Community Board No. 1 Discuss Islamic Center
Since its inception in September 1994, the Astoria Islamic Center, Inc. a religious not for profit organization, has grown to accommodate 250 worshipers. Space, in particular for women, is limited and plans to enlarge the first and second floors of the Mosque as well as for a new third floor were presented to Community Board 1.
“During the month of Ramadan the Mosque reaches capacity. There is a need to accommodate a growing constituency,” said a representative for the Astoria Islamic Center at a public hearing held by Board 1 at its June 19 meeting at Astoria World Manor. The Mosque applied to legally convert to a community facility and Community Board 1, by a vote of 28 to 2, approved the application.
The Mosque, located at 22-21 33rd Street in Astoria within a R5B residential zone, carries out the five daily prayers attended by 20 to 40 people. Friday noon prayer can bring as many as 200 to 250 worshipers. During holiday times and when there is no school the Friday noon prayer (Jumu’ah) can create an overflow of worshipers who “often set up mats outside and pray outside.”
The two-story building and cellar is on a 2,500 sq. ft. lot. The enlargement converts the cellar to a place of worship (Mosque), with a boiler room, toilets and an open cellar, enlarges space on the first floor and second floors for use as places of worship (Mosques) and constructs a new third floor as a place of worship (Mosque) with a caretaker unit.
“The third floor is to be dedicated to women worshipping at the Mosque,” said the representative for the Astoria Islamic Center.
Zoning variances, as part of the community facility application, for the front yard on 33rd Street, the side yard on 23rd Avenue, and to waive the minimum parking requirements were also approved. “The proposed enlargement with only one side yard setback and additional floor is necessary because the space is needed to accommodate all 250 worshipers,” said a report submitted by Georgios G. Georgopoulos R.A. Architects P.C. for the Astoria Islamic Center. “Most of the constituents walk to the Mosque,” said a representative for Georgopoulos Architects concerning the parking exemption.
“What is the maximum capacity (for the conversion)?” asked zoning committee chair John Carusone. “250 people,” said the representative for Georgopoulos Architects. “Are New York City Fire Department codes also in compliance?” asked another board member. “Yes,” the representative replied.
In a second public hearing, a proposal by Verizon Wireless to upgrade and replace 14 existing cell phone panel antennas on the roof of the former Sohmer Piano Factory building at 31-01 Vernon Boulevard was approved by a vote of 16 to 15.
The antennas have been in continuous use since the 1990’s, said a representative for Verizon Wireless at the hearing but development of penthouse apartments on the roof and a new high rise blocking a portion of the signal prompted the action by Verizon. “We would like to relocate our existing antennas off the roof and onto the side of the building,” said the representative.
“I don’t think they should be there at all,” said board member Fran Luhmann McDonald.
“Verizon is regulated by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) and if the site was not in compliance (with FCC regulations) Verizon would be forced to shut (the antenna site) down. That is not the case,” said the representative.