NJ town that denied mosque reaches deal to let it be built

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BAYONNE, N.J. — A New Jersey city that denied a Muslim group’s bid to build a mosque last summer has reached a settlement with the group that will allow the project to proceed.

The Bayonne Muslims had filed a federal lawsuit against the city in May, arguing that they were turned down following an onslaught of bigotry. Federal law enforcement officials then announced they were investigating the city’s decision.

The settlement made public Wednesday calls for Bayonne to pay the group $400,000 and have the project go before the city’s zoning board for another vote.

City officials noted that a lengthy legal battle could have coast Bayonne millions of dollars.

The Muslim group’s president commended the city for “moving now to correct the wrong that was done.”

Their plan to build a mosque was shot down in March of 2017. The city zoning board voted 4-3 in favor of the project, but five votes were needed for approval. Those who voted against it cited parking and traffic issues.

They voted after a 6-hour marathon meeting. Some of the statements made at the meeting were anti-Muslim rhetoric.

“It was difficult listening to those things,” Waheed Akbar, secretary for a group called Bayonne Muslims, said at the time.

The board’s decision was “bias-motivated,” the New Jersey Council on American Islamic Relations said in 2017.  They believe the zoning board used technicalities to hide bigotry.

Bayonne Muslims planned the mosque for a quiet, dead end street. At the time, some objected to the location. Neighborhood resident Joe Wisniewski said he would have had the same objections to a grocery story or movie theater.

“We want to keep it a peaceful neighborhood, they have prayer sessions that start at 6 in the morning and go as late as midnight,” Wisniewski said.

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