After tense meeting on Muslim center, Bayonne Zoning Board postpones vote

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After over three hours of testimony and resident questions at the Bayonne Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting, the board postponed their vote on the Muslim community center until March.

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After protests for and against the new community center, which is currently an abandoned warehouse at the end of 24th Street off of Avenue F, hundreds still waited in the main corridor of City Hall hoping for an opportunity to sit in on the Bayonne Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting.

The board spent the majority of the meeting allowing audience members to ask questions to those associated with the project.

Waheed Akbar, secretary of the Bayonne Muslims non-profit group, dealt with some hostile members of the crowd who were adamantly against the new center – which they regularly referred to as “a mosque.”

Akbar also faced some heat for not being able to answer questions about how much he believed this new space would increase the size of the Muslim congregation or how large the congregation currently is now.

Board Chairman Mark Urban had to routinely remind audience members that this portion of the meeting was reserved strictly for questions, not for statements or to make a speeches, with one audience member completely losing his cool at one point since he didn’t believe the meeting was being handled fairly.

Jose Santos, the architect for the project, revealed that the maximum capacity for the building would be 308 people and that 216 seats and about 5,000 square feet would be set aside for gathering space for worship.

Paul Anderson, the site engineer, got into it with Joe Wisniewksi, one of the people who helped organize the protest against the community center, over the potential traffic and parking problem this project could create.

Anderson also stated that the project was outside of the FEMA flood zones and that the land in question did not have any issues with contamination.

After over three hours of discussion, Urban said that given the fact that the board has a policy not to hear testimony after 10 p.m., the meeting was adjourned at about 9:35 p.m.

A special hearing on the matter was then scheduled for March 14 at 6 p.m.