The Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance held a town hall on Monday, March 6 at the Monsignor Fiorentino Apartments’ community room to discuss the relocation of the Bronx Muslim Center.
BMC members Jamil Yussuf, technical advisor for the relocation, and Yahay Obeid, VNNA member and liaison to the BMC, spoke to residents on what the relocation will mean to the community.
Yussuf explained to those in attendance that a lack of space is the mosques’ primary problem.
According to the technical advisor, when the mosque opened in 1998, the number of families living near the mosque was approximately 110.
“More Muslim people moved into the area, rented houses, bought houses and started businesses,” he continued.
“Now the number of families that live within three miles of the existing mosque exceeds 1,000,” said Yussuf.
He explained that the current mosque was built to hold about 175-200 people but their membership now far exceed that number.
Currently, the mosque holds two prayer services on Friday – the busiest day for the mosque – yet members still have to pray on the street.
Yussuf invited the community to come to the current mosque – located at 702 Rhinelander Avenue – to see how small it is.
The BMC is planning to move its membership to a new, three-story building at 1912-1920 Amethyst Street which will be able to accommodate 800 people if necessary.
Yussuf said once the mosque reaches its full capacity , any new people will have to find another place to worship.
Bernadette Ferrara, president of the Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance, asked Yussuf to address the parking issues.
The new location is on a one-way street which leaves little parking for BMC members.
On Friday evenings at the current location, local Muslim residents double and triple park on Rhinelander to say their prayers.
Yussuf said the members had come up with three strategies to mitigate the parking issue.
Firstly, he said some of the local homeowners have committed to allowing members to park in their driveway during Friday prayers.
“That’s about 45 parking spots,” Obeid told the board.
Yussuf said local business owners have also committed to providing parking spots for members.
He added that the mosque’s members are also hoping to secure a discounted parking lot in the area.
Finally, said Yussuf, the building will have a parking agent who will be in charge of discouraging illegal parking.
Ferrara pushed Yussuf and Obeid for more measures to make parking go smoother on Amethyst.
She asked if the mosque could appoint someone to go into the mosque and alert members when there is a traffic situation.
Obeid said the mosque currently employs this method but Ferrara contended that people still double park on Rhinelander and block the street.
In addition, Yussuf encouraged local NYPD officers to write tickets if the members are a hinderance to motorists.
The technical advisor also said they were considering tearing down the current mosque and using the property as a parking lot.