A Sikh Temple in Plainview is seeking help from the Town of Oyster Bay, which halted the construction of its new building on Old Country Road without informing the congregation. On Feb. 2, the town board took over responsibility for the site plan by taking it out of the hands of its Planning and Development Department. Former Commissioner Frederick Ippolito, who was asked to step down, has been accused of alleged conflict-of-interest and other charges of corruption by law enforcement authorities.
About two dozen Sikhs came to Supervisor John Venditto at a recent public meeting to ask about the delay in construction. They were told that local residents had voiced concerns regarding the size, parking and traffic generated by the new building that is on the same site as the old temple. Construction for the new $3 million temple began in 2014, but stopped without ample notice last July.
As far as I’m concerned, it is just another case of “the blind leading the blind” in Oyster Bay Town Hall. Venditto simply does not have a grasp of the situation caused by his controversial former commissioner. The Sikhs have gone through one year and a half of demolishing the old and building the new. Now the residential neighbors of the temple are complaining about a house of worship that was given the go-ahead by the town board. The Sikhs are caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place.
Venditto owes the Sikhs, big-time. His questionable administration has caused a super hardship for the temple goers. First of all, where have they been worshiping? How could supposedly rational and compassionate neighbors turn their backs on religious freedom?
Here are reasonable people who have already been a positive part of the community, seeking and given permission to replace what they had on Old Country Road, a commercial thoroughfare such as Old Country Road. They are obviously trying to cooperate. Now this law-abiding group is being snubbed in the middle of their financial and personal commitment by a dysfunctional government.
All they have gotten back in their quest for fairness is pure lip service and even disdain. I would hope that citizens living in other parts of the Town of Oyster Bay will show their support to the Sikhs and their sacred right to worship.
Perhaps a rally of protest at the next town board meeting on Tuesday, March 15, or thereafter. The monthly meeting is open to the public at town hall (516-624-6100) in the Village of Oyster Bay. But, as usual, the meetings continue to be held at the awkward and inconvenient time of 10 a.m. instead of the evening like most municipalities.
Overall, Venditto needs to know that his administration’s habit of bullying its constituents will not be tolerated any longer.