Van Houten Street naming dilemma resolved | Paterson Times

Van Houten Street naming dilemma resolved


After weeks of haranguing in front of elected officials about additionally naming a section of Van Houten Street after Alhaj Forman Ali both parties – the mosque and the family – came a mutual understanding during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

After Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, presented a compromise asking both parties to see whether naming the street after the mosque while recognizing the contributions of Forman Ali would satisfy the disputants, both parties, during a small intermission in the meeting due to tape change, came back with an answer. It was acceptable.

Morris suggested the street be named Jalalabad Street after the mosque which is called Jalalabad Jam-E-Masjid; and he stated that Forman Ali, who did indeed provide his basement for congregational prayers, as owned by many members of the mosque committee, would be given proper credit for the role he played that led to the establishment of the mosque within that resolution.

However, that was not the name both parties settled upon; it was something along the lines of “Islamic Foundation Way” – naming it after the foundation – that both sides agreed to.

Elected officials were conspicuously relived that this knotty problem which they would have had to resolve was resolved in such a rapid manner. The dilemma for council members as put by Julio Tavarez, the 5th Ward councilman, was that regardless of what decision they made – rescinding the naming or allowing it – they would make an enemy of one of the sides. “We do not want to be the council that divides your community,” said Anthony Davis, the 1st Ward councilman, who wanted both sides to reach their own settlement.

Prior to the compromise, a large number of people gathered outside and inside the City Hall forcing police to do crowd control. Three officers were standing inside the meeting chamber to ensure there was order and violence did not break out; police allowed in 15 individuals from each side of the issue, a total of 30 people, who filled almost the entire chamber.

After both parties gave their speeches, five individuals from each side of the issue, just like last week, the lawyer for the mosque called on elected officials to “Undo what you’ve done.” And if the council was not going to undo it, the court would, said Jeffrey Bronster, representing the foundation.

A granddaughter of Forman Ali mentioned the man’s humility, which Bronster seized during his speech saying, the family was “blinded to the fact that Forman Ali would be the last person to want this.” Tavarez was offended at the lawyer’s ultimatum that one way or another the street name would be struck down; he said, “I’d vote not to rescind” if some lawyer is threatening to sue the city. “Your involvement makes it worse,” said Tavarez to the lawyer.

Saleh Ghani, secretary at the mosque, said, “We accept the compromise for the sake of unity in the community.”

After both parties came to an accord Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, the 2nd Ward councilman, who appeared dejected throughout the meeting, was visibly overtaken by more positive emotions. “I never thought in my wildest dreams that this would explode like this,” said Akhtaruzzaman, after apologizing to both parties for the pains an innocent resolution to additionally name a street has caused.

It is unclear what will be next, councilmembers were unsure whether a street can be named after a foundation. “I don’t know if we can name a street after a foundation,” said Kenneth McDaniel, who said he would work to make the street naming regime much stricter to ensure something similar does not arise in the future.

The resolution naming the street after Forman Ali was rescinded rendering the federal lawsuit filed on Sunday void.