Mosque and NYPD Work to Ease Parking Problems Before Ramadan

Taxis double-parked on 72nd Street during recent Friday prayers.

By Joy Bergmann

In anticipation of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan starting May 15th, officials from the NYPD and the Islamic Cultural Center at 72nd and Riverside Drive have been mapping out ways to improve parking congestion around the mosque.

“We want to avoid anything that inconveniences the neighborhood,” says Imam Chernor S. Jalloh, the leader of the ICC here and at an affiliated location on the Upper East Side. “We don’t want to harm them, disturb them, lock them in their cars.”

Imam Chernor S. Jalloh and Kheireddine Khelif.

This is no easy feat.

On a typical Friday, some 600 worshippers visit the mosque throughout the day, he said, with the largest group arriving for midday prayers around 1 pm. Jalloh estimates 80 percent of his congregation are professional drivers. And indeed the area looks like a giant bumblebee – all yellow taxis and black SUVs – during Friday prayers.

The bustle ramps up during Ramadan when worshippers gather each evening for sunset prayers, followed by communal enjoyment of iftar – the meal for breaking the day’s fast. The mosque contracts with seven different restaurants to supply a variety of free fare befitting the diverse congregation. “We have food for up to 400 people,” says Jalloh, listing the cuisines, “Asian, African, Middle Eastern, American.”

Parking has long been a challenging puzzle. Most congregants don’t live on the UWS and drive their “office” to services. However, conditions seem to have improved since we last covered the issue in 2015.

None of the passersby WSR spoke with on a recent Friday had strong gripes about the situation.  “It’s not a problem, only once a week for an hour and then they disappear,” says Rafal Ossowski, a worker at Schwab House on 73rd St and Riverside Drive. “It’s working out. Nobody complain.”

“Nobody” might be overstating it.

“One main complaint we get from residents is that cab drivers double-park on Riverside Drive and the [M5] buses can’t get through,” says Capt. Timothy Malin from NYPD’s 20th Precinct. “It chokes traffic straight across 72nd Street.”

Malin recently walked the area with Kheireddine Khelif, the ICC’s accountant, to find some new solutions to further ease the crunch.

One change, Malin says, will be to allow up to five cars to park in the plaza across Riverside Drive near the Eleanor Roosevelt statue for 30 minutes during Friday afternoon prayers and during evening Ramadan services. Another change is to urge more worshippers to park on 73rd Street between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive, he said.

NYPD has also asked the mosque to hand out slips for drivers to put on their dashboards noting that they are currently in services. “We’ve asked the mosque to post someone outside who can field requests from residents who need to quickly move their cars,” says Malin. “They do this at their [affiliated] mosque on 96th and Third Avenue and it seems to work well.”

Jalloh says he asks drivers to also include their phone numbers on the dashboard notes. If a resident gets blocked in, he urges them to call the driver or come to the mosque with the license number and/or taxi number and they will immediately announce it over their intercom. “We’ll make sure the person will move the car right away.”

Worshippers gathered outside following Friday prayers.

The mosque instructs worshippers not to block bus stops, fire hydrants and other thoroughfares, Khelif said. And congregants police each other as well. WSR watched as one man called out to another, “Brother, is that your car? You gotta move it. It’s in the crosswalk!” The man moved his Yukon XL.

Malin says that as a general practice, the NYPD does not issue summonses for double-parking at mosques on Fridays, synagogues on Saturdays, churches on Sundays and at other significant cultural events. “We extend the same courtesy to everyone on the Upper West Side.”  But egregious, prolonged violations will not be tolerated, he says. “If people triple-park or are in the bus stops, we will write summonses.” 

Some might see that double-parking courtesy as a double standard.  “They’re on a break, go into the church, not a big deal,” shrugs Ian Lawrence, a local walking his dog on a recent Friday. “But I double-park for five minutes, I get a ticket.”

So do drivers, says Daniel Amoako, who was lunching and waiting in his taxi before services. “You have to be here extra early to get a legal spot.” He now tries to arrive 30 minutes beforehand, having been ticketed three months ago for double-parking, a $115 summons.

