Members of local religious groups plead for close of public hearing, approval of mosque

Monday, July 28, 2014

Editor’s Note:  Below are letters sent this month to the Zoning Board of Appeals encouraging its members to vote on Tuesday, July 30 to approve an application first submitted in 2006 by the Upper Westchester Muslim Society to construct a mosque on its eight-acre property on Pinesbridge Road.  Two weeks ago the ZBA found that environmental review for the project was complete.

See Zoning Board finds environmental review for mosque complete, sets public hearing for July 30, NCNOW.org, 7/14/14.

The Rev. Dr. Leigh Pezet, President, Chappaqua Interfaith Council

As president of the Chappaqua Interfaith Council, I strongly beseech you to cease the delays regarding the special use permit application for The Upper Westchester Muslim Society. The Chappaqua Interfaith Council unequivocally supports the approval of the UWMS request to allow the construction of a mosque in our community and we fervently hope that you will make this possible.

Thank you for your consideration concerning this important matter.

Sincerely yours,

The Rev. Dr. Leigh Pezet
Pastor, Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Chappaqua

______________________________________

Rev. Dr. Martha R. Jacobs

The First Congregational Church supports the building of the Mosque by
the Upper Westchester Muslim Society. We are very pleased that the
application for the Mosque is in the final process of approval.

This has already been a lengthy process and we hope that the Zoning Board
will not delay any further, and that July 30 will be the final public
hearing leading to their being granted a special use permit.

Our Muslim brothers and sisters have been a wonderful part of our
community, including participating in the annual Interfaith Thanksgiving
Service and Meal, the Emergency Shelter Partnership and joining with our
Youth to learn more about each other. They have enriched our lives and we
look forward to celebrating with them when their new house of worship is
complete.

Thank you for giving this request your consideration.

Rev. Dr. Martha R. Jacobs, Senior Pastor
On behalf of the First Congregational Church in Chappaqua

______________________________________

Candace Downing, Baha’i

Through the Chappaqua Interfaith Council I have worked with and become friends with many of the members of the Upper Westchester Muslim Society. They have brought much joy to me and to the community through their involvement in the events presented by the Interfaith Council.  I feel that it is only right that they should have a house of worship of their own which suits their needs.  I think it could only add to the community.  These are people who live in our town, attend our schools and serve our community.  They have also given service to the New Castle Community by participating in efforts to assist those who are needy through our support of A-Home and other nonprofit organizations. They are active in school and youth committees.  Their doctors treat patients in the community. Surely they deserve what all other faith groups in our community have available to them. Surely their children deserve a chance to receive a moral and spiritual education in an appropriate environment, which they do not now have. There are issues of justice, fairness and equality of opportunity involved here. The issues which seem to have been holding up the process of approval far too long have been addressed. The time for delay is over.  Surely, after ten years of struggle, requiring time, effort and money on the part of both the town and the Muslim community, it is time to say “OK!”

Candace Downing
39 Byram Lake Road
Mount Kisco NY   10549
______________________________________

Sara Langbert (Member Chappaqua Friends Meeting)

As a member of Chappaqua Friends Meeting and the Chappaqua
Interfaith council I am writing to implore you to bring to an end the long
and arduous process that the Upper Westchester Muslim Society has been
through in order to obtain a place of worship. Please grant them the
permission they seek for the special use permit at the July 30th hearing.
They have been working on this for over 10 years. It is hard to understand
the delay. Knowing this congregation, I can honestly say that they have more
than proven themselves to be a warm, caring and positive addition to the
community.
Please vote yes this July 30th.

Thank You,

Sara Langbert (Member Chappaqua Friends Meeting)
______________________________________

Nadia Bernstein, member, Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester

I am writing to respectfully urge you to bring the public hearing in this matter to a conclusion with the July 30 hearing, and grant the special use permit sought by the UWMS.  There is no legitimate need to delay these proceedings.  This group should be warmly welcomed into our community, and their extended hand of friendship should be met by our reciprocating hand. 

Respectfully,

Nadia Bernstein
Member, Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester

______________________________________

Elinor Griffith, member, St. John’s and St. Mary’s

As a member of the Chappaqua Interfaith Council, I am pleased the Upper Westchester Muslim’s Society’s application for its mosque is moving ahead finally.  For nearly 10 years, I have been attending meetings concerning this application. Please stick to the July 30 date, as the remaining the public hearing, and then grant the special use permit. If you’re not familiar with letter sent by the CIC in January 2014 on behalf of the UWMS, it is reattached for your convenience.

