

Opponents are regrouping, and filing an appeal immediately, according to their press release. But that’s not all – they’re also taking action against the Department of Buildings, for “failing to adequately consider our zoning challenge via unreasonable delays.”

The situation is eerily similar to that predicted several months ago by Fidler, when he urged the DOB to “evaluate the legalities of [the project] fairly, openly and consistently,” noting that “whatever decisions the agency makes will likely be challenged in Court by the ‘unhappy’ side.”

Organizers behind the mosque, however, are portraying the judge’s ruling as a victory against bigotry and selective enforcement.

“It was a win for justice,” said Ibrahim Anse, a member of the committee overseeing the construction. “Freedom and peace. God bless the USA.”

The Brooklyn chapter of the Muslim American Society – the group backing the Voorhies Avenue project – issued the following press release:

The Sheepshead Bay mosque has been a hot topic in the local community of Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, NY area for about 18 months since some of the neighbors opposed the project as a place of worship and center for the growing Muslim Community on the area.

Today, May 10th 2011, justice and equality prevailed by the Supreme Court of Kings County New York, where it denied all the claims against the proposed mosque that has been under construction, approved and permitted by the Department of Buildings of City of New York last November.

We, as members of the Muslim American Society (MAS), appreciate the court’s decision and are very thankful to our legal team under the supervision of Ms. Lamis J. Deek for the great efforts they spent at the case.

We also thank all the interfaith groups who stood in solidarity with this case to support justice and freedom. Many thanks to the officials who understood our right to build the mosque / community center that will benefit the community as a whole.

Finally, we are extending our hands to work with everyone for the betterment of our community and to share the neighborhood together; also, we are hoping that our relationship will improve and we will try to understand each other for a better living in equality and sprit of diversity as this nation was established.

Thank you and God bless you all.

Bay People issued the following press release:

Dear Bay People supporters, residents and friends,
This morning in Kings County Supreme Court, Judge Mark Portnow denied our request for a preliminary injunction in the face of plaintiffs’ affidavits, expert reports and countless violations, illegal excavation, and lies by Allowey Ahmed and the mosque builders. Portnow denied a preliminary injunction without giving a reason for his decision. He ruled from the bench within minutes, which appears that his ruling was pre-determined. Deek, the defense attorney, had only one argument, the “race card” and called Bay People and Sheepshead Bay residents racists and terrorists and added that there are hundreds and hundreds Muslim families living in Sheepshead Bay and that they will all walk to the mosque and not drive.
Our next steps would be to appeal this decision immediately. Moreover we are commencing an action against the New York City Department of Buildings for failing to adequately consider our zoning challenge via unreasonable delays and erroneously granting a building permit in the face of numerous violations on lies on the application.
This fight is far from over and we as homeowners and residents of this community will employ every possible avenue to ensure that this peaceful and quiet residential street remains just that-RESIDENTIAL. We have NOT, repeat, have NOT exhausted our administrative remedies in the Department of Buildings, which are in month 9 (yes since October of 2010) of looking out our zoning challenge.
Please note that building permits may be taken away at any time and with this request for an injunction we were merely attempting to halt construction until the DOB renders a final decision on our zoning challenge. We will of course, proceed in our case against the DOB as soon as possible.
Thank you all for your support!
Sincerely,
Bay People Inc.

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