A run-down house diagonally across from Riverhead High School on Harrison Avenue is slated to become part of a proposed Riverhead Islamic Center.
The proposal before the Riverhead Planning Board calls for that existing single-family house to be renovated for use as a home for the religious leader of the Center, known as an Imam, while a new building with a 3,357-square-foot first floor and a 3,200-square-foot second floor will be built behind the home as a place of worship.
The Islamic Center proposal first surfaced in 2016, but at that time, the group was only looking to expand the existing building into a house of worship on the first floor with an upstairs home for the religious leader. The property consists of two parcels which will be merged.
The Riverhead Town Board will hold a public hearing on the new proposal at its Aug. 2 meeting, which starts at 7 p.m.
“We believe that there is a great potential of growth in the Muslim community in the Town of Riverhead,” Dr. Iqbal Khan, a trustee in the Riverhead Islamic Center, wrote in a letter to town officials.
In addition to prayer, the center plans to allow youth basketball and other activities on a proposed paved parking lot fronting Harrison Avenue and just north of the residence. The parking lot will need a Zoning Board of Appeals variance, planner Karin Gluth said Thursday.
“The Riverhead Islamic Center is being established to provide religious, cultural and social services to a very diverse local Muslim community living and doing business in the Town of Riverhead,” Dr. Khan wrote. “This diverse community has about one-third of its members born outside the United States in various parts of the world, and two-third born in the USA. They all have a common religious belief and concept of one God similar to the other monotheistic religions, Christianity and Judaism.”
The existing house is on a 1.24-acre property. The center will provide services such as marriages, funerals, educational programs and charity events on an as-need basis, according to Dr. Khan.
The daily prayer services draw about 10 to 15 people on weekdays and 20 to 25 people on weekend evening services, and only take about 15 minutes, the group says.
About 50 people attend the midday Friday prayer services, which take about 20 minutes. The group said at a Planning Board meeting in 2016 that they’ve been renting space on Railroad Avenue, but that space is too small.
“It will be a house of worship just like a church or a synagogue, and there will be no political talk or anything like that. I go there on Fridays and pray. In and out,” Dr. Mahmood Afghani, a member of the group, told the Planning Board in 2016.
(Photo credit: Tim Gannon)