A sign of a vibrant, tolerant and caring community is the existence of diverse houses of worship, all working together for a community’s good. This new mosque, we strongly feel, will soon be a real point of pride.

With best regards,

Elinor Griffith
Member, Chappaqua Interfaith Council; member St. John’s and St. Mary’s Catholic Church
______________________________________

Richard Laster, member, Temple Beth El

As a member of the Chappaqua Interfaith Council, I am very pleased to learn that the Upper Westchester Muslim’s Society’s application for its mosque is in the final process of approval.

Unfortunately, I have been unable to attend some of the recent meetings because of a severe fall which has temporarily handicapped my movements.

I urge you to stick to the July 30 date, as the remaining public hearing, and then grant the special use permit.

Chappaqua has always been known as a tolerant and caring community.  We should continue to work together to maintain that reputation and wonderful feeling.

Thank you for giving this request your consideration.

With best regards,

Richard Laster
Member, Chappaqua Interfaith Council; Member Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester; Former Deputy Supervisor of the Town of New Castle; Former President of the Chappaqua Board of Education


Comments(16):
We encourage civil, civic discourse. All comments are reviewed before publication to assure that this standard is met.

If the Interfaith Council were genuinely interested in helping the Muslim Society build a mosque, it would join with the town and developers to find an appropriate site. CC and the Legionaries/Rosehill property could accommodate the mosque and other appropriate development easily, and there would be no need for busing.

By bob on 07/28/2014 at 11:12 am

I see that birds of a feather flock together to protect their unconscionable expansions on their neighbors.  Temple Beth El did this and FCC. wants to do this .  It is a black mark on all of them.  They show little to no regard for their neighbors.  This is why organized religions are losing so much support.

This is not about welcoming or caring and it is completely dishonest for anyone to suggest that it is.  I wonder if any if the above have visited the site or seen the plans to know what the Muslim Society is foisting on that neighborhood.  I think that they are shameful in their self serving proposal.

This is not “working together.”  I certainly would not want them for my neighbors.  Holier than thou hypocrites.

By religious overreach on 07/28/2014 at 3:37 pm

This enormous structure will be out of place in this neighborhood and it is bound to have a negative impact on resale values of homes in the area, which can be financially devastating to residents, especially after the recent downturn in home prices.
The proposed parking lot and driveway, the resulting tree and vegetation removal and the structure itself present the risk of storm water runoff problems.  And the proposed septic system, with Still Lake only 400 yards downhill, creates the risk of polluting the lake.

It troubles me that the UWMS would consider placing such an enormous structure in a neighborhood where it would have such a negative environmental impact and where it would threaten the housing values of their neighbors.  They are apparently not concerned since the vast majority (85%) of its members are not residents of the town.  If the UWMS shows so little concern for the neighborhood now, while they are asking for a special permit, how they will act after they are established and their future growth has them bursting at the seams and threatening further environmental damage?  More importantly, how will the Town respond when a decline in property values makes their further expansion even easier?

By feridoon on 07/29/2014 at 10:55 am

The Environmental Impact Statement is a tool that the ZBA will now use to decide whether the planned facility should be granted a Special Use Permit.  It is abundantly clear from the document that the environmental impacts will be severe and this large building with a large parking lot should be sited in an area where it will not change the character of the long established master plan and zoning like downtown Chappaqua and along 117.

I suggest the supporters of the project find a location that will impact their neighborhood. That should be very easy given their unbridled enthusiasm for a massive project - not in their backyard.

By David Schofield on 07/29/2014 at 11:05 am

I looked over sections of the FEIS, and a few things stood out to me.  As you may know, the jewel of our unique neighborhood is Stillwater Lake.  This is a true community hub where families who live in proximity to the lake as well as the larger community gather to enjoy the fruits of the natural world.  A quiet, amazing, and thriving ecosystem which is the reason many of these families settled here in the first place.  Reading through the FEIS is a scary proposition for anyone who values the benefits of this lake community.  From the proposed traffic remediation “plans”, to the tree-removal consequences, from the potentially inadequate septic system, to the enormity of the footprint and parking lot of this facility, all of it threatens the existing neighborhood and ecosystem. The FEIS was inadequate in addressing this.
 
I do not know why anyone would vote to approve this project for this place.  It just doesn’t make sense to me.  The zoning rules as they are written now, are appropriate for the type of neighborhood this is.  Why would we change them for a huge regional facility which is better suited for a more urban setting?  I know full well why the UWMS would want to build here, but I can not imagine a reason why anyone would let them.  Especially since it would require a special permit to allow it to happen! 

