Islamic group files lawsuit against Teaneck for failing to issue permits for community center
Teaneck is facing a lawsuit from the People’s Community Center – a nonprofit that opened in 2018 and is run by members of the Islamic faith. The owners claim the township is pushing back on attempts to finish the building because they are Muslim.
It's called Al Uummah, the People's Community Center. It's a beautifully renovated building. But only half of it is open because Teaneck won't provide any more permits.
The building only houses a day care center, which is open to the entire community of Teaneck. But not all of the classrooms are in use because Teaneck's Zoning Board won't allow it. For the last four years, Ray Hassan has been trying to get permits for a handicapped accessible ramp and fire escapes, elevator and fencing. But those permits have not been approved.
Hassan says he believes that the reason is that he and his group are Muslim and that a house of worship is in the back of the building. It's open without a valid permit but separate from the day care. Hassan says the whole situation is hard to believe.
“We didn’t know what we were up against because they seemed so welcoming,” he says.
Their suspicions were verified when a deposition revealed that one of the zoning board members had made racist comments about their application and their Arab heritage.
The comments were allegedly made by Edward Mulligan. The lawsuit states he said, "Would you trust these people with your children?" And when the board was speaking about child pickup and drop-off, he allegedly stated there would be, "pickup by camel."
News 12 asked Mohammed Salem, one of the other operators of the site, about these comments.
“I’ll be honest, we weren’t surprised. All the activities, all the actions of the Board of Adjustments up until that point just confirmed, what we feel, what we’ve been up against from the beginning,” Salem says.
News 12 asked Teaneck Mayor Jim Dunleavy about the situation. The mayor stated in an email that he's not able to speak about pending litigation.