CAIR-NJ Decries Teaneck’s Denial of Islamic Center’s Building Permit Application
(SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ, 12/17/2021) – The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ) today expressed concern over the Teaneck Zoning board’s denial of Al Ummah Community Center’s building permit application. The Zoning Board sent the application to the Board of Adjustments, who also denied it.
AUCC’s owners say they have spent over $400,000 on township fees and professionals since their launch in June of 2018 due in large part to the obstacles and barriers presented by Teaneck’s Zoning Board.
The Proposed Islamic center has filed a discrimination lawsuit in federal court against Teaneck and its zoning board, claiming the township blocked its application by imposing oppressive requirements and draining the not-for-profit’s pockets, all the while granting approvals to substantial developments through Teaneck.
AUCC bought the former Longfellow School on Oakdene Avenue for $4.3 million in 2018. The Township had sold the 110-year-old brick building in 2003 to a church, which also used the site as a daycare center.
But after years of fraught proceedings, including being illegally denied a permit by Teaneck, the Zoning Board denied the AUCC’s application on Oct. 1.
In the suit, the AUCC claims the Township and its Board were against the proposal from the start, discriminating against its use as an Islamic center and House of Worship.
The AUCC claims the township requested that AUCC change its name to downplay its Muslim purpose, and then insisted the application go before the zoning board, despite the site’s location in a “Public Zone,” which the suit claims lack restrictions on use, size, and density.
At the core of the AUCC complaint is the argument that none of the requirements placed on the application was asked of the church that operated on the same site and in the same building for over 14 years.
The application did not include any additions to the building the church and school had used, according to AUCC attorney Aymen Aboushi.
In 2019, then-Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin, who was the first Muslim mayor in Bergen County, said the center would offer welcome services for the community. “The fact that an organization wants to come in and provide services for the community, that’s a net benefit for the town,” he said.
SEE: Proposed Islamic center sues Teaneck for discrimination in denying application
SEE: AUCC Lawsuit
In a statement, AUCC’s Ray Hassan said:
“We started this project to fulfill a promise to our mother and make our world a better place. Almost immediately we were met by resistance from Teaneck town officials. They started by asking us to change our organization name. It continued with denials for child safety issues like an updated playground, a safety fence, an elevator, and a ramp to accommodate handicapped children. It evolved into fees in excess of $400,000 and unrealistic plan demands from the Board of Adjustments.
“We have constantly been compared to the State Street project that crushed existing Teaneck ordinances. We are not talking about an empty plot of land. We are talking about an existing property that was once a Teaneck public school. A building that later served as a church for almost 40 years. A property that never faced the issues or scrutiny a Muslim organization has constantly faced. In this great country of ours, we are blessed that religious affiliation is not considered a variance. It is our God-given right!”
In a statement, CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut said:
“The account offered by AUCC’s founders outlining the difficulty they experienced in establishing their community center is deeply troubling. We take cases of discrimination and prejudices very seriously.
“All Americans have the freedom to establish houses of worship and community centers without unfair impediment. Anything unjustly hindering the development of a community center should be of great concern to the local community and anyone who values our constitutional rights.
“We echo the concerns and requests being made by AUCC’s legal counsel. Our office is advocating for fair and just treatment of AUCC’s pursuit to establish a center that would serve as an asset to Teaneck. The Teaneck Zoning board must work to reach an agreement with AUCC for the sake of bringing something of inherent benefit to the town.”
Al Ummah Community Center, or AUCC, is a Muslim-owned and operated Islamic-based community center dedicated to being a positive influence in the community by developing healthy youth programs; athletics, academics, arts and sciences, and religion. AUCC is also developing programs for seniors and special needs members. They also strive to provide assistance to local families in need with the help of our young volunteers thereby improving the general quality of life for all residents in the Teaneck area.
Background on State Street:
SEE: Apartments approved for Teaneck’s State Street
“The 68 apartments are more than seven times what is permitted on the 0.8 acre lot. The building will be set back 10 feet from the front of the property line, instead of the required 30 feet and its 73-foot height to the roofline is more than double the maximum permitted height of 35 feet.”
SEE: Another apartment building proposed for Teaneck’s State Street, this one for 147 units
“The proposed building’s height is 173 feet, nearly five times the 35 feet allowed. The percentage of the lot covered by the building would be 97 percent instead of the 25 percent allowed. The development plans call for construction at the front property line instead of the required setback of 2 feet on State Street and 8 feet at The Plaza and Ayers Court. The rear setback in the plans is 5 feet instead of the minimum 20 feet.”
CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.
La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.