Bayonne community center: Embracing religious freedom or ruining quality of life?

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Despite the bitter cold weather, more than 60 people protested for and against the Muslim community center in Bayonne, where a decision from the city’s zoning board is possible this evening.

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There was a special public hearing tonight by the Bayonne Zoning Board at City Hall regarding a plan by Bayonne Muslims, a non-profit group, who has requested final site approval for 109 E. 24th street – the former Controlled Demolition site – to become a community center.

This 23,000 square feet will include a “prayer hall, classrooms, offices, a library and a fully equipped fitness and game room,” according the Bayonne Muslims website.

The first Muslim Center was established in 1999, and for over six years, Muslim community has been renting a basement at St. Henry’s School on 28th and Avenue C for as a place of prayer.

Also according to their website, the group has raised $1 million dollars that is required to acquire the property and is currently seeking an additional $600,000 for renovations.

As the doors opened, there was heightened security to control the influx of attendees, both pro and against the community center, that poured in the chambers.

The room, just like the two protesting groups, remained divided. Banners on each side read “No Racism and Anti-Muslim Bigotry” and “If the Mosque Comes Mayor Go’s [sic].”

“It’ s disgraceful because we have existed here in Bayonne. For the past 7 years we co-existed in the basement of St Henry’s School and the catholic church with no incidence. So its very, very disgraceful for people on the other side (of the protesting fence) making the fuss that their making,” said Bayonne resident Jessica Hellinger.

Hoda Abdulraheim told Hudson County View that “Its about freedom of religion as it says on Torah, the Koran and the Bible.”

Mary Curtis, who stood on the opposing side of the protest and held a sign saying “Stop the Mosque,” said its not about religious intolerance, but about congestion.

“One minute to a cardio patient means life or death. This can’t happen. It will be too congested. No parking and too many people in one small neighborhood. Of all the buildings the are empty in Bayonne, they could have chosen a better location.”

The decision for the site plan is rescheduled for March 14 at 6pm. The report on this meeting is forthcoming.