Home Muslim culture Double parking at Boston churches often goes unchecked. Muslims say they want the same flexibility.

Double parking at Boston churches often goes unchecked. Muslims say they want the same flexibility.

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Afterwards, Abdikarim was not surprised to find a ticket on his windshield. But he and other Muslims say the city should permanently ban aggressive enforcement of parking rules near mosques during church services on Friday afternoons and holidays. It’s not fair to their growing religious community, they say, especially as Christians rush to church on Sunday mornings and holidays. rarely face the same situation. A Globe analysis of city parking data found a sharp drop in the number of tickets issued on Sundays compared to weekdays.

With neighbors pushing for stricter enforcement around their property, mosque leaders are encouraging people to take public transport or carpool. But that’s not always possible for people who are elderly, infirm or simply exhausted from the demands of weekday work or school, advocates say. And many Muslims who attend prayers at mosques in Roxbury, Dorchester and Allston-Brighton are immigrants who can ill afford the heavy fines imposed by Boston.

After Tania Fernandes Anderson, the The first Muslim member of the city council, raised concerns about the longstanding issue with city officials, and after The Globe reported Following numerous media requests, the Wu administration has relaxed enforcement of routine parking rules around mosques on Muslim holidays in recent months.

While some Muslim leaders are content, the town hall never officially announced the changes, so community members were unsure whether a new policy was in place. And while they appreciate the informal accommodation, they fear that a future administration will change course.

“I would like it to be permanent,” Fernandes Anderson said.

Sofia Abdi, 26, a resident of Roxbury, said she tries to get to the Islamic Society of Boston cultural center two hours early so he can drop off his father, who has asthma, and then find a parking spot. Women are not required to attend jumu’ah every week like men, but Abdi “wants to pray too”.

“Friday has such a beautiful and spiritual meaning for us,” she said. “But parking can make it a reason not to go.”

On Sunday morning, many faithful regularly park in front of the church doors without fear of receiving a ticket. There is no special rule exempting worshipers from parking laws, but the rhythm of the American workweek evolved around Christian worship. As a result, traffic is much lighter on Sunday mornings than Friday afternoons – and most parking enforcement officers in the city don’t even work on Sundays, when fewer city ​​parking rules apply according to a Boston Department of Transportation official.

A review of the Globe’s public records of all parking tickets issued in 2021 found the city issued more than 192,000 citations on Friday, compared to just under 4,300 on Sunday.

While it’s hard to decipher which ones were linked to places of worship, more than 35,000 vehicles were ticketed on Friday across the city were delivered between noon and 4 p.m., the usual time for jumu’ah prayers. The city issued just 783 parking tickets between 8 a.m. and noon on Sunday, the most common time for Christian worship.

Some churches and synagogues have ample off-street parking for their worshippers, and many city churches have relatively small congregations. Others pay for parking; Boston’s Temple Israel, the city’s largest Reform synagogue, has partnered with the Medical Academic and Scientific Community Organization, a non-profit organization in Longwood, to validate the parking of worshipers in a nearby garage for approximately 30 years.

The Islamic Society center, which has drawn about half of its usual crowd of 1,000 to 1,500 worshipers since the start of the pandemic, has a small car park with about 75 spaces that fills up quickly. A small underground garage is limited to tenants and employees, unless needed for busy days, as it requires an attendant to guide people down and stop when the lot is full. Nearby Roxbury Community College offers some of its parking spaces for large events. But the demand for free parking far outstrips the supply.

This is especially true during religious holidays, when Muslims flock from all over New England to attend prayer services at Boston mosques. But these holidays are often as usual for the application of parking rules.

The city, for example, issued more than 4,700 tickets on May 13, 2021, when the Islamic Society Center, New England’s largest mosque, held Eid al-Fitr prayers. July 20, 2021, day of the center held its annual Eid al-Adha prayers, and Acting Mayor Kim Janey addressed congregants, the city issued about 4,600 tickets citywide. (Janey collected and rescinded some of those quotes after worshipers reported the issue, sources at the mosque told The Globe.)

Meanwhile, on Christmas Eve that year, Boston issued tickets for 347 cars. And at Easter? Just 56.

On a busy Sunday just before Easter, parishioners of St. Brigid South Boston Parish easily parked. Six cars double-parked in front of the little brick church for its second mass of the day; there were at least six vacant spaces left in the establishment’s parking lot.

Susan Richey, who has attended for 35 years, and Tom Kane, who was baptized in the church as a child, said that although the size of the congregation has shrunk over time, people continue to park twice as usual.

Fernandes Anderson, who heard complaints from Muslim voters during last year’s campaign about aggressive parking enforcement outside mosques, said she was considering tabling a resolution that eliminate ticketing around mosques during Friday services and Muslim holidays.

“There should be a little grace given for jumu’ah and holidays,” she said. She added, however, that she was not sure her fellow councilors would support an idea that provides housing for a religious community.

Neighbors in the center of the Islamic Society, for their part, say the laws should be enforced more aggressively, not less.

“Cars of people attending the mosque are blocking my driveway on both sides,” read a Mobile 311 report from Center Street in June 2021. “This should not continue to happen.”

On a Friday earlier this year, As the last mosque attendees sought parking surrounded the area, another owner described fighting to prevent worshipers from parking on their grounds since the center opened in 2009.

“I own this whole set [driveway]but if you can’t get in and out, it’s not good,” the resident said.

The resident, who feared being identified, has close friends who frequent the Islamic Society Center, but feels exasperated by mosque patrons who park in the driveway, courtyard, or even just outside the hall. driveway, blocking her.

“They’re not neighbors,” the resident said.

The Wu administration said in an emailed statement that the city stands ready to help any institution with ticketing issues.

Brad Gerratt, acting commissioner of the Department of Transportation, advised parking enforcement officials not to ticket the ISBCC and the Islamic Center of Boston during their Eid al-Fitr services this year. . The department also hosted synagogues during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services, a Wu spokesperson said.

The administration said the last record the Transportation Department had of a concern raised by the ISBCC was in 2019, and added that anyone with parking issues should contact the Department or Neighborhood Services, or call 311.

“The Boston Department of Transportation understands that some worshipers may not be able to attend services except by car, and we are working with various religious institutions to make parking easier for them,” the statement read.

As a local resident who loses his parking lot during prayer services, Abdullah Ashur, whose family owns Ashur Restaurant, a popular Somali gathering spot behind the mosque, sympathizes with both sides of the debate and sees the need for a sort of larger solution.

Last month, Ashur said construction along Roxbury Street had kept ticket officials at bay. But he doesn’t know if or how long it will last.

Tanvir Hussain, a member of the mosque’s board, said he hadn’t heard many complaints about the tickets from the mosque community; he said mosque leaders encourage prayer-goers to park legally if they cannot use public transport or walk.

“It’s a constant battle to make sure community members follow parking rules,” he said. “But if any issues arise, we are happy to resolve them.”

Other Boston mosques also struggle to enforce parking on Fridays and holidays. Imam Abdulqadir Farah of Al-Rowda Mosque in Grove Hall said he received about five parking tickets during street cleaning hours and had already had to pay $700 after his car was towed because he hadn’t paid a ticket on time. He said many of the mosque’s 150 community worshipers were driving from their shifts to prayers, making the area even more congested.

“If the ticket is $50 to $100, it’s not worth going to City Hall to challenge,” Farah said. “And those tickets are piling up.”


Tiana Woodard is a member of the Report for America body that covers black neighborhoods. She can be contacted at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @tianarochon.