Monday, June 30, 2014

More Complications for the Mosque

It's been at least eight years since Hudson's Islamic community began its plans to build a mosque at the corner of Third and Columbia streets, and the way has not been smooth.

In December 2006, when the Islamic center went before the Planning Commission, it was discovered that the site was located within the boundaries of the Local Waterfront Revitalization Area, and there was a moratorium on development within that area until the LWRP (Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan) could be completed and adopted.

In May 2007, when the moratorium had expired, the mosque project came back before the Planning Commission. At that time, it was anticipated that raising the money for the project would take five years, and that time frame was written into the site plan approval. In July 2013, the money needed had not yet been raised, and Abdus Miah, president of the Hudson Islamic Center and an alderman for the Second Ward, was back before the Planning Commission seeking a one-year extension. Because only one person on the Planning Commission in 2013 had been on the Planning Commission in 2007 and 2008 when the project had originally been reviewed and because Miah indicated the plans had "changed a little," Miah was asked to come back the next month--August 2013--with the new plans. So far as Gossips knows, he hasn't done that. Instead, he has been dealing with a new problem. 

In December 2013, it was discovered that the Hudson Islamic Center did not own all the land it needed for the mosque. The lot they were planning to build on was made up of four different parcels, and one of them--25-27 North Third Street--still belonged to the Hudson Development Corporation (HDC). Miah thought HDC had transferred ownership to the Islamic center in 2001. Former city attorney Cheryl Roberts determined that was not the case and added the additional caveats that HDC could not simply give the parcel in question to a religious organization nor could they sell it if there would be no economic development component to its future use.

In the most recent development, HDC board member Duncan Calhoun proposed a scheme that accomplishes the goal of allowing Hudson Islamic Center to have the use of the land without violating HDC's bylaws: HDC leases the parcel to HIC for ninety-nine years. Calhoun's colleagues on the HDC board hail the solution as brilliant, but Miah wants none of it. John Mason reports the details of the impasse in the Register-Star: "Agency offers Islamic Center 99-year lease."


  1. I appreciate Mr. Miah's frankness. Strictly speaking, he's right to be concerned.

    But what of the HDC's frankness about its own past practices?

    Nowadays, as the Register Star reports, "property may be sold to an organization if it has an economic development component incorporated into its use, 'for example, if the organization provides job training to the community and/or day care to allow members to work, these factors could make transfer of the property legal,' Board President Seth Rapport said at the board’s April meeting."

    Unless the bylaws have changed, by that definition the HDC broke its own rules when it sold hundreds of feet of shoreline to the Hudson Power Boat Association. (The usual answer is that no one wanted the land back then, which is of course immaterial.)

    If the culture of the HDC has changed in the meantime, then it would be a smart public relations move for the corporation to acknowledge its past wrongdoings. It would clean the slate, and also show some respect to the public.

    But I wouldn't bet on that happening anytime soon. With some of the same people involved in city government now as then, the HDC will be transitioning from its former opacity for some time to come.

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  3. As Mr Marston said, the city never sells riverfront property once they acquire it. Instead they laundered it through the development corporation. This way it's not the city selling the public trust, only their agent. A distinction without a difference

  4. By the way, did anyone on the development corporation or city payroll own property adjacent to the LWRP?