CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. – Wednesday’s zoning hearing on a mosque proposed for New Castle’s West End was supposed to focus on environmental issues, but it quickly turned into a discussion of religion.
Supporters of the mosque, including rabbis and pastors, argued for the Upper Westchester Muslim Society's prayer center with speeches about diversity and religious tolerance.
The often off-topic conversation frustrated residents who were more concerned with traffic, septic, lighting, noise and other environmental issues raised by the proposal for a 24,000-square-foot mosque at 130 Pinesbridge Road.
“To some of the speakers who first started about tolerance and faith and religion, that has absolutely nothing to do with this application,” said resident Ron Steinvurzel. “The road can’t support it. And you’re not going to find anyone speaking out in support of this application who lives on Pinesbridge or Hoags Cross.”
The two-story proposal is in an R-2A residential zone and would require a special-use permit. The building includes a prayer hall, a religious school comprised of 18 classrooms, a library and 170 parking spaces. The vacant property was purchased by UWMS in 2004.
“The only lights I see at this point out my bedroom window are fireflies. I prefer to keep it that way. I moved there for the sanctuary it provided,” said Robyn Field of 148 Pinesbridge Road. “I do believe that is to be respected as much as their desire to have a sanctuary for themselves.”
UWMS members recognized the mosque will bring occasional inconveniences to the area, but said they intend to be good neighbors and keep impacts to a minimum.
“In our religion we have responsibilities to not only the Muslim community, but to the larger community; not just to people, but to the environment,” said UWMS member Eric Maloney. “We want the land to be sustainable. We want the property to be sustainable. We want the impact to be minimal. We want our neighbors to be comfortable.”
The hearing will continue at the next Zoning Board of Appeals meeting on July 25.