Residents in North Hempstead Town have told officials they are worried that a parking lot approved 20 years ago that is finally under construction on I.U. Willets Road will create a "traffic nightmare" across Roslyn.
The Shelter Rock Islamic Center, which is currently based in Mineola, will relocate to 2 Shelter Rock Rd. in Roslyn and open a mosque and community center with a 77-space parking lot.
The town granted approval for the project in 1998, said Michael Levine, the town’s planning commissioner. The building once housed a Boy Scout operation and a synagogue and is more than 8,000 square feet. In 2014, the town’s building department issued the necessary permit to start construction of the parking lot.
In recent days, residents have attended a Town Board meeting and sent letters to officials, asking whether the town could require the Islamic Center to build a smaller parking lot.
“This parking lot would create an immense amount of traffic and problems on I.U. Willets Road, which is a single lane in each direction,” said Mark Karten, of Roslyn, at a meeting Thursday. “The egress is not sufficient to accommodate that traffic.”
Building commissioner John Niewender said the lot is being prepared for a new layer of pavement.
At Thursday's town board meeting, Karten and five other residents told Supervisor Judi Bosworth and other board members about their concerns, but Bosworth said they cannot stop the construction because the plans were approved and the Islamic Center has a right to proceed with them.
“The building department does not have the authority to require a smaller parking lot, as several letter writers have requested,” Bosworth said.
An Islamic Center official declined to comment.
Levine said he acknowledges that the Islamic Center approval was 20 years ago, but noted that the center can still open its mosque and create a parking lot because the “site plans remain in effect until or unless they’re replaced with something else.”
“If they stay within the parameters of their 1998 approval, it [the site plan] has not expired,” Levine said.
Bosworth said town code allows for religious buildings to be placed in neighborhoods. She said any future renovations at the mosque will be reviewed by town officials.
“The Islamic Center will want to be a good neighbor and will be willing to hear your concerns and accommodate them to the extent they can,” Bosworth told residents, who added they received no notice of the impending parking lot.
“I feel I’m being bamboozled here and I’m sure other members of my community feel the same way,” said Karten, adding that he did not get a letter about the project.
Susan Wicker, of Roslyn, also said she wasn’t notified and that the parking lot will cause “tremendous congestion” on I.U. Willets.
“What I’m mostly upset about is that there’s nothing I can do about it,” Wicker said. “It’s a done deal, and it’s a 20-year-old done deal.”