Residents for, against Bayonne mosque pack zoning board meeting

Dozens of Bayonne residents packed a city zoning board meeting regarding a proposed Islamic mosque and community center.

Monday evening's meeting attracted such a large crowd that it was held in the Bayonne High School auditorium instead of at city hall.

The application for the Islamic center has been in and out of zoning board meetings for over a year. The nonprofit group Bayonne Muslims is looking to build on land now occupied by an old warehouse on East 24th Street, a residential area.

"It is a place to gather. A place like home for our community and our kids," says Waheed Akbar. "There's a lot of other activities that we want to do that we haven't been able to do such as outreach and soup kitchen and community stuff."

But many in the community oppose putting the center at the proposed location because they fear an increase in traffic and noise.

"I don't think that I should have to be subjected to noise, whether its traffic or people coming and going at all times of day and night," one resident said at the meeting.

The Bayonne Muslims group says that they addressed those and other concerns by cutting the original occupancy proposal, keeping special events to a minimum and providing shuttle service if needed. Some members of the group say that they believe the opposition to the center is biased in nature.

"There are people saying, 'Hey, it's not parking issue, but remember Sept. 11 or remember what happened in Orlando,'" Akbar says. "They are masking it with something else and that's really frightful."

Public comments were expected to last late into the night.

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