35° Good Morning
35° Good Morning
Long IslandNassau

Residents speak for, against mosque expansion at meeting

Community members show their support as the Hempstead

Community members show their support as the Hempstead Town Board of Appeals Board conducts a hearing on a mosque expansion on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Hempstead Town Zoning Board of Appeals may rule in the coming weeks on whether an East Meadow mosque can add a second story to create a separate prayer area for women.

More than two dozen residents spoke both for and against the mosque expansion during the board’s meeting at Hempstead Town Hall Thursday.

The Long Island Muslim Society is seeking a special exception to add a second story to the one-story mosque at 475 East Meadow Ave.

The group said it is not seeking to increase its membership, and said its capacity will actually decrease by 10 people, from 126 to 116.

“The additions are necessary because they are very cramped and tight for space,” the society’s Syosset-based lawyer, Howard Avurtine, said at the meeting. “Additional areas are needed for female congregants’ privacy, not to attract new members.”

The mosque is on a busy business stretch of East Meadow Avenue, across the street and adjacent to two churches.

“The proposal will not create any more adverse conditions than what already exists whatsoever,” Avurtine said.

Many residents have complained about traffic and parking conditions that they say already exist near the mosque. Residents said they feared that the mosque may eventually expand and add more congestion to the street.

Some residents complained about traffic blocking the street or their driveways, and not having anywhere to park.

Phyllis Sperr, who identified herself as a volunteer EMT with the East Meadow Fire Department, said she got stuck in traffic near the mosque trying to reach a cardiac arrest patient.

“He was in bad shape. His wife asked me, ‘Where were you? What took you so long?’ ” Sperr said. “The doctor told us if he had waited any longer, he wouldn’t be here.”

Supporters of the project said the area has long been plagued with bad traffic for multiple reasons, and that the expansion of the building wouldn’t make a difference.

“The space proposed is not an intention of increasing our numbers, but to accommodate our current membership,” said Syeda Hossain of Syosset. “We need a space to bow down to thank God and the ability to do those good works. We’re asking for space for mothers and daughters to go with dignity and privacy where they can pray.”

Board members have no set schedule for when a decision could be made, but said on Thursday it could come as soon as their next meeting Aug. 23, or during a meeting next month.

Nassau top stories