The number of Muslim worship centers has reached an all-time high in New York City. A Journey through NYC religions has counted 285 mosques in the five boroughs. Muslims also have many more prayer spaces scattered around the city.
In 2010 Journey reported that it had discovered and visited 175 mosques. During the Ground Zero mosque controversy that year, a widespread impression up until Journey's story was that there were only 100+ mosques in New York City, a count that derived from a 1999 study. Today's count is more complete but is continuing. There has been so much change in the Muslim community that we thought an update was advisable.
The mosques (also called masjids) and community worship centers range from elaborate spaces like the 96th Street and Third Avenue building in Manhattan, capable of accommodating thousands of worshipers, to basement mosques that stuff fifty people into a long narrow corridor like sardines in a can.
Several congregations are also raising money to build their own mosques, and a number of mosques are already partly built while awaiting for more funds to be finished. Assafa Islamic Center on Eldridge Street is tantalizing close to completion as is Hillside Islamic Center, which will be located at 300 Hillside Avenue to serve the Queens Village-New Hyde Park area.
The soaring cost of leases for community space in New York City have forced some mosques into the streets. After being priced out of their space, The Abrar mosque in the Riverdale section of the Bronx is meeting in an Episcopal church while it struggles to raise more funds. Some mosque buildings have accommodated multiple mosques in this tight real estate market, and we undoubtedly have missed counting some of these.
Some smaller denominations are on the cusp of having enough adherents to consider mosque building. For example, the Dawoodi Bohra, sometimes called Ismailis, are a sub-group of Shiites who mainly come from the Gujarati state in India and the Karachi area of Pakistan. About 200 Dawoodi Bohra Muslims regularly gather for prayers at Friday services. Around Memorial Day, they will celebrate the martyrdom of their founder. We covered one of their previous ceremonies.
Some congregations are building because the number of congregants is increasing so much.
However, others are growing somewhat smaller as Muslims are spreading out to new options, often to congregations with fellow countrymen and women who speak the same language and have a similar cultural style. Smaller ethnic groups of Muslims float between mosques like hor d'ourves at a party.While tacos may have roots in the Middle East, there is nothing like the American version for Hispanic Muslims who are still looking for their own permanent mosque.
The folks at Masjid Ahlul Quraan Wa Sunnah recall their rags to riches story like this: Our mosque “was established in 1995 by a group…squeezed in a small basement apartment; in 1997 the location was moved to a larger basement.” Then, the mosque shifted to becoming half-subterranean and half-storefront.
“Due to the rapid growth of the community,… in 1998 the masjid moved…, at first occupying the front section of the first floor and the basement. In 2001 we had to acquire the upper floor as well…in 2005 the back section of the first floor was acquired, and guess what?” Finally, the mosque became more like an established mosque.
“We needed more space, and in 2010 a church building was purchased…and [we] moved in on the first day of Ramadan in 2012.” In the meantime another mosque is using the old basement and upper floors for the beginning of its journey. The whole planting and blooming cycle of mosque building is well on its way again!
Brooklyn --- the borough of mosques
For a long time Brooklyn has housed more mosques than any other borough. In fact more mosques are in Brooklyn than in any other place in the United States.
Today, there are 98 mosques in the borough, about one-third of the mosques in New York City.
The densest concentration of mosques in Brooklyn are found in the areas of Bedford-Stuyvesant, South Crown Heights, Flatbush.
Queens' mosques are multiplying
Queens now also has about one-third of the mosques of New York city, at 93 mosques and growing in numbers. Soon, this borough may have more mosques than Brooklyn. The highest concentration of mosques in Queens is found in Eastern Queens in Queens Village, Jamaica, Richmond Hill, Ozone Park and South Ozone Park. There are also significant concentrations of mosques in Astoria, Sunnyside and Long Island City area and in the Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and Corona areas.
Bronx -- African Muslims are prominent mosque builders
As Africans immigrate into the Bronx, there are more and more mosques, totaling right now 47. For example, in the Highbridge area around 167th Street and Sheridan Avenue, we ran across many Mandinka, predominately Muslim people from West Africa. The Mandinka became famous around the world when Alex Haley wrote “Roots,” in which he traced his family back to a Kunta Kinte, the grandson of a holy man in a Mandinka village in Gambia. The Mandinka of the Bronx are mostly from Gambia and some from Senegal, Liberia and Sierra Leone. So far, we have identified several dozen mosques around the city with significant numbers of worshipers from Africa.
Manhattan has 39 mosques, Staten Island has 8.
The largest and most prominent mosque in the city, the Islamic Cultural Center, resides on the Upper East Side at 96th Street. The mosque was built with support mainly from Middle Eastern nations in 1989 and has about 4,000 people at its Friday prayer services. There are several immigrant mosques below 42nd Street, and restaurants offer space in their basements for prayer times. Harlem has several significant African American and African mosques. The Masjid Malcom Shabbaz was established by Malcom X and continues with a large multi-ethnic, multi-national congregation, a community development corporation, housing projects and support to the African market on 116th Street.
Sources of mosque growth: immigrants, children, and converts
Mosque building in the city trends closely with the arrival of new immigrants and with the increase in numbers of young marrieds. The new immigrants are often young and single, so their presence alone means that the mosque building boom will likely sustain itself for several decades. In the Pew Research Center expects that the population of Muslims in the United States to more than double by 2030. The 2011 Mosque Study found that each mosque receives about 12 converts per year, which in NYC would mean about 3,400 converts per year.
In our next article we will look at the patterns of growth of in the number of the mosques in the city.
Mosque building is pretty recent but Muslims have been here since the beginning of the city. Retrsopective on Mosque City NY, part 2
The period of New York Muslim experimentation, 1893-1939. Restrospective on Mosque City NY, part 3
The era of African American Islam. Retrospective on Mosque City NY, part 4
The immigrant era of NYC Muslims. First day of Ramadan. Retrospective on Mosque City NY, Part 5