Hillside Islamic Center parking results in ‘hundreds’ of tickets: Ciaccio

Hillside Islamic Center parking results in ‘hundreds’ of tickets: Ciaccio
Councilwoman Christine Liu at the Lakeville Estates Civic Association meeting Wednesday. (Photo by Taylor Herzlich)

Councilwoman Christine Liu, who represents the 4th Council District and assumed the position in January, updated the public on hot-topic issues like dangerous parking conditions at the Hillside Islamic Center, mail fishing scams and dilapidated road medians.

Despite residents’ frustration over long criticized town issues, Liu insisted at a Lakeville Estates Civic Association meeting Wednesday that improvements have been made during her time as councilwoman.

“Seventy-eight days in office, and I’ve been working very, very hard,” said Liu. “I feel I have made a lot of progress.”

Residents began their critiques with parking conditions at the Hillside Islamic Center.

“The occupancy at the center is at a critical mass to the point where tents without permits are erected,” said one resident. “A block party permit was issued for a month, ending at midnight daily. It’s being used for hazardous parking, in addition to parking on dirt lots with a negative environmental impact.”

The Islamic center has already been a topic of contention in the town for its proposal to enlarge the existing 5,428-square-foot, two-floor mosque by building a three-story, 6,600- square-foot addition. The proposal also included plans to expand the center’s parking lot.

Liu voted to accept the proposal, but overall the Town of North Hempstead board denied the site plan approval.

Town Republicans cited a “concern for safety” in their disapproval of the plans because of the traffic congestion caused by the mosque’s services.

The Hillside Islamic Center then filed a lawsuit against the board, requesting a reversal of the town’s decision and accusing the board of “political appeasement.”

Now, parking issues are being exacerbated at the center. For Muslims worldwide, it is the holy month of Ramadan, which began March 10 and will end April 9. As a result, mosques, including the Hillside Islamic Center, are experiencing higher foot-traffic.

The center holds its services every Friday between 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., during which Liu acknowledged there has been “a lot of illegal parking,” with cars blocking driveways and fire hydrants.

Liu said she has been driving to the center nearly every Friday to check out the parking conditions. Code enforcement officers have been issuing tickets and noticing an improvement in parking conditions, said Liu.

Residents in the audience murmured notes of disagreement.

“There’s no improvement,” said the resident who initially complained about the parking.

Liu said she asked the traffic engineer to add more signs to the neighborhood to limit illegal street parking.

She also asked the center to add more services at the Elks Lodge to give mosque-goers options and lessen overall traffic to the mosque.

Dan Ciaccio, commanding officer of the 3rd Precinct, said the police are aware of the parking situation and send cops to the center every Friday to check parking conditions. In fact, he said cops have written so many parking tickets – “hundreds of tickets” – at the mosque that Abdul Aziz Bhuiyan, chairman of the center, complained that the police were targeting the area.

“We’re in constant communication with Mr. Aziz,” said Ciaccio. “Everybody knows what’s going on in the world and, you know, the tensions that are going on and everything that’s going on overseas.”

The police officers have been facing Israel and Palestine protests on a daily basis in the district, said Ciaccio.

Liu and the residents also discussed a mail fishing scam in which scammers put a sticky substance inside a mailbox and attach a long string to the substance to dangle outside of the box. Scammers then pull the string and steal the mail inside.

A sticky substance was found inside blue postal service mailboxes in New Hyde Park, according to Liu. She called U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi to ask for help removing these substances, whose office has since confirmed that all sticky substances have been removed from the New Hyde Park boxes, said Liu.

Street medians along Hillside Avenue have been the subject of residential complaints for years.

The civic association has saved around $15,000 for the beautification of these medians, according to Liu. But Liu said “no one really knows” what would grow best in the medians’ soil, so it would be beneficial to have the Buildings Department put out a bid for a landscape architect to perform an assessment.

“Baby steps,” said Liu. “At least for me, I feel like that’s a victory that everyone can appreciate.”

But residents don’t want median improvements to be further delayed by an assessment.

“The town has already consulted with a landscape architect,” said Marianna Wohlgemuth, a former Lakeville Estates Civic Assocation president. “This has already been done. We’ve already decided yes, some of the places should have stamped concrete, specifically [in places where] the cars jump over the divider when they’re not supposed to.”

The next Lakeville Estates meeting is set for April 17.

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