Muliner Avenue mosque speakers cause concern

Some neighbors are upset about loudspeakers used inside a mosque, Masjid Gulzar-e-Madina, on Muliner Avenue. The speakers are unobtrusive, mosque members contend. Photo by Robert Benimoff

Some neighbors are concerned about use of loudspeakers at a mosque on Muliner Avenue but worshippers maintain that the noise problem no longer exists.

Sheldon Gross has lived on Muliner Avenue for more than five decades. Some years ago, Muslim residents of the neighborhood bought 2162 Muliner Avenue, a three-family house next to his, Gross said.

The city Department of Buildings issued work permits at 2162 in 2006 and 2008 to convert the building into a house of worship. Walls were knocked down, Gross said. He had no problem with the mosque, Masjid Gulzar-e-Madina, until speakers blared prayers into his bedroom, he said. The noise is worst in the summer, when the mosque and Gross open windows to beat the heat, Gross explained.

“It can be extremely loud,” he said.

A Bogart Avenue neighbor who asked to remain anonymous agreed. The speakers disturb residents on Muliner and Bogart at least monthly, the neighbor said.

“So loud you’d think you were in [the mosque’s] living room,” the neighbor added.

On Friday, December 4, Masjid Gulzar-e-Madina worshippers used speakers to transmit prayers throughout the building. When the front door of the mosque was closed, the prayers were audible but not loud on the street. When the front door of the mosque was open, the prayers were neither very soft nor very loud.

“We don’t mean to disturb anyone in the neighborhood,” worshipper Shahid Tanvir said.

Masjid Gulzar-e-Madina only uses loudspeakers on Fridays from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. and on Sundays from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., mosque secretary Muhammad Sharif said. Gross begs to differ. During the holy month of Ramadan the speakers are used more often and at all hours, he alleged. Ramadan prayers this August and September upset Gross’ tenants, he said. One night, the speakers were used at 4:30 a.m., Gross charged.

“The noise was obscene,” he said.

Gross, who is friendly with many of the Masjid Gulzar-e-Madina worshippers, has phoned 311 and confronted worshippers about the speakers on several occasions, he said. Sharif stated that the mosque turned down its speakers months ago and is on good terms with its neighbors.

He and Tanvir suggested that Masjid Gulzar-e-Madina has been targeted by fussy residents who won’t approach the mosque in person. The DOB indeed declared a September complaint about construction at the mosque unwarranted.

Community Board 11, the 49th Precinct and Councilman Jimmy Vacca have fielded a handful of complaints, CB11 district manager John Fratta, 49th Precinct community affairs officer Vic DiPierro and a Vacca spokesman said.

DiPierro visited Muliner Avenue in November and was told that the speakers are used only indoors and only on Fridays and Sundays. He plans to monitor the mosque. Hamud Al-Silwi of the Bronx Muslim Center on Rhinelander Avenue also visited but was unable to engage a mosque leader. CB11 has approached the issue cautiously, as it involves religious worship, Fratta said. Masjid Gulzar-e-Madina is registered with the 49th Precinct and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in the interest of safety, Sharif said.

Gross is also concerned about parking. Masjid Gulzar-e-Madina worshippers, many of whom are livery cab drivers, take up spots on Muliner Avenue and in the two shared driveways beside the mosque. Gross is often blocked in, he said.

Sharif admitted that many worshippers park in the neighborhood on Fridays; some 500 people attended prayers for Eid-Ul-Adha, Friday, November 27, worshipper Mohammad Afzal said.

“But there is no unlawful parking,” Sharif said.

Sharif has promised to discuss neighbors’ concerns with the mosque’s president. Masjid Gulzar-e-Madina has been less well attended since a larger mosque opened on Young Avenue, Sharif said. Gross suggested that Masjid Gulzar-e-Madina soundproof its building.

Reach reporter Daniel Beekman at 718 742-3383 or dbeekman@cnglocal.com

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