The imam hopes the community will work with him to keep things running smoothly. “Islam teaches us that we should be kind and good to the neighbors,” Jalloh says. “When you meet a neighbor, you should meet him with a bright and smiling face.”

NEWS | 25 comments | permalink
    1. Scott says:

      None of this should be allowed. Double parking is a serious menace. You want to go to your house of worship, take mass transit or carpool and find a legal spot.

      • Atheist (not afraid of going to hell) says:

        Totally agree. These cabbies park & double park just about anywhere they damn please – in front of hydrants, along the turning lane for the West Side Hwy., in no parking anytime zones, and sideways. If they could figure out how to park up a tree, they would. And then they claim that non-Muslims are intolerant. The only time this kind of thing happens is when they light the Xmas tree at Rockefeller Center — but that’s just one night a year, and not in a residential neighborhood.

        • Independent says:

          Why do you feel the need to advertise that you are an atheist in your posting handle?

    2. ZoomZoom says:

      It is a BIG deal.
      Double &b triple parking slows traffic for everyone.
      No such niceties are afforded for non Muslim worshipers. I’ve seen tens, if not hundreds of cabs parked in violation, close to the mosque. This will not be tolerated had it been a church or a temple.
      What’s good for the goose should be good for the gander.

      • Parker says:

        Nonsense. The police have always been equitable in their tolerance for double parking during services, regardless of religious affiliation. I live directly across from a synagogue and routinely watch my street become overwhelmed with double parker cars. The police are always present and I’ve never seen a ticket issued.

    3. BannyDoy says:

      How about easing the parking problems by not turning a city block and its sidewalk into a precinct parking lot?

    4. Juan says:

      I greatly appreciate their efforts to deal with this. Hopefully we can find a win-win solution. I was recently coming home from LGA in the evening and cabs were quadruple parked outside the east side mosque, completely tying up traffic on the street. Perhaps it is time to build another mosque?

    5. ST says:

      Ramadan in May: Hungry observant Muslims have to wait even longer for nightfall before they can break the fast.

    6. Derek says:

      Why can’t they take the train, find a legal parking spot or put their car in a garage for an hour? I think that’s what worshipers of other faiths do when they attend services…

    7. Brian says:

      If you think the double parking is a problem, come to Harlem almost any day & especially on Sunday cars are double parked for many, many blocks with a lot of NJ & PA plates. This lasts all day.

    8. ScooterStan says:

      Re: “take mass transit or carpool and find a legal spot.”
      Re: “Why can’t they take the train, find a legal parking spot or put their car in a garage for an hour? ”

      Take the train! carpool! Use a garage!
      Recalls: “Madame Antoinette, the peasants have no bread!” “Well, let them eat cake!”

      These are poorly-paid cab-drivers giving up an hour or more on a Friday to worship, because their faith is more important to them than fare-hunting, even though their earnings have dropped drastically since Uber, Lyft, Via, etc.

      AND they are NOT blocking a narrow cross-street (as do garbage trucks, FedEx, UPS, oil-delivers, and demolition trucks), nor are they blocking the entrance to the West Side Highway.

      Or is all the vitriol directed at them b/c they are MUSLIM 😱.


      • NotImpressed says:

        Scooter is right to point out that the train is for the rich and cars are for the poor.

      • Independent says:


        At this point, I will neither agree nor disagree with your contention that people should be more tolerant toward the double-parking that is at issue. But even if you are correct, don’t you think you were just a tad melodramatic in your comment? Marie Antoinette? Seriously?

        I recall a comment here at WSR, from possibly as much as several years ago now, in which someone complained that the marathon had been routed away from traditionalist Jewish neighborhoods in order not to offend the religious sensibilities of the inhabitants. This commenter felt that such accommodation was nothing short of outrageous.

        Just over a year ago, a regular WSR commenter replied to someone who had complained that the inordinately loud noise made by strikers on the first day of Passover had interfered with his observance of the holiday,

        this business about a “religious holiday” is pure malarkey. a daytime demonstration didn’t interfere with your Seder.