I have had many conversations with friends and families in the community and we are all in agreement that this large project is a bad fit for this small tight-knit neighborhood. 
On behalf of my family, and my neighbors I ask you to please deny the UWMS proposal to change the zoning laws for this project.

I look forward to meeting with you in person on July 30th.

Respectfully submitted,

Mike Chiafulio

By Mike Chiafulio on 07/29/2014 at 11:41 am

I am against removing any property off the tax rolls for any religious or non-profit activity.

By Freedom from religion on 07/29/2014 at 12:02 pm

The title of the article is misleading.  These are individuals who speak for themselves, not the congreagation as a whole.  The only “groups” who have written in support are the Congregational Church and Lutheran Church leaders.  This is not to say that the other houses of worship leaders do not support it but they did not write a lettter of support.  These other indivduals who are writing are simply members of the houses of worship, local citizens with no more legal or moral standing than anyone one else in Chappaqua.  So don’t lump them all together.

By Please get off your high horse on 07/29/2014 at 2:31 pm

These people who exploit the ignorance and fears of people should be shunned. GOD never existed and never will. Locating a facility that requires lot of traffic on an isolated small road makes no sense even if it is the Will of Allah! Look at the REAL problem of ordinary(affluent) people to live in peace and quiet.

By I don't care but for rule of reason on 07/29/2014 at 4:05 pm

It is unfortunately true that because of the RLUIPA legislation that permits houses of worship to do pretty much anything they want on any property The Muslim Society can build a very large Mosque that will certainly have negative impacts to the neighborhood and create unnecessary burdens on all the neighbors.  They do not care.

It is also the reason that Temple Beth El was able to screw their neighbors.  They also
did not care about their neighbors or the landscape.  Now they have a huge ugly expansion that really desecrated the beautiful original structure .  They did not care either.  I understand that they are losing members because of their grandiosity.

We can thank Bill Clinton for this law.

By desecration on 07/29/2014 at 4:33 pm

This parcel is zoned 2 acrea residential and should not be granted a Special Use Permit to UWMS for the following reasons:

Pinesbridge Road cannot withstand traffic of 650 vehicles/bus’s.  The noise in this quiet community would be unbearable to the taxpaying residents.  Drainage problems (which occur at present) would only be enhanced.  The safety of the residents and our children would be evident.  Pollution of our water (Stillwater Lake), drinking water (since this property sits on the aquaduct), and our air quality jepordized. There are no sidewalks to permit safe pedestrian traffic.  There is no egress/ingress to this site that would benefit UWMS. The magnitude of this complex would disrupt this neighborhood, enviormentally and threaten the housing values of this neighborhood.

We as a community realize their needs, but what about being sensitive to the taxpayers who actually live here. 

UWMS is not concerned about the welfare of this community or any other. They have not paid taxes on this 8 1/2 acre 2 zone for the past 9 years.  We as taxpayers, the Town of New Castle would not let us get away with that.  No church on parcel, they should have paid taxes. 

If Chappaqua is so not opposed to this Mosque, why not find a suitalbe location there, where there is mass transit, bus service, and access to major highways, perfect for a MOSQUE.  Bussing would not be a problem at Pinesbridge Road.

By Robert & Nancy DeCrenza on 07/29/2014 at 6:08 pm

OH NOT AGAIN!!!  Chappaqua cares alot—- we don’t want the mosque.  It is just so politically incorrect to say that.  C’mon people wake up.  How many houses of “worship” do we need???  These “houses of worhip” are nothing but a business.  They are performing miserably and they should all be put out of business, including any potential mosque. 

Chappaqua better stand up and speak up.

By Seriously??? on 08/05/2014 at 5:37 pm

To what extent, if any, does the fact that it is NOT in the CCSD impact community sentiment?

By isn't it really an Ossining issue? on 08/07/2014 at 5:19 pm

If the two people at the meeting who spoke claiming to represent the Interfaith Council, then the Interfaith Council needs to seriously consider changing its spokespeople.

By bob on 08/08/2014 at 7:59 am

I was against building the mosque in that area, but reading all the anti-religious bigotry spewed here, i have changed my mind.  Bigots ruin a neighborhood far more than any building.

By Mike R. on 08/09/2014 at 9:09 am

why does this need to be here?  with all the standing structures that are for sale elsewhere, why can’t the members of this religion look for a place that is available with parking in any other part of westchester.  I just don’t get why they haven’t done due diligence on what is already available.  or am i wrong and they have and they decided for whatever reason this is the only place in westchester they believe will suit their needs?  doesn’t make sense.

By another thought on 08/09/2014 at 10:41 am

@ Mike R.,

How tolerant of you.

By bob on 08/09/2014 at 12:51 pm


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