Construction quietly began on the Sheepshead Bay mosque and cultural center slated for Voorhies Avenue this week, but backers of the controversial project may soon be facing something worse than outraged neighbors and Tea Party protestors — a lack of construction capital.
Mosque founder Allowey Ahmed admitted Tuesday that, now that the $1 million project between E. 28th and E. 29th streets has started, it will be built in pieces based on funding.
“Right now we have people down there working on the basement and the foundation,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll soon get another contractor for the rest of the project. We’re funding it as we go along.”
Construction on the mosque began with almost no fanfare — a dramatic change to the widespread attention the project’s received over the last year.
Led by the opposition group Bay People, mosque protestors said the house of worship will bring too much traffic to Voorhies Avenue. But the tenor of the three rallies held against the mosque have been more anti-Islamic rather than anti-congestion, with neighborhood protestors and Brooklyn Tea Party members waving signs reading, “Islam not welcome here,” “New York is not Islamabad” and “Do not forget 9-11!”
At one point, one resident even claimed he was going to “blow up the mosque” if it was built.
Through it all, there has been repeated assertions that the Muslim American Society, which is backing the mosque, is connected to Muslim extremism, though no direct link has been shown.
The city denied an initial set of designs for the mosque late last year. It approved a scaled back version of the project last month, but suddenly pulled its approval within a few days, claiming it had more questions about the project. The mosque was ultimately given a green light a week later after Ahmed and his team sat down and met with city Department of Building officials.
According to the plans, the mosque will be on the first two floors of the three story building. The top floor will be reserved for classroom space. No on-site parking is proposed.
Ahmed would not disclose just how much money they currently have for the project, but said that nearly all of the construction capital has come from “local donations.”
Once built, the mosque will be able to accommodate up to 120 worshippers, but less than 20 will be coming to worship on a daily basis, Ahmed said.
“We are happy that everything has finally started,” Ahmed said, explaining that despite the apparent lack of funding, the project should be completed within two years. “This is not going to be a half-built building. It will be funded. A lot of Muslims live here and have small businesses here and they’re backing the mosque, even if they have to make monthly payments or take a mortgage out on their house. They’re that committed to the project.”
Calls to the Bay People for comment were not returned.
According to its website, the group plans to fight the mosque in court and are in the process of raising money for its legal fund.