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Avella questions BSA on Flushing mosque approval

Senator Avella is fighting the BSA’s approval of a mosque on 46-05 Parsons Blvd.
Photo by Michael Shain
By Gina Martinez

A proposed mosque that has sparked controversy in Flushing was the subject of a letter state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) wrote to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara asking him to take a closer look at recent actions and decisions made by the Board of Standards and Appeals.

The letter, sent last Friday, was written days after the BSA said it had granted variances for the mosque, which is set to be built at 46-05 Parsons Blvd. Avella pointed out that the BSA, which made the decision Aug. 2, took almost two months to post the notice, a delay he found suspicious.

The group planning to build the mosque, Masjid e-Noor, has been in conflict with Flushing residents for almost two years. At multiple community board meetings, neighborhood residents have claimed that the issue is not one involving religious intolerance but that the mosque would violate several zoning regulations.

The land on which the mosque would be built is a triangular 4,773-square-foot corner lot. The proposed mosque is expected to accommodate 420 worshipers. About 95 percent of the mosque’s members live in the 11355 zip code, where it would be built.

Avella has been on the front line against the mosque since it was proposed. He has even suggested that he would support a lawsuit against the BSA that would be filed by the Kissena Park Civic Association.

“The community and I have discussed suing because while this site has been previously granted variances from BSA, the number of variances and severity that the proposed mosque sought was clearly out of character,” he said. “I believe political influence governed their decision. The BSA was clearly out of bounds.”

Masjid e-Noor sought approvals for variances from the Board of Standards and Appeals. Ryan Singer, a spokesman for the BSA, confirmed weeks ago all the variances were approved before officially posting the decision online. In a statement he said the reason the decision had not been posted was because “there were a high volume of approvals in August and a backlog of resolutions.”

The mosque requested a variance to change the mandated floor-area ratio of 0.5 in the R2 district to 1.045. It also requested permission to cut down a tree and waive the yard and parking requirements.

The Avella letter was a followup to a previous letter sent in July about the conduct of BSA Chairwoman Margery Perlmutter as a main speaker and presenter at an opening ceremony for a mosque approved in Brooklyn. Avella cited an article from the sheepsheadbites website that said Perlmutter received a proclamation from the city that was given at the opening ceremony of the Brooklyn mosque. He claimed that appearance raised questions about whether the administration was being influenced to grant variances.

“Now that BSA has rendered its decision to grant the variances and spent an unusually long time in writing the resolution,” he said, “I am concerned as to whether the administration engaged in any form of improper conduct to influence BSA’s decision in this situation as it appears to have done in the Sheepshead Bay case, clearly raising the }

[specter] of whether this process may not be impartial.”

When asked about the potential lawsuit, Avella’s representatives said nothing has been spoken about yet, but if the Kissena Park Civic Association files. he will be part of it.

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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