Here's the latest concerning the illegal construction of a Mosque/Community Center at 2812 Voorhies Avenue, a quiet, residential street in Brooklyn. It is heartrendering to watch these people fight so hard to save their neighborhood while most elected officials hide under their desk -- save Senator Storobin and Marty Markowitz. Perhaps Mayor Bloomberg can tear himself away from his Big Gulp crusade to address the real concerns of his constituents.
Staten Island Thinker has this letter from Senator David Storobin: From David Storobin to Mayor Bloomberg (June 2012)(2)
The people of Sheepshead bay wrote this to the Mayor:
1421 Sheepshead Bay Rd. Post Mail Box 288 Brooklyn, NY 11235 www.BayPeople.org firstname.lastname@example.org
June 27, 2012
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg City Hall
New York, NY 10007
Honorable Mayor Bloomberg,
Bay People Inc. is a New York based organization that was created by residents of Sheepshead Bay with a goal of protecting the quality of life in our residential neighborhood.
We are writing to you in connection with a construction going on at 2812 Voorhies Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11235. Theprop0sedMosque/CommunityCenterisbeingbuiltinplaceofasingle‐familyhomepreviously occupied by an elderly couple. Once completed, it will be able to accommodate up to 1,500 people daily, yet notasingleparkingspothasbeenallocatedforitsuse. Thisfacilityisbeingconstructedwithoutanyregard to the impact on the surrounding community. Religion must not be an excuse for zoning violations and inappropriate development. As residents of the community, we demand that our rights be protected as well.
Attached please find Bay People’s report No: 2, detailing the problem with the current zoning regulations, which instead of protecting the community, created loopholes that are being exploited by this and similar construction projects. These projects will create nuisance and will destroy the quality of life of the residents.
cc: D. Storobin – NYS Senator, M. Markowitz – Brooklyn Borough President, R. Turner ‐ Congressman, L. Fidler – NYC Councilman, S. Cymbrowitz – NYS Assemblyman, T. Scavo ‐ Community Board No:15, M. Nelson – NYC Councilman, M. Golden – NYS Senator, H. Weinstein – NYS Assemblywoman,
Current zoning regulations are in dire need of revision. The neighborhood residents object to the automatic “as‐of‐right” status this construction received from the city. The prop0sed Mosque / Community Center is being built in place of a single‐family home previously occupied by an elderly couple. Once completed it will be able to accommodate up to 1,500 people daily, yet not a single parking spot has been allocated. This facility is being constructed without any regard to the impact on the surrounding community. Allowing such constructions to be sited in the current location jeopardizes the fundamental purpose of the ZR to "promote and protect public health, safety and general welfare." As set forth in the ZR, "the zoning districts established in this Resolution . . . are designed to guide the future use of the City's land by encouraging the development of desirable residential, commercial and manufacturing areas with appropriate groupings of compatible and related uses and thus to promote and to protect public health, safety and general welfare."
Unfinished Mosque / Community Center. Once completed, it will stand over 35 ft. tall, over 8,500 sq. ft and this structure will be able to accommodate up to 1,500 people daily, yet not a single parking spot has been allocated
Residents of Sheepshead Bay have constitutional rights to enjoy their property and protect their quality of life, yet Department of Buildings (DOB) ignored all of it when it signed off on this project. DOB has the power and authority to reject applications, Board of Standards and Appeal (BSA) has the power and authority to affirm such rejections in order to prevent abuses that would go against the purpose of the ZR.
DOB ‐ Our Vision 1: The New York City Buildings Department is committed to becoming a premier municipal building organization, dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for all New Yorkers and making our city safer.
Board of Standards and Appeal ‐ Authority and Composition 2: The Board is empowered by the City Charter to interpret the meaning or applicability of the Zoning Resolution, Building and Fire Codes, Multiple Dwelling Law, and Labor Law. This power includes the ability to vary in certain instances the provisions of these regulations.
