The first public discussion in almost two months regarding the proposed Mount Sinai mosque was thorough and at times heated during Monday's Town of Brookhaven Planning Board meeting.
Mohammed Sameen's proposal to convert an existing 74' x 142.4' barn to a place of worship at 515 Mt. Sinai-Coram Road has led to much discussion over concerns residents have.
Many worry about traffic that the mosque would bring, while other issues about the controversial topic were brought up as well.
Emotions flared at times as Vincent Pascale, Chairman of the planning board, had to threaten to terminate the meeting after outbursts from the audience continued despite warnings. Many who brought comments to the planning board regarding traffic safety reiterated that their concerns had nothing to do with the mosque itself.
"My issue is not whether it’s a mosque, but this isn’t really the place for it," said Bob Howe, who lives off Mt. Sinai-Coram Road. "I think there should be a turning lane. I’ve lived on this road quite a while and whenever I make a turn I worry I’m going to get rear-ended. Widening the road at the location I think is the only reasonable solution to the traffic problem."
Local Henry Ellis added that while many are clearly concerned about the traffic, there are also other factors at play.
"Some feel that because they have traffic concerns they could be prejudged as bigots, and that's a bad thing," Ellis said. "But being a non-Muslim myself and being part of the community, I can tell you that there are some comments that are made that make you believe there’s more going on here than concerns about traffic."
Creating a left turn lane was a point made by plenty who spoke, and another concern was the number of people the mosque would bring. There are 54 parking spots allotted in the proposal, which Sameen and lawyer Timothy Shea estimate would be more than sufficient for peak times [Friday afternoons].
"Are you certain that on a Friday afternoon, as the 50 cars that are provided parking are turning into that one lane entrance to the mosque and the traffic builds up behind theses vehicles on that one lane road in each direction, that you can protect our health and safety?," resident Harriet Darvis asked.
Members of the local Muslim community, who mostly now travel to the mosque in Selden, are excited about the proposal and believe it will be a benefit to the community.
"To me, the convenience of being able to go to a mosque in a residential area is really great because you feel comfortable and at home," said Shah Mirza. "I think the major positive that comes out of these meetings is that we’re all becoming are of the possible problems we may encounter. As far as the traffic situation, I think that the 600-home hamlet and over-commercialization are larger problems than a house of worship."
The discussion closed as Pascale gave a 10-day extension for written comment before the proposal is placed on the decision calendar. Sameen again was pleased to hear from those concerned.
"We've been more than happy to open up and address the concerns of the community," he said. "The project is for the community itself, so by all means we’re more than happy to address it and we are concerned about the issues that affect them."