Dear Supervisor Rob Greenstein, Chappaqua Town Board members, and neighbors,
The Chappaqua Interfaith Council, composed of nine local houses of worship, strongly endorses the approval of the Upper Westchester Muslim Society’s proposed new mosque. In the early months of 2014, we hope the town can proceed expeditiously and give the UWMS the “green light” to move ahead.
It is clear to us that the mosque, among our community’s other houses of worship, would be a sign of a vibrant, diverse and resilient town. Indeed, a point of pride! All Abrahamic faith traditions—whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim—are based on treating neighbors with kindness and respect… in effect, working together for the common good. And the UWMS has quietly contributed bucket-loads of this “common good.”
Since the UWMS joined the Chappaqua Interfaith Council a decade ago, for instance, they’ve reached out to assist community organizations ranging from Open Door Medical Centers and A-Home (helping to paint and furnish the Kensing House across from the Greeley Statue, in 2006) to Neighbor’s Link, the Food Pantry and Hope’s Door. Also, the Emergency Shelter Partnership. We’ve worked side by side to enlarge the scope of the council’s interfaith Thanksgiving Service, which now welcomes 350 community members annually with prayer, song and shared food. Its youth have joined monthly with teens at Temple Beth El, and they pushed up sleeves together across the county for acts of service during “Mitzvah Day.” No surprise, really. For the Muslims are already our caring neighbors—serving as doctors at Northern Westchester Hospital and elsewhere, as researchers at IBM and Pepsico, as teachers in our schools and universities, as dentists and lawyers. So it should be no surprise then that the UWMS would like to build its own house of worship…. a big space that could provide shelter for all of us in the time of an emergency.
- The need is urgent: Its 100 regular worshippers have long ago outgrown a “temporary,” very outdated warehouse facility in Thornwood.
- The town’s application and approval process has been onerous and lengthy: For years now the Interfaith Council has encouraged the UWMS effort, much like Temple Beth El’s successful expansion of its synagogue. But almost ten years has elapsed since the Muslims first met with town officials, purchased land and, in April 2006, submitted plans for its proposed $8-million worship center.
- And costly: The “rule of thumb” for a new project such as this one is to expect planning/development fees from the town of around 0.5% of the total cost. Hence, .5% of UWMS's $8 million mosque would be $40,000. The UWMS, however, has already spent much, much more—a staggering $250,000; this is for town consultants and preparation of environmental studies on traffic, wetlands, cultural and visual impact, etc.
Good news, finally. In the next weeks, apparently the last requirement for the UWMS’s Final Environmental Impact Statement will be in place, thus opening the door for the town to proceed and come to a decision. Namely, the UWMS has secured sufficient off-site parking for special holy days. Two of our members, the First Congregational Church and Temple Beth El, are among organizations graciously offering additional parking so a shuttle service can be used, thus limiting the impact of its regular parking to a smaller space.
It’s time, isn’t it, to move forward and make the go-ahead decision. All of us of different backgrounds and faiths coming together respectfully, peacefully, on this issue, for our community’s common good.
Chappaqua Interfaith Council
The Chappaqua Interfaith Council includes representatives of the Baha’is of New Castle; Chappaqua Friends Meeting; The Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Episcopal; First Congregational Church; Lutheran Church of our Redeemer; St. John and St. Mary’s Catholic Church; Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester; the Upper Westchester Muslim Society; and Arya Samaj/Hindu Group