Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny is breaking ranks with some in his Russian-speaking base by tossing his weight behind the controversial Sheepshead Bay mosque — a move that community leaders say could wreck his re-election bid because the shrine isn’t even in his district.
Brook-Krasny — a Democrat whose area covers Coney Island and Brighton Beach, as well as parts of Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, but none of the bay — gave his backing to the rising, four-story structure on Voorhies Avenue between E. 28th and E. 29th streets while speaking at an Arab-American Association of New York candidate forum in Bay Ridge on Oct. 11.
The lawmaker, himself an ex-Soviet Jewish emigre, said he supported the mosque’s construction for personal reasons.
“As people who came here for religious freedom, how can we deny religious freedom to another group?” Brook-Krasny told the largely Middle Eastern audience at PS 170 on Sixth Avenue between 71st and 72nd streets. “If we start taking freedoms from certain groups, we are no longer the country of the American Dream.”
The stance puts him at odds with ex-Soviet Jews, many of whom belong to the Bay People, which has long-battled the moque’s construction in court, warned one Russian media mogul who added that Russian-speaking immigrants can be one-issue voters.
“I wouldn’t tell any politician who wants Russian votes to take a position that’s pro-mosque,” said Gregory Davidzon, owner of Davidzon Radio. “People will vote against anyone who openly supports the mosque.”
Davidzon echoed Bay People arguments that the opposition to the Muslim house of worship has to do with demographics and quality of life.
“It’s a very Jewish area, very few Muslims, very sleepy area, why are they putting it there?” he said. “People don’t want the parking problems, they don’t want the congestion.”
Brook-Krasny’s constituents may live several blocks away, but their opposition is just as strong, Davidzon claimed.
“Russian people don’t think it’s outside the district, it’s outside their window to them,” argued Davidzon. “People think, if they build today over there, tomorrow, they will build next to their house.”
State Sen. David Storobin (R–Brighton Beach), also a Jew from the former Soviet Union, argued that the mosque was a national security threat, referring to documents from the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith that connect the Muslim-American Society, a mosque-backer, to terrorism.
“They’ve organized forums promoting extremism and anti-Semitism, they’ve been linked to groups that support the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas,” said Storobin, who announced his opposition to the mosque in July. “I believe the assemblyman knows what he is doing, and he is standing for what he believes in, but I am concerned for the safety and welfare of the neighborhood.”
Brook-Krasny’s Republican challenger Tom McCarthy said he was unfamiliar with the documents, but believed government shouldn’t interfere with religious freedom. Instead, he called for more outreach to the surrounding community from those behind the contentious project.
“Dialogue and discussion are the best thing at this point,” McCarthy said.
Meanwhile, Brook-Krasny said he’s already feeling the heat from his constituents.
“I have been grilled for my position,” said the assemblyman, who added he won’t be backing down. “I have three mosques in my district, and they are fine people, hard-working people — it’s not fair and it’s not right.”Reach reporter Will Bredderman at (718) 260–4507 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/WillBredderman
©2012 Community News Group
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