The Court of Appeals has made clear that the interpretation of the ZR by BSA and DOB must be "given great weight and judicial deference," it has also made clear that such deference is only afforded "so long as the interpretation is neither irrational, unreasonable, nor inconsistent with the governing statute." Appelbaum, 66 N.Y.2d at 977‐78.
BSA ignored the evidence as well as the intent of the ZR and related regulations in order to affirm DOB's approval of this Mosque / Community center. BSA's determination is irrational, unreasonable. Thus, BSA's decision is arbitrary and capricious and affected by an error of law and should be annulled.
In Fischer v. Taub, 127 Misc.2d 518, 525‐26 (1st Dept 1984), the First Department stated that the plain meaning of the relevant terms made clear that: facility is the sum of its parts and not a manifestation of any one of them. Accordingly, the Mosque / Community Center should be looked at a sum of all parts and not any single one taken separately. The facility at 2812 Voorhies Avenue has been advertising itself as a community center and as part of the community facility, they are planning to provide prayer space, known as a Mosque, but the facility itself is not a Mosque. If is a Community Center, hence it should be treated like one and
parking should be calculated based on requirements applicable to a Community Center, not a house of worship. The builders have specifically refrained from identifying the facility as a Mosque. In fact, the only documents listing this facility as a house of worship are the documents filed with the DOB, which were intended to circumvent the parking requirements. The parking requirements for a house of worship require one spot per 15 people, while the requirements for a Community Center are one spot per 10 people. The facility is clearly motivated to file paperwork as a house of worship to take advantage of the lower required number of parking spots. However, only two rooms on floors 1 and 2 are listed as the prayer facility. Basement floor and the third floor are listed as accessory space, and will be used for the community center purposes. There is nothing preventing the facility from allowing community center usage on floors 1 and 2. Alternatively, there is nothing preventing the facility from opening up all space for prayer and attracting a much larger than projected number of worshippers, which would also require many more parking spots than currently allotted.
CITY OFFICIALS / ELECTED POLITICIANS
Despite having contacted the local politicians with our concerns about the effects of the proposed construction on the community, Bay People have been repeatedly ignored. Bay People are appalled by the lack of concern for the problems of the neighborhood, and suspect that the politicians are afraid and unwilling to be perceived as opposing a religious group, when in fact they are being asked to address a quality of life problem. The city officials are turning a blind eye on the situation. Bay People acknowledge the right of a religious group to build a house of worship and support this right, however Bay People also support the right of the neighborhood residents to enjoy their property and maintain a certain quality of life. The rights of the neighborhood residents are no less important than the rights of the worshipers and must be taken into account when determining the size and effects of the proposed facility. Who will protect their rights to enjoy property and rights to continued quality of life, safety?
Bay People would like to invite city officials and elected politicians to take a look at the actual building in question and the surrounding area, and to see for themselves how this facility overshadows the whole block and will, once completed, destroy the quality of life in the neighborhood. Seeing the walls of the structure almost complete, its size became that much real for everyone living nearby. Bay People stand even more convinced that the Mosque / Community Center will create parking, traffic, noise and pollution problems that the community is trying to prevent.
The zoning law as written allows houses of worship to get around the occupancy threshold which would otherwise require them to provide parking spaces. Borough president Marty Markowitz agreed with Bay People’s assessment that the law is poorly written and instead of protecting the rights of the neighborhood residents ended up allowing the creation of this oversized structure.
BSA's determination was affected by an error of law, was arbitrary and capricious and was an abuse of discretion. Therefore, DOB's approvals and issued permits should be revoked.
All congregants will come to the house of worship at the same time for the same purpose. The total number will be 292 as Lamis Deek (builder’s lawyer) stated during BSA hearing. They all fill the main room and a secondary area. The main room is assigned for men and the second room is assigned for women. Due to this segregation of men and women only number of occupants (men) of the main room went in to calculation for the parking. The women congregates were not accounted. Thus the number of the occupants that come to the house of worship at the same time for the same purpose (maximum simultaneous occupancy) is significantly reduced. It is also possible that the congregants will gather in the cellar and not only on the first and second floors. A PA application was filed for the cellar to be used as a gathering room for 89 people, which can be happening at the same time as the services on the first and second floor. These people are not included in the parking requirements calculations, which only take into consideration the occupants of the main room.
