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Islamic center president questions town's hiring of special engineer

Abdul Aziz Bhuiyan, president of the Hillside Islamic

Abdul Aziz Bhuiyan, president of the Hillside Islamic Center, at the construction site in North New Hyde Park Monday, Sept. 22, 2014. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

The Town of North Hempstead has hired an outside engineer to monitor construction of the Hillside Islamic Center in North New Hyde Park, a move the president of the mosque said is "racist" because no non-Muslim projects have been subject to such scrutiny.

"All the while our members truly felt there was a bias, and this really proves it," Abdul Aziz Bhuiyan said Wednesday.

The board unanimously voted at its Tuesday night meeting to hire Cashin Associates of Hauppauge for up to $20,000, and Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth also asked that the possibility of the center paying for the engineer be studied.

"Our concern is to make sure that the Islamic Center is built safely and meets all code and safety standards, especially because it will be used as a religious center," said North Hempstead town spokeswoman Carole Trottere in an emailed statement Wednesday. "We are working with the builder to make sure that all these safety issues are addressed."

She said the town's building department contracts with outside engineers "on occasion ... for special expertise for a project with unusual circumstances, such as this one. Building safety is of paramount concern in the Town."

Bhuiyan said the mosque is unwilling to pay for the engineer and that he plans to research whether the town had hired an engineer for a similar project.

Work has been going on and off at the Hillside Avenue site since last October, five months after construction started on the $1.4 million center.

New Hyde Park resident Jim McHugh complained to the building department about what he said were deficiencies in the work. And town officials confirmed problems with the steel frame and foundation.

Work had resumed in September but was stopped again on Oct. 3 over lingering issues with the steel, town officials said.

Bhuiyan said he met with building department officials on Monday and Tuesday to again address concerns, but no one told him the issue would come up Tuesday night.

"We feel competent people went through these plans many times, and issues have been raised and resolved," Bhuiyan said.

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