The Hempstead Town Zoning Board of Appeals will meet Thursday to hear the application for an East Meadow mosque where expansion plans have sparked community concerns over parking and traffic.
The Long Island Muslim Society wants to construct a second story at its building on East Meadow Avenue, and add a two-story staircase on the side of the structure to connect the two floors.
The new level would allow female members of the mosque to worship separately, according to the society’s lawyer, Howard Avrutine.
“They’re cramped, they don’t have sufficient space for the members,” he said. “They embarked upon this project to solve this problem.”
The mosque was built in 2006, and its membership has grown to about 250 worshippers, including children, Avrutine said. The society was founded in 1989 in Levittown by families who came from Bangladesh in the 1970s.
Avrutine said the current structure is just under 2,500 square feet. The additions would add almost 3,000 square feet over two stories, most of it on the second-floor addition.
The mosque has the required 43 parking spaces and plans to offer a shuttle service for its members if its parking lot is full “to demonstrate to the community that they are good neighbors,” Avrutine said.
But community comments and petitions filed to the zoning board — most of which oppose the proposed expansion — allege that East Meadow Avenue is already over-congested from the mosque’s worshippers, particularly during the Friday prayer services, and that any additions would further burden and endanger the surrounding homes and businesses, and hamper first responders trying to get to an emergency.
“It’s a safety issue,” said Ted Rosenthal, an East Meadow attorney who is working with the Council of East Meadow Community Organizations, a coalition of local groups. “It’s a very difficult situation because there’s no question that the Long Island Muslim Society should be able to use their structure for prayer when they need to.”
Avrutine said the mosque is not the cause of the street’s traffic problems. The society already has two Friday prayer services to alleviate congestion and plans to add a third to “inconvenience people as little as possible,” he added.
The zoning board of appeals is to meet Thursday at 9:30 a.m. at the Nathan L.H. Bennett Pavilion at Hempstead Town Hall, 1 Washington St. in Hempstead.