The Paterson Parking Authority will keep its parking deck on Prospect Street open late during the holy month of Ramadan to accommodate congregants from the nearby Van Houten Street mosque.
The arrangement between the authority and the Islamic Foundation of New Jersey, which operates Jalalabad Jam-E-Masjid on Van Houten Street, will allow those attending lengthy night prayers at the mosque to do so without worrying about their vehicles, said Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, 2nd Ward councilman.
Ramadan, a month in the Islamic calendar during which practicing Muslims fast from dawn until dusk, is also when adherents of the faith attend nightly prayer services that last almost three hours.
“When you have a parking lot their cars are safe and people can go pray,” said Akhtaruzzaman. “They used to park all over the city, and it’s not safe.”
Akhtaruzzaman cited an incident that took place few years ago when congregants exited the mosque following prayer only to find shattered windshields and glass shards on the road. A few years ago a lot of cars were broken outside the mosque, said Akhtaruzzaman.
A large number of vehicles were also towed and ticketed during previous years after attendees left cars parked in no parking zones due to a scarcity of parking, said Akhtaruzzaman.
The councilman cited dearth of parking and safety as major concerns that led him, in tandem with the mosque, to request accommodation from the authority. “This is safe, they don’t have to park on the street,” said Akhtaruzzaman. “That’s what I did last year and a lot of people appreciated it because there is no parking.”
Tony Perez, director of the authority, said this is the second or third year the authority has made such an arrangement with the mosque. Perez said the mosque and the councilman lobbied for the arrangement. “The councilman for the most part has been instrumental,” said Perez.
When asked whether the city will rake in some revenue from the temporary arrangement, Perez answered in the negative, stating the mosque will be paying operational costs to keep the parking deck manned and open late. “It’s a discounted rate that we’ll charge them and they’ll pay accordingly,” said Perez.
Akhtaruzzaman said when residents are exercising one of their first amendment rights by going into the mosque to pray for two or three hours they shouldn’t come out to find their vehicles vandalized or ticketed.
“We’re open until 11 or 12,” said Perez. “We’re open as long as they need us to be open.”
Muslims will begin observing 30-days of fasting starting from Saturday.
“We’re thankful to the Parking Authority,” said Saleh Ghani, secretary of the mosque. Ghani said in 2009, the mosque invited Jose “Joey” Torres to a gathering. Torres saw the parking issues first hand and suggested an arrangement with the authority.
Since, then the mosque has been paying for parking at one of the nearby outdoor authority owned parking lots.
Ghani said since last year the authority began offering its indoor parking garage — which is much safer and closer to the house of worship — to the congregants.
Article updated with comments from Saleh Ghani, secretary of the mosque.