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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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.”
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 Massie 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.
With a great deal of funding coming from the usual suspects, the Saudis.