Shoddy Reporting of Roxbury Mosque Conflict
- Shoddy Reporting of Roxbury Mosque Conflict
Overview plus commentary by Joachim Martillo - thorsprovoni@...
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
Judge dismisses lawsuit over mosque site
February 25, 2007
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
"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
"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
[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
The Herald article has more serious problems.
Judge tosses mosque suit vs. Boston
By Laura Crimaldi
Sunday, February 25, 2007
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,"
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
[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
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
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
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
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
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
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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