Plans for Two Islamic Centers Near Yorktown Getting Mixed Responses from Neighbors

July 22, 2006

Source: The New York Times

On July 22, 2006 The New York Times reported, "A long-abandoned Roman Catholic high school in this northern Westchester town still bears a few markers of its past. There is the metal cross near the main entrance and the small, granite placard that offers a simple mission statement: 'For God and Country.' But the old Franciscan High School is in the midst of a conversion, both physical and spiritual. A new religious institution, the Hudson Valley Islamic Community Center, is taking shape there. 'It’s really the coming of age of a community,' said Zead Ramadan, spokesman for the center, which closed on the $3 million property in May. After some minor renovations, Mr. Ramadan said, the center will combine a mosque, meeting space and a weekend school in the first large-scale Muslim institution in the northern half of the county. The Westchester Muslim Center in Mount Vernon is the largest mosque in the county, and many Muslims from northern Westchester are among the 700 people who attend Friday prayers there. The Yorktown center and a similar one planned for nearby New Castle are, in a sense, simple statements of arrival: a small Muslim population, growing in numbers, is staking claim to this land of well-kempt lawns and quaint Main Streets just as Protestants, Catholics and Jews did before them. But almost five years after 9/11, making those statements has proved difficult. In Yorktown, the welcoming words of town officials, church leaders and several neighbors have found a counterpoint in a series of anti-Muslim statements at public meetings of the Planning Board and angry letters to town hall, some expressing fears about the spread of terrorism in suburbia, but most voicing concerns about traffic."