By Talal Ansari
Muslims in Bayonne, New Jersey, have wanted an Islamic center and prayer hall for nearly two decades — they currently pray in the cramped basement of an elementary school.
After three years of planning and fundraising, they purchased an abandoned warehouse on a dead-end street in 2015 for a new mosque, setting off heated debates, opposition, and the local bureaucratic process.
On Tuesday, a much-anticipated zoning board meeting about the mosque was postponed for the third time.
Bill Finnerty, a lawyer hired by the group behind the mosque and community center, a non-profit called Bayonne Muslims, told BuzzFeed News the recent delay came about because they needed more time to complete a traffic study for the proposed site. The zoning board has “legitimate questions,” he said.
No new date for the zoning hearing has been set.
Zoning ordinances and other local bureaucracy are often cited for critiquing and rejecting mosque proposals around the nation, and proponents of the mosques say the issues are nothing more than masked discrimination.
Zoning issues vary from town to town, but reasons cited have ranged from concerns about traffic congestion and parking issues to proposals rejected because oftemporary septic tank concerns and mosque structures that are deemed not “harmonious” with “existing buildings.”
In Bayonne, a city 10 miles southwest of Manhattan, “some people [against the mosque] are raising legitimate issues about parking and traffic,” Finnerty said, “but all the other reasons I’ve heard are basically fear and racism.”
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