Leaders of a Westbury mosque and town officials have reached an agreement for a mosque expansion aimed at easing congested parking conditions in the area and providing more services for congregants.
Since the terrorist attacks on 9/11, Muslim leaders on Long Island have complained of increased hostility from both residents and local officials. In September, the Town of Oyster Bay suddenly shuttered a mosque in Bethpage for building code violations, and, at the national level, Congressman Peter King has drawn opposition for his plans to focus exclusively on Muslims during a series of congressional investigations into homegrown terrorism.
Newsday’s Bart Jones reports on the Westbury agreement:
Eighteen months ago, people who lived near a large mosque in Westbury were predicting the ruin of their neighborhood if an expansion plan was approved. They angrily packed public hearings, circulated petitions and declared “enough!”
But now, in what local officials say could be a model for diverse communities coming together and resolving conflicts, a modified expansion has won village approval – and all sides seem content.
The Islamic Center of Long Island – the largest mosque in Nassau County – will move ahead with an estimated $3.5 million expansion, building a new center that will consolidate classrooms and offices that had been operating out of several houses on the 1.7-acre property.
“I’m very proud of the community,” Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro said Tuesday. “The community certainly could have done what other communities have done and said no under any circumstance. The people who live in that neighborhood were reasonable.”
Amid the backdrop of the recent controversy involving plans to build a mosque blocks from Ground Zero, Habeeb Ammed, chairman of the mosque, said the agreement shows Muslims can be welcomed in a community that initially raised concerns.
“I feel very happy. I really give a lot of credit to the mayor and the officials of Westbury. In this atmosphere of Islamophobia and all the problems, they were very, very kind and very sensitive to the Muslim needs.”