The prayer time schedule doesn’t list different prayer times for men and women. Men, women and children will be praying at the same time together, 5 times a day
The present waiver was written for the Locally Oriented Houses of Worship. As stated in the Zoning Law ZR 25‐33 ‐ can get waiver for congregation of less than 150 people: 10 spots x 15 cars per one person. During hearing Lamis Deek stated that there will be 292 persons in the mosque. So the 2812 Voorhies is too big for a local house of worship. Unreduced simultaneous occupancy would require more then ten car spots allowed by waiver.
The Zoning Resolution in the section ZR12 where definitions of terms are stated does not give definition for the room of assembly. The ZR12 refers to the definition of “rooms” as it given in the Multiple Dwelling Law. The Multiple Dwelling Law recognizes two types of rooms “living room” and “public room”
The Living room as defined in the room that is used for sleeping purposes. None of the rooms in the 2812 Voorhies avenue used is such
The second type of rooms is “public room”. The public room is defined as a pace used in common by the occupants or ... by persons who are not tenants. Therefore, the rooms that are in “in common” and that are used for the same purpose should be considered as one space or one “public room”. The area of these rooms should be combined and used for the calculation of the maximum simultaneous occupancy.
The main purpose of the parking regulations is to minimize traffic and traffic congestion in the area. As community facilities have grown in number and size, often serving regional populations, land use conflicts have developed and local residents, community groups and elected officials have therefore asked that zoning for community facilities in residential areas be adjusted to meet changed conditions. The changes are intended primarily to limit the size of certain community facilities, and parking and traffic problems, in the city's lowest density neighborhoods.3
This community facility is being constructed in a R4 zone. As per City Planning R1‐R5 zones are considered Lower Density Districts and these areas are characterized by low building heights, landscaped yards and high automobile ownership. Some lower‐density neighborhoods are comprised entirely of single‐family detached homes on large lots; others have one‐ and two‐family detached homes on smaller lots.
Houses right across the street from the construction Houses feet away from the construction
Environmental Assessment Statement 040202ZRY4
The 1961 Zoning Resolution permitted community facility uses in residential districts increased bulk beyond what was available for residential development. Community facility buildings are allowed to have more floor area, can encroach on rear yards, can have a larger building envelope. While the city’s community facility zoning regulations have remained largely unchanged, community facilities have proliferated and are often different today than they were in 1961. These facilities affect the quality of life in many of the city's residential areas and the City has received complaints regarding the location, size, traffic, and parking associated with them. As a response to various community concerns regarding the zoning regulations for community facilities, a study of these issues was released by City Planning in 1993. The study was further refined following the completion of a community facilities parking study. In an effort to respond to some of the recommendations from the study, an application for a zoning text amendment to modify the community facilities regulations of the Zoning Resolution was submitted in 1992 (CEQR No. 92‐621Y). A positive declaration was issued for the initial proposal; however, a number of issues emerged that required further study. Resource limitations precluded City Planning from pursuing the application, and it was subsequently withdrawn. More recently, in consultation with the City Council’s Land Use Committee, City Planning identified some of the most common community concerns relating to ambulatory health care facilities in one and two‐family residential areas, houses of worship that do not provide sufficient parking, and community facilities that obstruct rear yards. City Planning will continue to study the broader range of issues raised in the 1993 study.
The present rules in the Zoning Resolution determine off‐street parking requirements based on the “largest room” of assembly. Using the largest room rule does not control the multi use community facilities and their secondary uses. The parking should be calculated based on the total public assembly occupancy of the building. This will solve multiple public assemblies in multiple rooms. Currently there are no rules for the community facility to provide parking for its own vehicles (vans, buses) or its employees, so they take up street parking.
