To the Editor:
I write at this time in response to the spate of recent articles in the Bayonne Community News referencing the proposed construction of a mosque at 109 E. 24th Street (hereinafter the “Site”). While the recent defacing to the outside of the mosque at the former St. Henry’s School was horrific and unacceptable, we are afraid that city officials and special interest groups will seek to use the media coverage of the incident as a subterfuge to fast track the zoning and permit approval of a mosque at the Site.
I do not wish to see facts already established in the administrative record before the Zoning Board become obfuscated by the criminal actions of a single person. Those facts unequivocally demonstrate that development of an educational and community center at the Site is unsuitable and unsafe for the public at large based upon legitimate environmental conditions and traffic concerns.
Perils to the legal process obviously exist where an unfortunate and deplorable act creates a distraction and compels public officials to ignore undisputed facts and misapply fundamental legal principles. As such, we wish to highlight again the reasons that construction of a mosque is ill-suited for the Site at 109 E.24th Street:
1.) The Site is a former hazardous industrial facility; 2.) It is undisputed that the property owner’s own environmental consultant acknowledged that the Site has never been fully and/or properly delineated to rule out sources potentially impacting the soils and groundwater table; 3.) The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection itself acknowledged that the Site is contaminated with historic fill material and that engineering and institutional controls such as a concrete or asphalt cap and a deed notice would need to be implemented before building permits were issued; and 4.) N.J.S.A. 52:27D-130.4 requires that new educational facilities and/or child care centers meet more specific and stringent environmental guidelines.
The property owners have conceded that redevelopment is being sought to transform the Site into an educational community center where families and children will be present on a regular basis. This case is directly analogous to the Kiddie College fiasco in Franklin Township, New Jersey, wherein a daycare center was shut down after it was learned that the building that housed the daycare had previously manufactured mercury thermometers and had mercury vapor levels at least 27 times the regulatory limit.
A court ordered that Franklin Township contribute $525,000 to a trust fund to pay for long-term medical monitoring. As citizens and taxpayers, we cannot witness a repeat performance of the Kiddie College saga. It is disgraceful and inconsistent with our values to discriminate against fellow persons solely based upon their religious beliefs. However, we cannot stand idly by and allow the vandalizing acts of one person to distract from the plain facts. The criteria for redevelopment have not been met, and the Site is simply not suitable or safe to sustain an educational community center.