The Kissena Park Civic Association and state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) are considering filing an Article 78 lawsuit over a controversial plan to build a mosque in Flushing at 46-05 Parsons Blvd.
The group behind the plan, Masjid e-Noor, sought approvals for variances from the Board of Standards and Appeals, which has not yet published the resolution that includes the waivers and conditions for the project. All of the waivers sought were approved, according to BSA spokesman Ryan Singer.
“They got what they were asking for,” Singer told the Chronicle.
The site is a small, unusually shaped lot at the corner of 46th Avenue and Parsons Boulevard.
The lawsuit — which would aim to overturn the BSA’s decision — has to be filed within 30 days after the agency publishes its resolution with the waivers and conditions for the project, which it will do early next week, according to Singer.
“The Board of Standards and Appeals approved the applicant’s request to waive regulations pertaining to maximum floor area regulations, front yard and height and setback to permit a house of worship to be built at 46-05 Parsons Blvd in Queens,” Singer said in an emailed statement. “The building did not change during the hearing process although waivers were added to accommodate the proposed dome.”
The variances sought were for parking, floor area ratio, sky exposure plane, side yard and other construction regulations. Community Board 7 rejected the plan after members of the board tried to get the applicants to consider another site.
Singer insisted that the proposal was considered as any other would be.
“The Board treated this application with the same rigor as any other before it and found that it met the findings for a variance,” he said.
“We have a situation where the city is letting this particular group and this mosque go forward by waiving the building codes applicable to them,” Carsten Glaeser, the vice president of the KPCA, said.
The civic association, he added, is “trying to come up with money” for representation in court. According to Glaeser, other civic associations might get involved with the lawsuit.
“If they give them all the variances they have asked for, that’s like spitting in our face,” KPCA President Beverly McDermott said, adding that the civic association’s opposition to the project is not related to the applicant organization being Muslim. “We’re looking into the possibility [of a lawsuit] and we seem to be gaining momentum with people who want to join us.”
“This project should never have been approved and only a legal action will have the ability to redress a serious wrong to the community,” Paul Graziano, a Flushing-based land use expert said, adding that he would not personally be a plaintiff in the lawsuit despite being supportive of it.
“We are considering legal action,” Avella said. “The BSA has not put up the legal decision yet.” The senator said that he would be one of the plaintiffs in the case, if it happens.
“It has nothing to do with the Muslim community,” Avella added. He testified against the project before the BSA and has been a critic of the proposal.
According to Joe Amoroso, a KPCA member and its former zoning chairman, the proposal will not fit the programmatic needs of the mosque, the application for which says that the facility would serve 420 people. While that number can fit into the building, he said, fewer will be able to fit in during prayers when congregants kneel down.
“They don’t pray standing up,” Amoroso told the Chronicle. “What you’re gonna wind up with, very possibly, is that with the overflow, the people who can’t fit in the building will pray on the sidewalks and in the streets.”
If they did that, he said, traffic would be blocked.
Parking, he added, would also be a problem for the mosque, the plan for which includes no new spaces.
Although the BSA hired a company to do a parking study which found adequate parking in the area, Amoroso doubts its accuracy.
“It’s almost impossible to get a parking spot because the people from Flushing Hospital park their cars there and there are doctor’s offices and other religious facilities in the area,” he said.
Masjid-e-Noor could not be reached for comment.
Despite the residents’ logistical concerns and denials of any other motivation, Council on Islamic-American Relations Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper said situations in which communities are opposed to mosque construction are often Islamophobic.
“It’s pretty common in our current somewhat toxic environment for American Muslims that anything to do with Islam or Muslims, whether it’s a mosque, a cemetery or a school, is going to face some sort of opposition,” Hooper said.
However, he added, the more diverse a community is — Flushing is far more diverse than the average American town or neighborhood — the less likely opposition will be Islamophobic.
Avella and others against the project have emphasized that their opposition to it has nothing to do with Muslims.
“Diverse communities are typically used to people of different faiths and different backgrounds and it’s not as much as an issue,” Hooper added.