Potential Impacts of the Proposed Action:
►Neighborhood Character ‐ The character of a neighborhood is established by numerous factors, including land use patterns, the scale of its development, the design of buildings, the presence of notable landmarks, and a variety of other features. There is a potential for neighborhood character impacts as a result of the proposed action.
►Infrastructure ‐ The proposed text amendment could result in development that would affect the demand for water and/or sanitary sewage and stormwater disposal. There is a potential for an infrastructure impact as a result of the proposed action.
►Solid Waste and Sanitation Services ‐ The proposed action may affect demand for solid waste and sanitation services. There is a potential for a solid waste and sanitation services impact as a result of the proposed action.
►Traffic and Parking ‐ The proposed text amendment to community facilities zoning regulations might result in an increase in vehicular traffic in the affected areas and increased demands for parking. There is a potential for a traffic and parking impact as a result of the proposed action.
►Transit and Pedestrians ‐ Because these changes could affect transit and pedestrian conditions, there is a potential for a transit and pedestrians impact as a result of the proposed action.
►Air Quality ‐ An air quality analysis determines a proposed action’s effects on ambient air quality, or effects on the project because of ambient air quality. Ambient air quality, or the quality of the surrounding air, can be affected by air pollutants produced by motor vehicles (“mobile sources”); and by fixed facilities (“stationary sources”). These changes could affect mobile source and stationary source air quality. There is a potential for an air quality impact as a result of the proposed action
►Noise ‐ there is a potential for a noise impact as a result of the proposed action
COMMUNITY FACILITIES REFORM TO PROTECT LOW‐DENSITY NEIGHBORHOOD CHARACTER IS PASSED BY CITY PLANNING COMMISSION 5
July 28, 2004 ‐ The City Planning Commission (CPC) today unanimously voted to approve zoning reform to better regulate community facilities such as medical offices and houses of worship and reduce their undesired effects on low density residential neighborhoods.
It changes parking requirements for houses of worship that have become increasingly more regional but have not provided adequate parking, burdening lower density neighborhoods.
"We are delighted to partner with the Council on this zoning text change to protect the character of our neighborhoods by reducing land use conflicts from community facilities such as health care offices and houses of worship. As the nature and size of health care practices has changed, so too must the zoning adapt to accommodate needed facilities in ways that are less problematic for residential communities. It is important to protect our lowest density residential neighborhoods from facilities that have expanded to regional proportions," said Ms. Burden, Chair of the Planning Commission. "Input received during the public review process has helped us improve the proposal, which is an important first step in solving the conflicts between such facilities and their surrounding communities."
City Council Land Use Committee Chair Melinda Katz, said, "This is a great step in providing much needed relief to our communities. I am proud of the exchange between the council, the administration and the public in order to generate a solid solution that benefits so many of our neighborhoods. Adapting zoning changes to ensure the stability of our city's ever‐changing communities is, and must continue to be, a city priority."
"Today is a big step forward in amending the "Community Facilities" part of the zoning code to improve the quality of life in low density residential communities throughout the city," said Council Member Tony Avella, Chair of Zoning and Franchises for the City Council
The key changes in the citywide community facilities regulations include:
• Increasing off‐street parking requirements for houses of worship, distinguishing between those that serve a local vs. regional audience and adding flexibility for houses of worship to meet these new requirements;
• Eliminating or reducing permission for certain community facilities to obstruct rear yards;
The changes are intended primarily to limit the size of certain community facilities, and their related parking and traffic impacts, in the city's lowest density residential neighborhoods while continuing to allow them ample opportunities to locate where land use conflicts would be minimized.
Houses of Worship ‐ The parking problems often associated with houses of worship in low density neighborhoods would be alleviated under the new rules, resulting in a better match between the demand a facility creates for off‐street parking, and the amount of parking provided. In lower density residence (R1 through R5) districts. Yet these facilities often attract large numbers of people who travel by car from well beyond the neighborhood, creating traffic and parking problems.
