Written by Cory Twibell Friday, 11 March 2011 00:00During the most recent Westbury Village Board of Trustees meeting, board members and constituents of Mayor Peter Cavallaro applauded his work for the proposed expansion the Islamic Center of Long Island located on Brush Hollow Road in Westbury.
Over the summer, and as reported in the June 3 issue of The Westbury Times, Mayor Cavallaro cited “legitimate concerns” from residents and the Westbury Fire Department about the expansion plans, and that the Center had proposed “substantial changes from their original proposal.” Cavallaro noted that the town and the Islamic Center had undergone “extensive zoning board discussions.”
The June 3 article also referenced how the board temporarily denied the application of a special use permit authorizing the expansion of the Islamic Center. The Center aimed to expand the facility and parking lots to include a Sunday school, library and office in hopes of offering better classrooms and more space for current students and members. After the Center’s initial plans were deemed unacceptable, a spokeswoman for the Center noted the following changes were made: the Center would be downsized from three stories to two and the three existing residential homes on Jaymie Drive were no longer included in the demolition plans.
In a phone interview, Cavallaro said the Islamic Center’s approvals were granted six months ago.
“They had originally proposed a bigger building, three stories, a minaret and taking down four or five houses and so the zoning board hearing was moved to the high school auditorium to accommodate the number of people we expected,” said Cavallaro.
The mayor explained how over 100 people showed up at what he described as a “contentious” meeting.
“I felt at that point in time, it’d probably be more effective to have the mosque leaders and community people who are most involved to talk more directly. I had conversations with the mosque leaders on things that they needed to address to make it more palatable and so that when they did meet with the residents in a more informal setting, they had a proposal that was scaled down and had made some accommodations, including the removal of the minaret and one of the stories. They agreed to leave three [houses] because they were the ones on the more residential side of the building.
“That dialogue, I think, the residents found it helpful. They got a better sense of the need of the Islamic Center, and we took the opportunity, myself and the rest of the board members, it was going to be our obligation to hold them to what they’re committed to doing. One of the things they agreed to was that they don’t come back for any more relief, or more building, for 15 years,” said Cavallaro, who made note of the village’s satisfaction with the Center’s scaled-down accommodations and residents’ efforts in the matter.
“We’re happy with it. I think the most telling thing is that some of the residents who came to the original meeting and spoke against it came to the most recent meeting and spoke in favor of it,” said Cavallaro.
According to the Islamic Center’s website, www.icliny.org, “The idea of the Islamic Center of Long Island grew out of the concerns of a small group of Muslim families, mostly immigrants who settled in Nassau County in the early 70s. The need to preserve their religious identity, cultural heritage, and desire to educate their children in Islamic principles drew these families together often on weekends.
“Initially a small group comprised of 10-15 children started meeting on weekends. Meetings were initially held in nursery school in Hempstead in basements of private homes, rented church facilities that were often very accommodating to the needs of these ‘new’ immigrants. The Advent Church in Westbury, run by Quaker Foundation, was particularly accommodating. The assembled groups of students were ‘taught’ by parents who volunteered their time. Over a period of time, through word of mouth, more families started to get together and the group realized the need for a permanent home.”