By Chris Mellides
The Huntington Zoning Board of Appeals last week put off deciding on an application by the Islamic Center of Melville, which is seeking to build a new multi-million dollar mosque, amid pushback from local residents.
The Islamic Center’s proposal calls for replacing two residential structures that have been used as houses of worship with a single mosque that would cost between $6 million and $8 million. The plans would require a parking variance to more than double to the number of the center’s current 70 spaces to 150. Additionally, the center is seeking relief for the size of the buffer required from the parking area to the street in order to keep parking in the front of the building.
Many of the site’s visitors park their cars on the shoulder of the roadway network on Old East Neck Road in Melville when there is no available parking at the Islamic Center, and cross the service road to attend events at the center, which is unsafe, according to Wayne Muller, of RMS Engineering, who was at the hearing offering expert testimony on behalf of the center.
Muller said that there would be two access points to the proposed mosque that would make traveling there easier and safer. The first access point would be on Old East Neck Road, located on the southwestern side of the property, with the second access point located along the south service road of the Long Island Expressway on the northeasterly side.
Several Melville residents in attendance expressed strong disapproval of the plan.
Jeanette Smith, of Melville, says that she has lived on Old East Neck Road for 23 years and has been “instrumental” in cleaning up areas in her neighborhood.
“Throughout the [Islamic] center’s 15 years at this address…we have seen overgrown grass, overgrown bushes, weeds, broken glass on windows not fixed, fences needing repair, broken door hinges…and phone books and garbage not picked up on the property,” Smith said.
Smith said that since the Islamic Center was founded in 2000, her neighborhood has seen a “decline in upkeep” of the property, and that no one appears to be in charge of maintenance even when the facility is in full use.
Smith’s sentiment was echoed by other residents.
Following the testimony, the board unanimously decided to table ruling on the matter.