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Shoddy Reporting of Roxbury Mosque Conflict

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    Shoddy Reporting of Roxbury Mosque Conflict Overview plus commentary by Joachim Martillo - thorsprovoni@aol.com ThorsProvoni@aol.com wrote: Hi, Only the Globe
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 2, 2007
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      Shoddy Reporting of Roxbury Mosque Conflict
      Overview plus commentary by Joachim Martillo - thorsprovoni@...


      ThorsProvoni@... wrote:

      Hi,

      Only the Globe article is really bad. I consider the AP version the
      most journalistically appropriate. My comments are in brackets.


      I notice both here and, this morning, on the NPR report, that the
      figure of $175,000 is used, set against the $401.000 fair-market-value
      assessment, which is the way the David Project always liked to portray
      it. There were other considerations -- the harzardous-waste cleanup
      of the site, carried out by the ISB, the maintenance for 10 years of
      two playgrounds, and the sevices to Roxbury Commjnity College -- that
      brought the actual figue up to the $401,000 of the evaluation. The
      Daivd Project later produced a hokey valuation of something over two
      millian, and claimed the ISB got the propert7 at a 91% discount, but
      that was all concocted out of the air.

      ===

      The AP article below would have been acceptable when I worked as a
      reporter.


      Judge dismisses lawsuit over mosque site
      February 25, 2007
      http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2007/02/25/judge_dismisses_lawsuit_over_mosque_site/


      BOSTON --A Suffolk Superior Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit that
      claimed it was unconstitutional for the city of Boston to sell land at
      a discount price to developers of an Islamic center.

      The Islamic Society of Boston is building a 70,000-square-foot mosque
      -- the largest in New England -- on a Roxbury parcel it bought from
      the city in May 2003.

      Judge Sandra Hamlin dismissed Boston resident James Policastro's suit,
      which argued that the Boston Redevelopment Authority violated the
      constitutional separation of church and state by giving the Islamic
      Society a below-market deal.

      [The article should have been more explicit that it is a federal
      constitutional issue because the Massachusetts constitution has no
      equivalent of the establishment clause.]

      The judge ruled that Policastro had no legal standing because he did
      not file his suit within 30 days of the land sale. He filed suit in
      September 2004.

      "Policastro's challenge must fail, as it is time-barred by statute,"
      Hamlin said. "He has no other legal standing to challenge the sale."

      The Islamic Society paid $175,000 for the 45,000-square-foot parcel
      that was assessed at $401,000. The group agreed to easily achievable
      public benefits -- including maintaining a park, and giving lectures
      at Roxbury Community College -- as part of the sale.

      Hamlin's ruling said Policastro missed opportunities to challenge the
      sale.

      "Land sales of this nature ... generally provide for extensive notice
      and opportunity for public participation and comment," she wrote.
      "Such a process was followed in this matter. Policastro declined to
      participate in any way before filing suit."

      The city took the parcel by eminent domain in the 1970s. The BRA
      selected the Muslim Council of Boston as the developer in 1992, and
      switched the developer to the Islamic Society of Boston in 1998. Many
      public hearings have been held to discuss the project, Hamlin's ruling
      stated.

      [As I have pointed out, the BRA first announced considering a Muslim
      group as developer in 1989.]

      The Islamic Society hopes to complete the $14 million first stage of
      the project by September.

      Policastro said in published reports that his lawyer may appeal the
      ruling.

      ===

      The Herald article has more serious problems.


      Judge tosses mosque suit vs. Boston
      By Laura Crimaldi
      Sunday, February 25, 2007
      http://news.bostonherald.com/localRegional/view.bg?articleid=184840


      A Suffolk Superior Court judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed by a
      Roxbury man who claimed the city of Boston violated the separation of
      church and state by cutting a land deal with the developers of a $22
      million Islamic center.

      In an eight-page judgment dated Feb. 16, Judge Sandra L. Hamlin
      ruled that James C. Policastro failed to file his objections to the
      project within the 30-day time period allowed by law.

      "By the time the suit was filed, construction was well under way.
      My client had spent and committed to spend millions of dollars," said
      Albert L. Farrah Jr., an attorney for the project's developer, the
      Islamic Society of Boston.

      "To have allowed Mr. Policastro to come in at that point and upset
      what has been in the works for so many years would have been chaotic,"
      he said.

      Policastro's suit, which also named the Boston Redevelopment
      Authority, claimed that the city sold a land parcel to the Islamic
      Society for its mosque at below market value, and as a result,
      unconstitutionally subsidized a religion - Islam.

      [The article should have stated whether the lawsuit challenged the
      sale under the state or federal constitution.]

      "What they've done is they've thrown my case out on a
      technicality," Policastro said. "This isn't about Islam. It's about
      constitutional rights."

      [The author should have explained the meaning of the terms adjective,
      substantive and technical because this quotation makes it seem like a
      technical (really adjective) decision is somehow less just than a
      substantive decision. Adams won the Amistad case on a technical and
      adjective ruling, and no one except the Queen of Spain called that
      decision unjust.]

      Policastro said he plans to press forward with a public records
      request he's made to the redevelopment agency for more documents
      concerning the land deal.

      [How? Further lawsuit? FOIA request? Was that really Policastro's
      request. I thought it came from the David Project in the defamation
      lawsuits.]

      The Islamic Society, which halted work on the mosque six months
      ago for monetary reasons, plans to resume construction soon, said
      interfaith coordinator Jessica Masse. The group recently raised almost
      $2.3 million for the work, $1.3 million of which came from the October
      sale of office space in Cambridge, she said.

      ===

      [The Globe article is probably libelous and probably merits a call to
      the New York Times lawyers. ]


      Lawsuit over mosque site is dismissed
      By Stephen Kurkjian, Globe Staff
      February 25, 2007
      http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2007/02/25/lawsuit_over_mosque_site_is_dismissed/


      A Suffolk Superior Court judge dismissed a lawsuit that contended the
      Boston Redevelopment Authority's sale of a parcel of land in Roxbury
      for a price significantly below its appraised value to the Islamic
      Society of Boston violated the constitutional separation between
      religious groups and the state.

      [Why significant rather than discount as in the AP article? $175K is
      slightly less than $401K. I buy stuff at just under 50% all the time.]

      Judge Sandra L. Hamlin ruled that James C. Policastro of Mission Hill
      did not have legal standing to challenge the sale because he did not
      file his lawsuit within 30 days of the sale, which the Legislature set
      as the BRA's deadline for appealing the agency's decisions. Policastro
      filed his suit on Sept. 28, 2004, more than 16 months after the BRA
      sold the parcel. The sale price for the parcel was $175,000, and the
      society spent another $43,820 to improve the land. It had been
      appraised at more than $400,000.

      [That means the ISB spent $218,820 or more than half the valuation of
      $401,00. It is hardly an unusual discounting.]

      The Islamic Society planned to build the largest mosque in New England
      on the site, along with a school and a cultural center, but completion
      of the project has been delayed by funding problems and controversy
      over extremist remarks by two former officials of the society.

      [THE ABOVE PARAGRAPH IS REALLY BAD. THE GLOBE IS SUPPOSED TO REPORT
      THE NEWS NOT MAKE JUDGMENTS WHETHER THE COMMENTS OF THE DIRECTORS ARE
      EXTREMIST. IF THE GLOBE/TIMES DOES NOT RETRACT, THE ISB MAY HAVE TO
      SUE KURKJIAN AND THE GLOBE BECAUSE ALLOWING THIS REPORT TO STAND
      UNCHALLENGED MIGHT TEND TO SUPPORT THE DEFENDANTS IN THE DEFAMATION
      LAWSUITS.]

      In her decision, Hamlin rejected Policastro's contention that he was
      not bound by the BRA's deadline but instead should be afforded the
      court's customary three-year period to bring the suit because he was
      contesting the agency's decision on constitutional grounds.

      [Federal or state grounds? If federal which it must be because of lack
      of establishment clause, Policastro is in the wrong court. The lack of
      establishment clause in the Massachusetts constitution gives the
      proceeding the flavor of a vexatious suit.]

      Hamlin, however, said she was basing her ruling on a 1988 Supreme
      Judicial Court decision that held that taxpayers were limited to the
      30-day period to appeal decisions of redevelopment agencies.

      In an interview yesterday, Policastro said that because he was not
      paying for the lawsuit himself, the decision whether to appeal would
      be up to his lawyer, Samuel Perkins of Boston. Perkins said yesterday
      that he would appeal. Policastro and Perkins both declined to say who
      was paying for the lawsuit.

      [Interesting. This comment makes the Policastro case look somewhat
      sinister. I have been wondering who pays the lawyer for a long time.
      It makes me think that the documents obtained via discovery only
      disclosed part of the conspiracy, and then I must wonder whether the
      Globe might be linked into the case in some way once Policastro's
      sugar daddy is identified.]

      Perkins said Policastro remains determined to find out why the BRA was
      so intent on selling the 45,000-square-foot parcel, located in Roxbury
      Crossing, to the Islamic Society. A related suit filed by the David
      Project, a nonprofit Jewish advocacy group, to force the BRA to
      release all documents related to the sale, remains open.

      [The David Project does not describe itself as a Jewish advocacy group
      but as an Israeli advocacy group. I am uncomfortable from a
      journalistic standpoint that the above paragraph in which a lawyer
      discusses "intent" is indirect discourse. The reporter should have
      used a direct quotation.]

      "The city isn't getting full payment for the land, and there are a lot
      of things that we need to be aware of that we are not," Policastro
      said yesterday.

      A spokeswoman for the Islamic Society of Boston praised Hamlin's
      decision in a statement.

      "We are very pleased that the court put an end to the legal campaign
      against the Islamic Society of Boston, which is part of a greater
      effort by those seeking to oppose area Muslims from building a place
      of worship," said Jessica Masse, the society's inter faith
      coordinator. "Part of Mr. Policastro's suit demanded that the ISB
      return the land and the mosque be torn down. Now this threat is gone.
      It is full steam ahead now -- we will see our mosque built to completion."

      [Even if it were true that the ISB had underpaid, wouldn't it be more
      reasonable for them to simply be asked to pay the difference? -WVNS]

      Albert L. Farrah Jr., a lawyer for the Islamic Society, said Hamlin's
      decision was a proper one that would discourage legal objections to
      redevelopment projects long after contractors had broken ground on the
      jobs.

      About $12 million has been spent on the project so far, and Masse said
      yesterday that the Islamic Society hoped to raise another $2 million
      to complete construction of the mosque and part of the school in time
      to open by the beginning of the Ramadan season in September.

      [This actually looks fair. 3 paragraphs for Policastro and Perkins.
      3 paragraphs for Masse and Farrah with the ISB last.]

      Stephen Kurkjian can be reached via kurkjian @ globe.com.

      *********************************************************************

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