Meeting to approve new Muslim Community Center scheduled


BAYONNE — The Bayonne Zoning Board is scheduled to hold a meeting on January 23for major site plan approval for a new Muslim Community Center in the Second Ward. Bayonne Muslims, a nonprofit organization, has been renting the basement of St. Henry’s School on Avenue C for community and prayer services for six years.
The group proposed to convert what is currently an unoccupied warehouse on 109 East 24th Street into a community center, including a mosque, classrooms, and a soup kitchen, according to Bill Finnerty, the attorney representing the group.
The proposed plan has been tabled since a zoning board meeting last January after some protest from Second Ward residents.
At that meeting, opponents of the plan cited concerns about traffic and noise. Residents asked how long and frequent prayers might be, how much traffic increase they can expect, and whether mosque-goers will be walking through their yards.
In June, a 75-year-old resident was reportedly threatened by a man at her home for displaying a sign that read “Stop the Mosque.” In October, a Bayonne man vandalized the façade outside the entrance to the Muslim Community Center on Avenue C with spray paint, writing hateful and Islamophobic slurs, as reported by the Bayonne Community News. Jonathon Hussey, the man responsible, was sentenced to 12 months probation on January 3. As part of his probation, according to a statement from the Hudson County Clerk, Hussey penned an apology to both the Muslim Community Center and St. Henry’s Church.
Second Ward residents are frequent visitors at city council meetings, where similar concerns are voiced about development projects in their neighborhood, which mainly has been a community of one- and two-family homes.
Since the meeting was tabled last year, three scheduled meetings have been postponed, most recently in June.
A recent New Years Eve court ruling addressed a similar issue in Bernards Township. The federal judge ruled that the Bernards Township planning board violated a federal law prohibiting religious discrimination in land-use by requiring the mosque to have more parking spaces than do churches or synagogues, according to the judicial opinion by United States District Judge Michael A. Shipp.