Plainview, NY—On a normal Friday evening, hundreds of people from around Long Island come to worship at Plainview’s Guru Gobind Singh Sikh Center, where the Sikh faithful come to worship and welcome others.
But this is no normal Friday night.
The Town of Oyster Bay has effectively shut down the gurdwara, or place of worship, on Old Country Road after issuing “multiple” code violations on the property.
Among the issues cited by the town is the lack of a certificate of occupancy for the gurdwara itself and the lack of a public assembly permit for the outdoor activities that are common features of the Sikh community.
“The ball is entirely in their court,” said Phyllis Barry, a spokeswoman for the Town of Oyster Bay. “They can’t get a certificate of occupancy until all the code violations are corrected.”
The gurdwara was closed recently after town zoning enforcement officials acted on noise and other complaints from area residents, Barry said.
Some area homeowners had been complaining about [keertan] being played over loudspeakers and large gatherings at the site, which backs up to a residential neighborhood.
In addition, the temple was issued violations for having no outdoor plumbing facilities for use with their tents and for having erected fences that exceed town standards without a variance, Barry said.
The town was acting on those complaints from residents, Barry said, as it does with most code violations. All houses of worship, churches, synagogues, etc., must have certificates of occupancy and permits to conduct outdoor events, she said.
Gurdwara members, who declined to give their names, said they will not be allowed to worship on their regular days of worship. Services are held on Friday evenings and Sunday mornings, local members said. They are often attended by hundreds of people.
One man said some people will come to the site Friday night to pray outside the gurdwara, but will not be allowed inside. Members of the Gurdwara’s leadership could not be reached for official comment Thursday.
Frequently, the Sikh community holds public gatherings on the gurdwara grounds, erecting large tents filled with tables of vegetarian dishes and pastries. Traditional music often accompanies prayer.
Such assemblies are a centuries-long tradition in the often misunderstood Sikh community, who traditionally are known for welcoming and feeding visitors and travelers with nowhere else to go. Ironically, it is the Sikh community that now finds itself homeless.
Their flagpole flies a triangular orange pennant known as the Nishan Sahib, a symbol of their faith.
Last April, Sandeep Singh likened the pennant to “the Red Cross (flag).” Singh said the center has conducted numerous outreach programs in the Plainview community. “We are a welcoming religion. A place of shelter. We take in people of any faith and care for them. We always have food for them.” he said at the time.