Bayonne Zoning Board green lights city’s first Muslim Community Center

0

After another long hearing in front of the zoning board, the Bayonne Muslims will be able to build Bayonne’s first mosque on the city’s east side.

One year after the Bayonne Zoning Board voted against the construction of a mosque and community center at 109 East 24th Street, the board voted last night to authorize a $400,000 settlement with the Bayonne Muslims, paving the way for the construction of the mosque.

After last year’s vote, the Bayonne Muslims sued the city, quickly followed by a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit against the city of Bayonne.

Realizing the potential for a lengthy and expensive legal battle in the courts, the city approved a $400,000 settlement.

Despite that fact, several Bayonne residents continued to voice their strong opposition to the mosque’s construction, claiming that the anticipated building’s size doesn’t meet the city’s zoning standards.

Many speakers implored the zoning board to vote no against the settlement, while also stating that they welcome people of all races and religions in the city.

Then Ali Hussan, a resident of West 50th Street, spoke before the board and at one point turned to the audience members opposed to the settlement to say to them to give the Bayonne Muslims a chance.

As he spoke he was heckled and Board Chair Mark Urban had to intervene to stop the heckling.

“We’re not here to destroy your property values or to cause traffic issues. We’re here to worship in peace and quiet. I know that some people are worried about the values of their homes, but it’s a form of backward thinking,” said Hassan.

“All I ask of you is to give us a chance. We’re just here to worship our God in peace.”

After the meeting, we interviewed Hassan on camera, asking him if he thought that Bayonne residents opposing the mosque’s construction based on zoning issues was an excuse for Bayonne not to host a religious institution of Muslim faith.

“It’s hard to speculate, and I prefer not to speculate. I think most people have strong opinions either way. I’ll say again that the majority of people are for the mosque, and it’s only a minority of people who are against it for whatever reasons they may have. But its irrelevant [because] we do belong to this community, we’re part of this community,” said Hassan.

“This zoning doesn’t seem to be an issue for the churches and synagogues in town, so it’s a little surprising that the zoning has become such an issue [for the mosque].”

We also asked several Bayonne residents opposed to the mosque to speak on camera for their reaction to the zoning board’s decision. Mary Curtis agreed to speak, but not on camera. We asked her why personally she was in opposition.

“I’ve said all along that I am not opposed to Bayonne hosting a mosque, but it shouldn’t be built at [109 East 24th Street] because there isn’t enough space on the property. Because it’s on a dead-end street, there’ll be parking and traffic issues. Again, I am not opposed to the construction of a mosque, but another part of town would be better,” said Curtis.

During the public speaking portion, some residents said that the former Military Ocean Terminal is a more suitable location for the mosque.

The full meeting, which was streamed live on our Facebook page, can be viewed below: