Reader’s Write: Islamic Center ignores neighbors

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In response to Richard Tedesco’s article “Islamic Center draws ire over demolition of house”(April 25,2013 NHP Herald Courier) and the subsequent Our Views Editorial “How not to be a good neighbor” (May 3,2013 NHP Herald Courier):

Only in the town of North Hempstead could a person attempt to act as peacemaker and be vilified, called a bad neighbor and be labeled a religious bigot all in one paragraph of an opinion piece in the local New Hyde Park newspaper and not have the author formally identify themselves. 

Only in North Hempstead would residents who endured the many inconveniences and at least one blatant act of coercion, be labeled the “bad neighbors” while simply standing up for their rights as property owners and taxpayers. 

Only In the Town of North Hempstead would protecting one’s family health and safety, the health and safety of workers and the overall environmental concerns be characterized as having some sinister ulterior motives,such as “tieing up the construction in red tape.” 

This project is going to happen,no matter what. The question is will it follow the proper procedures,so that it will be done safely and correctly. 

So far,by their own admission,the applicants had not done so – ”errors were made.” Where was the oversight, we don’t know,but no one from this community is allowed to say anything negative publicly because of the religious nature of the project lest one he labeled a “bigot.” 

lt seems that total silence is required to deem consent.

Only in the Town of North Hempstead would two meetings be arranged by local civic leaders with both elected and appointed town officials present, reasonable people meeting and civilly discussing a project that effects the entire neighborhood in which they reside, the way we do it in America,and have no representative for the applicant in question be willing to attend after cordially being invited on each occasion and have those organizers in question be labeled the “bad neighbors.”

Those of us willing to talk things over and negotiate openly, not just have a gripe session, are somehow the bad guys in all of this, it’s unbelievable. 

I have been a civic leader for 23 years. l have been involved in many negotiations throughout the years on many projects that impacted the neighborhoods in New Hyde Park such as CVS, Applebee’s, Pathmark, McDonald’s, I-Park (Unysis), Jelrus (King Kullen),Spring Rock(Golf Driving Range), the Maharaja Supermarket and others,such as the Cherry Lane Orthodox Church and many other residential housing code enforcement problems and other community related issues and never have 1 experienced such intransigence from an applicant and property owner,never. How does that make this applicant the”good neighbor”?

I have always held every applicant for building permits to the highest standard possible, even in the days when the town did not do so. 

Just ask their attorney’s and town officials. They will tell you I am tough but fair and reasonable. 

However being a “good neighbor” is a two-way street, even when one party now holds most of the legal cards. 

Being a “good neighbor” means respecting the community in which one’s building resides,even if most of one’s worshipers do not reside there It means not parking and blocking resident’s driveways over the years. It means not pressuring them to sell you their homes,when they really don’t want to sell. It means not having exterior sound systems going until midnight. It means respecting people in their homes,giving them some peace and quiet,right where they live. This type of activity over a number of years past does not make for good community relations. 

However, if done cooperatively this new project can be a new beginning for everyone involved.

The Hillside Islamic Center has been at its current location since 2004 and no one in the New Hyde Park community has ever interfered with its freedom to worship that is protected by the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution. This is a community issue, not a religious bias issue. 

I take great exception to the NHP Herald Courier editor painting it otherwise. 

As for the obvious Roman Catholic reference to me by somehow mentioning the Bishop of Rockville Center in the piece, it begs the question,what dose that have to do with this issue. I would hold my church to the same standards. However,I am quite confident the church would, at the very least, send a representative to meet with the leaders of a community. I have no doubt in my mind after reading your opinion piece that

The NHP Herald Courier would not hesitate for one minute to report any violation immediately on such a church related project. 

As for respect, it is also a two-way street, it is earned based on positive behavior and is diminished by poor behavior as is trust.

Doing the absolute minimum that the Town requires under the codes,is insufficient, since parts of the code are deficient. The current code as a whole,has not been completely updated since 1982. 

Therefore it is not enough to do this and claim the mantle of the “good neighbor.” Most of the above mentioned projects did more than just the minimum for this reason. Their lawyers realized the deficiencies in the town codes and were willing to work with us and valued our community as host for their business.

Finally, the editor of this newspaper could have acted as an advocate for negotiations, serving as a neutral third party and become part of the solution, but alas chose to resort to name calling and accusations and became part of this problem instead. 

Too bad a valuable opportunity was lost on his/her part. We, however, will attempt one last time to set up a dialogue and attempt to negotiate,

The question is will the NHP Herald Courier take sides again without all the facts and get in the way or will it act responsibly and promote peace, harmony and justice. 

Editor, the ball is back in your hands. Please try not to drop it again. 

Remember, blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God. It doesn’t always sell as many newspapers, but its the right thing to do. 

Your reporter has my phone number and this time around he can pick up the phone and call me at any time.

 

Jim McHugh

Immediate Past President

Parks Civic Association

New Hyde Park-Garden City Park

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