        I am curious what you think of the above cases, Mr. Scooter Stan. In both of them (as well as any number of others, including some personal experiences I have had as an observant Jew myself), I strongly suspect that the same individuals would have sung a very different tune had the religious observances, sensibilities and adherents in-question been Muslim rather than Jewish. Do you?

        • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

          Just for the record, i was the person who called the complaint against striking worrkers at the Spectrum store on Bway and W. 96th street “malarkey.”

          The person, who lives across the street on the 14th floor, had claimed it interfered with his Passover holiday.

          I was making the point that the strikers were making noise in the AM… very unlikely to interfere with an evening Seder.

          • Independent says:

            1.) No one claimed that the noise “interfere[d] with an evening Seder”. What I as well as the individual whom you had attacked pointed-out was, to try to summarize as briefly as I can:
            (a) that the Passover holiday and its observances are not limited-to the sedorim;
            (b) that it is quite common for the sedorim, which are not supposed to begin before full nightfall, to not end before quite late at night. (And that it was therefore entirely plausible for the noise-in-question to have been particularly and especially disturbing for one who had observed said seder the night before.); and, finally,
            (c) that it is entirely plausible for noise of the type in-question to reach fourteen stories above street-level at a volume that remains quite sufficient to create a nuisance.

            I urge people to follow the link I included to the original thread and read the posts-in-question, in context, for themselves.

            2.) All of that, however, is beside the specific point I was making here in citing that comment of yours from over a year ago– a point that is independent of whether or not the actual challenge you made, in and of itself, was valid. That point, to reiterate, is simply to ask: If all of the facts of the case-in-question were exactly the same except that the religious observances and those complaining that they were affected were Muslim rather than Jewish, would you have (a) taken the same position that you did and (b) expressed it in the manner that you did?

    9. Sean says:

      There is no traffic on that street. There hasn’t been any since those Trump buildings were built. It’s a ghost town.

    10. Jason says:

      I wonder how many of the posters here who are complaining about double parking also do the same on alternate side street cleaning days. What’s good for the goose. . .

    11. Jason says:

      How many of the posters here who are complaining about double parking also do the same on alternate side street cleaning days?? What’s good for the goose. . .

    12. Bruce E. Bernstein says:

      Props to the editor(s) of the WSR.

      There were some ugly Islamophobic comments on this thread, and they took them down.

      Credit where credit is due…

      • Independent says:

        So, after the glowing support he’s demonstrated for individuals such as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, both of whom are infamous for bombing Muslim civilians in their own lands, Bruce Bernstein wants us to know just how much he really cares about Muslims. I’m touched.

        • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

          response to @Indy:

          you just accused me on another thread of giving special positive treatment to Muslims. Now, on this thread, you accuse me of supporting bombing them.

          i think the bottom line is you’re a little too obsessed with what i say and think. I’m just a blog commenter, albeit one whose opinions apparently annoy you.

        • Independent says:

          Okay, in fairness:
          I am not aware of any evidence that Mr. Bernstein’s support for the individuals I named was ever specifically for any of the foreign policy positions of the type I alluded-to. Furthermore, even if it were, I do acknowledge that one can have well-intentioned –albeit terribly misguided– motives for supporting said policies.*

          (*That said, I will not abide being put on the defensive for (e.g.) merely favoring immigration restriction by anyone who in any way and for whatever reason supports warmongering, interventionist foreign policy. Let there be no doubt about that much.)

          Witnessing so many of Mr. Bernstein’s relentless attacks on others and his crying foul the moment someone dares to call him out on them, I snapped somewhat and went a little overboard in my above reply (May 15, 2018 at 4:55 pm).

          On the larger topic of conflicts that arise between the religious observances and sensibilities of various communities and the interests and needs of others and the population at large, I would like to say the following.

          1.) I acknowledge that it is not always a simple matter to resolve such conflicts or even just to determine what the most fair and just solution is.

          2.) Nothing that I have written shall be construed as implying a contention or belief on my part that any particular religion or group, including any that I may identify or affiliate with, is above reproach in such matters.

          As a general rule, please do not assume that I do or would approve of any given behavior, attitude, view or even communal policy that one may associate (with or without justification) with any of my coreligionists, co-ethnics or any other group or individual that I may have any association to or connection to.