Two Religious Groups Battle Over Lackawanna Land

October 5, 2010 Updated Oct 6, 2010 at 7:55 AM EDT

By Laura Gray

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October 5, 2010 Updated Oct 6, 2010 at 7:55 AM EDT

Lackawanna, NY (WKBW) -- Controversy today over land in Lackawanna. A mosque and a church both bidding on land that the city council believes may be toxic.

Both religious groups want the land on South Street in Lackawanna because it's the only large parcel of it's kind in the city. The mosque bringing the issue before Lackawanna City Council Monday night, and now everyone is waiting to find out who gets the land.

The Lackawanna Islamic Mosque offered 5-thousand dollars for this 6.5 acre parcel of land on South Street. Mohamed Ali Saleh says the strong Islamic community here needs its own cemetery.

Lackawanna City Council President Charles Jaworski says the land is full of toxic chemicals, and no one is allowed to dig there. He tells us originally the site was full of hazardous waste. The DEC cleaned the site, but put restrictions on the deed.

Saleh doesn't believe that the land he is looking at buying is contaminated. "it's pure. It's clean. It's not contaminated. The contaminated land is far from the site." He tells us someone at City Hall provided that information to him, though he could not recall who.

Pastor Michael Woods of First Baptist Church tells us his congregation tried to buy the land twice before, but they were told the land was toxic. When Woods found out Sunday that the mosque was hoping to buy the land, he also put in a bid. He hopes to build a recreation center there. "I believe since we're right there we should have first dibs, if you want to say, at purchasing it."

Saleh believes the Baptist church only wants the land because of the mosque leaders' interest in it. "it's been here for years and years. Why now?"

Lackawanna City Council will have to decide who, if anyone, can build here. We're told there should be a decision made soon after an upcoming council work session.