Anti-smoking law good for businesses

To the editor:
I’m writing this in support of the N.J. indoor clean-air act. I was so happy when it passed and thank our legislators for making this a law at all indoor places.
   I’m a sixth-grader at Crossroads North Middle School in Monmouth Junction and am a member of the Rebel 2 Club where we educate kids on the bad effects of drugs and encourage a healthy drug-free lifestyle.
   The bowling alleys think they will loose money because of this new law, but I think they will gain money. I love to bowl but have not gone with my family in years because I can’t stand to be near smoke. Smoke is just a horrible smell and second-hand smoke is also as deadly as that person smoking.
   So to all the bowling alley owners who fear smokers will no longer come, I say more families will return to make up the difference. It will be a more pleasurable experience and safer environment for bowlers as well as the workers. I’m going bowling on April 15 with my family. I can’t wait until this new law is in effect.
Brandon Wildemuth

Monmouth Junction
Put bias aside on ISCJ plan

To the editor:
Except for four years spent in other states, my family and I have been residents of Mercer and Middlesex counties since 1969. I have watched East Windsor, Hightstown, Plainsboro and South Brunswick grow from near empty farmland with little commerce into the thriving, modern suburb it is today.
   Although I have been away for over a year, I still follow the local papers. For the past three weeks, I have been tracking the proposed Islamic Society expansion, and after reading Ken Siegel’s recent letter, I thought I might be able to make a contribution of both information and perspective, by way of this letter, on the subject.
   On the issue that has been raised about "irresponsible journalism," I too was more than a little put off that this paper chose to write a piece with such potentially adverse impact on the community at large, without at least some cursory investigation as to the Islamic Society’s position on the issue. That is to say, why not look into the society’s reasons for its proposed expansion project, and find out whether its representatives think the scales will be tipped unfavorably or unfairly for either side if such an expansion were to be permitted by the township? In my experience, an article, such as the initial piece in the Jan. 19 Post, would ordinarily include facts collected and statements made by representatives on both sides of the issue, unless, of course, the publication was a tabloid, in which case it would have been perfect.
   Before I began writing this letter, I collected some information by simply calling a few of the residents who are actively involved in the ongoing dispute between the Islamic Society and its neighbors. This was an especially good idea, because I will be able to answer Mr. Siegel’s inquiry and his criticism of Mr. Aschettino’s letter, published in the Jan. 26 Post, on this same issue. Mr. Siegel’s letter mentioned a lack of information he felt Mr. Aschettino might have obtained in order to support his theory that the expansion was being rejected out of hand, perhaps in large part, because of possible prejudice that may exist between the ISCJ community and the Richard Road and Princeton Gate residents.
   What residents told me when I called was that dead bodies were being prepared for burial purposes inside the mosque, that the ISCJ representatives were laughing inappropriately at opposing views on traffic issues raised at the last zoning board meeting. One resident said that worse things than the mosque could be on that parcel of land, and there was a common belief that the ISCJ is not only crowding its property, but also the surrounding parcels.
   To begin with, I would need to know and see for myself just how many dead bodies are being stored inside the mosque in preparation for funerals. The comment does suggest both illegality and bizarre conduct on behalf of the ISCJ’s membership, administrators and religious representatives. As far as the belief that there could be worse things than the ISCJ at the corner of Promenade Boulevard and Route 1, I wondered immediately if a manure factory or even a substance-abuse rehabilitation center was what some people had in mind. Of course, statements starting with the word "they" and essentially confirming that the parallel of placing the Disney property on the county fairgrounds were perhaps the most telling of all, because they, like the other statements, sounded both biased and absurd.
   On Mr. Siegel’s next to final point that "zoning and regulations were put into place for specific reasons." To that I say so is the process by which a person or business may apply for, and obtain, a variance. There is a reason for that as well. On Mr. Siegel’s final issue, wherein, he likens Mr. Aschettino’s letter to "yelling fire in a crowded theater," I have to say, in my view, that all Mr. Aschettino did was to try and usher people out of the burning theater, into a safe place, before they were immolated. There is a huge difference.
   I also fail to see how the township’s failure to approve past variances is at all relevant to applications made 15 or 16 years later. A nursery school versus Noor-Ul-lman? A warehouse plan versus a complex for a religion-specific and cultural center?
   I hope Mr. Siegel has better things to do with his time besides reading old applications for variances or ones currently under consideration, that either draw no parallel whatsoever to the ISCJ proposed expansion or were wrongfully rejected for whatever reason a decade and a half ago.
   After reading the above and revisiting the issue, it is my hope that Mr. Siegel, the ISCJ’s neighbors and the South Brunswick community will acknowledge the existence of at least some inappropriate bias from the non-Muslim community toward the Muslim community in South Brunswick, set that aside, and start the process of constructively communicating with the ISCJ (in and out of the Township Council meetings), and strive to reach a compromise that will result in satisfaction on both sides of the table. Any other approach is silly (given the current mores and values of our society), and needlessly expensive in the long run.
Richard Titsch