NY parish declines to sell property to Muslim group

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - A Roman Catholic parish in New York City on Thursday voted against selling one of its properties to a Muslim organization that planned to erect a mosque there, yielding to local residents’ opposition.

The Staten Island parish’s decision against the sale of its abandoned convent to the Muslim American Society comes as a another proposed mosque faces criticism for being located too close to the site of the September 11, 2001, attacks in Manhattan.

The Rev. Keith Fennessy, leader of the Saint Margaret Mary parish on the borough of Staten Island, had chosen in June to back away from the sale. On Thursday, the parish board approved his decision.

“I have concluded that the contemplated sale would not serve the needs of the parish,” Fennessy said last month.

The Archdiocese of New York on Thursday released a statement saying it “enjoyed a good relationship with the Islamic community in the past, and looks forward to continued dialogue, friendship, and understanding in the future.”

A spokeswoman for the Muslim American Society could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Staten Island Advance, a local newspaper, reported that the vote came after heated exchanges between residents living by the beachside parish and members of the Muslim community.

Reporting by Basil Katz; Editing by Michelle Nichols and Jonathan Oatis