The Community Board 1 meeting quickly became standing-room-only on Tuesday night with residents spilling out of the banquet room in a show of support for an application to expand a mosque at Astoria Islamic Center.
The application was voted 7-3 in favor.
During a presentation by Isabel Bucaram,an Astoria attorney representing the religious institution, she pointed out the large crowd in attendance, saying they are just a portion of those who worship at the center and that it’s vital to make room for all who want to attend.
The enlargement of the 2,500-square-foot center at 22-21 33 St. would include additions to the first and second floors, an added third floor and slight changes to the yard. The mosque would also need to obtain parking waivers, which would allow the institution to expand over unused parking spaces.
“The code is one parking space per 15 persons. So if one were to adhere to that, the space we could enlarge the mosque would be extremely limited,”Bucaram said.
“Most, if not all, of the constituents that come to the mosque, come in walking distance,”she added. “We don’t know anyone that really drives to the mosque; it’s really a community mosque.”
A City municipal parking fieldis alsoavailable across the street from the center if any center members needed to drive to attend.
The enlargement would also grow diversity of the institution, Bucaram said. An additional third floor would be established for women to pray. Islamic rules do not allow men and women to pray together.
The mosque holds daily prayer five times a day, with 20 to 40 people attending each service, as well as a weekly prayer at noon on Fridays that could draw up to 225 people.
“The question is, when you have the worship activities, first, how long do they last? And secondly, are these [floors] occupiedsimultaneously or does it happen at a special time?” a community boardmember who was concerned about the total building’s occupancy posed toBucaram.
“The nightly prayers duringRamadan easily have 250 people that come during the duration of the worship, which is 2 1/2 hours,” Bucaramsaid.
“You can feel the closeness in the mosque. You can feel the need for enlargement,” she added, stating that prayer spaces on the first and second floors are occupiedsimultaneously. The building occupancy is 250 people.
“Are your plans within the code of the New York City Fire Department?” asked anothercommunity boardmember.
As it stands, the mosque reaches its capacity duringRamadan, the time when Muslims pray more than usual, Bucaram said. The mosque also holds extra nightly prayer services for Ramadan..
“It’s not going to change the composition of the mosque as a service, the people are there,” Bucaram said, adding with these proposed enlargements, “now we could accommodate them and accommodate the growing constituency of the mosque.”
Astoria Islamic Center has been operating since September 1994.