Rear Yard Construction ‐ In order to better preserve light and air to adjoining residences and rear yard views, as well as preserve neighborhood character, the proposal would extend the current prohibitions on community facilities building in a required rear yard in the lowest density districts to. Certain types of community facilities in higher density residence districts would also be subject to greater restrictions on rear year obstructions.
CONCLUSION: Surrounding residents must be able to evaluate and comment on the construction of this entity. Bay People don’t think any community facility should be built at that location. The future occupant of this facility could have found a more suitable location which has enough room for a building and parking. There are plenty of available lots within the community; some are next to public transportation vs current location which is 12 blocks away from the B/Q train and blocks away from bus stops.
Bay People, Inc. collected more than a thousand of signatures from neighborhood residents who oppose construction under its current design and location. This Mosque/Community Center creates anobjectionable influence in a residential area. This construction arouses disapproval of local residents because of increased traffic to the area, lack of parking, lowering of property values, increased noise by auto and pedestrian traffic and an amplified call to prayer 5 times per day. The plan, design, size, and scope of this project is drastically different than surrounding residential homes. Residents voice their objections to unreasonable interference with enjoyment and use of their properties by contacting city official and all of these attempts were ignored. We demand an investigation into the situation and protect our rights and safety. We have a right to know why a project that is clearly unsafe and unsuitable for the area is allowed to continue with no oversight. The welfare of the neighborhood residents is being ignored under the guise of political correctness, when in fact all we are asking is attention to a quality of life problem and our property rights are being trampled upon with no response from elected officials. Thousands of the neighborhood residents view this construction for what it is: a DOB assisted manipulation of zoning laws and building codes by the developer who is trying to squeeze an enormous structure in a quiet residential block. Members of the community, including Bay People, have been accused of Islamophobia, bigotry, racial intolerance, while all we are trying to do is to defend our rights. We are not opposed to anyone exercising their right to freely practice their religion. We are, however, opposed to a construction project that is putting our lives and the lives of our children in danger. This is an ill‐conceived structure that is being built in the wrong place, a place that is too small to accommodate the grandiose plans of the developers. Voorhies Avenue is a small, two‐lane street, that cannot handle the increase in traffic and has no space for parking of all the additional vehicles that will come to the neighborhood once the project is completed. The structure will be able to accommodate up to 1,500 people daily, yet not a single parking spot has been allocated.
BSA ignored all evidence as to the true nature and purpose of the partition, including the fact that the rooms separated by the partition are intended to be used concurrently for the same purpose. This separation defies logic and common sense. The rooms should be considered separate if they are not only physically separate, but practically "separate and distinct" in the services they provide. This facility fails at establishing a "separate and distinct" purpose for these two rooms. BSA's acceptance of the builders' proposal allowed for the facility to be built where it would otherwise be prohibited. BSA's determination was affected by an error of law, was arbitrary and capricious and was an abuse of discretion. DOB's approvals and issued permits should be revoked.
Bay People didn’t have a choice but to file Article 78 ‐ proceeding is used to appeal the decision of a New York State or local agency. BP and its members will be directly and adversely affected by an error of the law as well as the irrevocable change to the character of the neighborhood that will result from construction of this facility. More specifically, BP and its members will be harmed by traffic congestion, noise, and reduced property values that will result from operation of this facility.
1 http://www.nyc.gov/html/dob/html/about/mission.shtml 2 http://www.nyc.gov/html/bsa/html/mission/mission.shtml 3 http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/cfzp/commfac1.shtml 4 http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/pdf/cfzp/cf_eas.pdf
1 http://www.nyc.gov/html/dob/html/about/mission.shtml 2 http://www.nyc.gov/html/bsa/html/mission/mission.shtml 3 http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/cfzp/commfac1.shtml 4 http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/pdf/cfzp/cf_eas.pdf
Look at what people have to go through.
This is the fight. It's our fight.
They make a compelling case here: Download BP Report 2 _06.27.12_