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Muslim cemetery stirs concerns

A burial Tuesday on the grounds of a former industrial site in the city's Broadway-Bailey neighborhood caused a bit of a flap.

It turned out, though, that the property at 31 Stone St. is now a Muslim cemetery.

The former factory and warehouse site is owned by the Darul-Uloom Al-Madania mosque on nearby Sobieski Street. Unbeknownst to police Tuesday, the mosque received approval from the City of Buffalo to use the rear of the Stone Street property as a cemetery.

"They do have permits for a cemetery there," said Ferry-Fillmore District Chief Michelle R. Kubala.

Representatives of the mosque will get their attorney to fax over the proper documentation today, Kubala said. Police also are waiting to hear from the state Health Department.

"We're just waiting for all the paperwork to make sure they have all the proper permits and licenses," Kubala added.

The Stone Street property is surrounded by a fence and is bordered by railroad tracks in the back. The site includes an old factory and warehouse with at least a couple of acres in the rear.

A caller reported to police that at about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, dozens of Muslim mourners were burying a casket at the back of the property, Kubala said.

Only a few mourners were still at the scene by the time police arrived, but officials confirmed the burial.

"We only saw four grave markers, and it looked like there was a fifth grave," Kubala said, "but they have owned it since 2002, so it's possible there's more."

Police spent the rest of the afternoon making sure the site was a permitted burial ground.

Majority Leader Richard A. Fontana of Lovejoy wasn't sure if the mosque had all the necessary permits from the state, but the city approved the site as a cemetery several years ago.

"They're all set from our side," Fontana said Tuesday afternoon. "The Zoning Board had to approve it, so a notice went out to all the residents. I talked to the people involved, and I don't really see that big of a deal."

Common Council President David A. Franczyk said his staff was able to locate paperwork Tuesday indicating the city's Permit and Inspections Division gave the appropriate approvals for the burial site.

"There's a file with permission to do that," said Franczyk. "They went through the bureaucracy to get the approvals."

In 2007, a slaughterhouse had been proposed for the former factory before neighbors complained, and the plan was withdrawn.

Now, it's not uncommon for vehicles to line up along Stone Street and turn into the property once every couple of months during the warmer weather, said Jeff Sikorski, owner of A&J Auto Sales and Service on the corner of Stone and Bailey Avenue. Police have shown up in the past, Sikorski said, but always missed the activity.

"I've got no problem," said Ed Ciciera, who lives across the street from the property. "They're quiet. They keep the place up."

Members of the mosque who were on-site Tuesday declined to comment.

e-mail: jrey@buffnews.com and jtokasz@buffnews.com

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