State Sen. David Storobin has joined the hopeless fight against a mosque being built in Sheepshead Bay – a battle that’s been repeatedly quashed in the courts and has left political insiders believing that the newly minted legislator is more concerned with winning votes than helping mosque opponents.
Storobin fired off a letter to Mayor Bloomberg last week, claiming that the house of worship is thumbing its nose at city laws and threatens its neighbors’ lives. “This may pose a danger to public safety,” Storobin (R–Brighton Beach) wrote as he bashed the city for allowing work on a house of worship continue.
Yet political insiders say Storobin is using the mosque fight to strengthen his image as a right-wing conservative – something that will help him in the race for a new Midwood district peopled with conservative Orthodox Jews. “He thinks being further to the right is more helpful to him in getting elected than being for diversity is,” said political analyst Hank Sheinkopf.
Storobin’s letter discussed a variety of issues regarding the Islamic religious center, including the fact that it will accommodate between 200 to 300 people at a time while providing no parking. With prayers occurring five times a day, the mosque could see 1,500 people per day, Storobin claims.
The letter closes with concerns over the mosque’s backer, The Muslim American Society. Storobin said the organization has been the subject of numerous federal investigations due to its alleged support of Hamas and Hezbollah, which are listed as terrorist organizations by the US State Department.
Members of the Bay People, who have been fighting the construction of the mosque since owner Ahmed Allowey bought the single-home property it sits on near Nostrand Avenue, and have lost numerous court battles to have the project quashed – cheered Storobin’s intervention. “He understands the needs of his neighbors,” said Bay People spokesman Victor Benari. “He’s strongly against this construction, and against this organization.”
Opponents say that traffic and parking are their driving concerns in demanding that the mosque close, but the tenor of their rallies has been more anti-Islamic rather than anti-congestion.
Neighbors protesting the mosque often held signs reading, “Islam not welcome here,” “New York is not Islamabad” and “Do not forget 9-11!” One resident even claimed he was going to “blow up the mosque” if it was built.
Update: See Alex Seitz-Wald, “New York’s new mosque fight”, Salon, 26 July 2012