The Policastro case

  • The ISB purchased land from the BRA for $175,000 in May 2003. An independent appraisal by Meredith and Grew Inc. valued the land at $480,000. The ISB received this reduced sale price because of their participation in the Urban Renewal Program. Seventeen other religious institutions, many of them Jewish and Christian, have similarly benefited from this program that sells land not for the highest profit, but in an effort to improve the local neighborhood and provide community services exceeding the appraised land value. Thus, in exchange for the reduced sale price, the ISB agreed to work with Roxbury Community College to sponsor and provide “a variety of educational and cultural programs and services to the local community in Roxbury.”
  • During the five year review process that led to the land purchase in 2003, the BRA and the ISB provided numerous opportunities for public participation in the planning and negotiations (including open meetings of the BRA board of directors and at least eight public community meetings facilitated by the ISB).*
  • On September 28, 2004 James Policastro, a Mission Hill resident, filed a lawsuit against the City of Boston, the BRA, Roxbury Community College, the ISB, and the Islamic Society of Boston Trust on the basis that this transaction constituted a violation of the separation of church and state.
  • On February 23, 2007 the Massachusetts Superior Court ruled in favor of the ISB, maintaining that the plaintiff had sufficient opportunity to participate in the public process that led to the project’s approval.

*Policastro Law Suit Fact Sheet. ISB; August 29, 2006. Available at: www.isboston.org/v4.0/resources/ISB_Policastro_Suit_Statement_3_23_062_2... Accessed March 20, 2007.