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Mosque's expansion plan in final stages

Suleymaniye Camii Mosque at 459 Deer Park Rd.

Suleymaniye Camii Mosque at 459 Deer Park Rd. in Dix Hills. (Feb. 23, 2012) Credit: Newsday/Audrey C. Tiernan

After a quest of nearly 20 years, a Dix Hills mosque is getting closer to breaking ground on a proposed expansion of its modest facilities.

Site plans filed with Huntington Town by the United American Muslim Association of New York call for a 19,899-square-foot, 59-foot-tall building with two stories, a basement and 149 parking spaces. It would have an occupancy of 746. The current building, a large house at 459 Deer Park Ave., has been used as a mosque since it was purchased in 1993. Since then, the owners have unsuccessfully attempted to expand it.

"We're trying to make it better so it's not an eyesore and resolve some parking problems," said Mahmut Salihoglu, president of the Dix Hills congregation.

Town spokesman A.J. Carter said the current application "adheres to all the requirements of the town code. . . . They have the right to do what they are doing." Carter said plans submitted about two months ago to the planning department are being revised. Six more parking spaces will be added to meet state requirements.

Progress comes after almost two decades of delays. In the mid-1990s, the town revoked building permits for the expansion, and a lawsuit filed by the mosque to get them back failed. A change in architects further slowed the process. Salihoglu said the mosque has been working with the town to scale back the project so it does not require variances.

Salihoglu said the latest version should please neighbors as it solves the issue of overflow parking. He said the mosque has between 75 and 100 members. But afternoon prayers on Fridays, the holiest day of the week for Muslims, draw as many as 100 cars, most of which have to park on Deer Park Avenue since the mosque has no official parking lot.

Keith Archer, a Melville attorney representing a group of residents, said they have concerns about parking as well as traffic and the size of the building.

"We're now in the process of trying to set up a meeting," Archer said, "with the expectation that we'll be able to work things through."

The expanded mosque would join at least five houses of worship along a stretch of Deer Park Avenue dubbed "religion row," including the Chabad-Lubavitch Chai Center of Dix Hills. Last year, the planning board OKd a 12,580-square-foot, two-story-plus-basement addition to the center's existing 10,930-square-foot building. At its tallest point, the structure is 41 feet.

About 50 residents gathered last week at the local public library to discuss concerns that the mosque "will have a very negative impact on our neighborhood," according to an email circulated to residents. The contact person, resident Gail Jospa, could not be reached for comment.

Salihoglu said mosque officials were not notified about the meeting and would have been happy to answer questions about the proposed expansion.

"This is not a new mosque," he said. "They know us already, we have been there for almost 20 years. It's a religious corridor and we want to be good neighbors."

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