Roxbury church gets slight reprieve in effort to stave off bank that loaned it money for failed project

A federal judge last week told a bankruptcy judge to reconsider an order that would require the Charles Street AME Church to pay OneUnited Bank the more than $3 million it borrowed for a community center that was never finished.

In his ruling, US District Court Judge Richard Stearns did not disagree with the logic used by a bankruptcy-court judge to conclude that the church owes the bank the money, but said that judge would have to provide a more detailed explanation for his conclusion.

The church, which dates to its 1839 founding on Charles Street on Beacon Hill, borrowed the money in 2006 after its leader, the Rev. Gregory Groover, had "a vision from God" to buy a long vacant Warren Street building and convert it into the Roxbury Renaissance Center.

But the contractor walked away when the church stopped paying it as costs escalated due to structural problems with the building, as a fundraising drive to complete the project faltered during the 2008 recession and a council of AME churches in the Northeast declined to step in to help.

The church defaulted on the loan, the bank sued and the church filed for bankruptcy two days before the bank was going to auction off the church building at a foreclosure sale.

In its bankruptcy filings, the church said it shouldn't be forced to repay the loan because the bank violated the state's consumer-protection laws. Essentially, the church said the bank should have known there was no way the church could repay the loan and that the loan was therefore fraudulent.

Last November, a judge in federal bankruptcy court in Boston agreed the bank should have been more careful in examining the project's finances, but also said the bank took steps to limit the financial risks to both sides and that the church never told the bank of key issues, such as that its fundraising drive was faltering, so there was no fraud. If anything, the bank tried to show the bank how risky the loan was by lending it far less than it had first sought, Judge Frank Bailey wrote:

By rejecting the Church’s request for underwriting the full Project, limiting the amount of the loan, and working with the Church to structure a more‐workable loan, the Bank enabled the Church to better understand the risks. I find that, from the date of the closing on the Construction Loan, the Church, especially through [its project manager], always fully understood the financial risks and hurdles that the Construction Loan and the Project presented. The Church understood these risks at least as well as the Bank did. In at least one important respect, the Church’s understanding was better than the Bank’s: the Church went into the loan closing with knowledge that its capital campaign was grossly underperforming.

The church appealed. In his ruling last week, Stearns noted the church did not dispute any of the facts in the case, or even try to press its original claim that the bank knew from the start the loan would fail. So the homework he set for the bankruptcy judge is to determine whether the bank showed "reckless disregard for facts which made it likely that the loan would fail."

Bankruptcy ruling, which has a history of the failed project, featuring appearances by Bain Capital and Bay State Banner Publisher Mel Miller (700k PDF)
Stearns's ruling (290k PDF)

Giant cartoons go up along Back Bay bike paths to try to get drivers to stay out

Jonathan Fertig and some friends went along Mass. Ave. overnight, planting these signs in the alleged buffers between the bike lanes and the rest of the road. The Globe reports the signs went up in response to Mayor Walsh's comments last week about bicyclists and pedestrians needing to accept some blame for crashes, but Fertig reports he actually made up the signs last fall:

Quiet section of Neponset path with dramatic bridge opens

On Friday at 5 p.m., DCR opened the newest section of the Neponset Greenway, a 1.3-mile stretch from near Central Avenue into Mattapan that includes the new Harvest River Bridge crossing the river between Mattapan and Milton.

If you pull into the parking lot for the Ryan Playground, on River Street, sort of opposite Gladeside Avenue in Mattapan, follow the new path into the woods, which will take you to the Greenway. Turn left and you'll soon come to the bridge, the river and the path towards Lower Mills.

Neponset path
Neponset River

A tablet explains the bridge's name:

Neponset means Harvest in the original Indian language of the area

You'll get glimpses of the historic Mattapan trolleys (but if you want better views, head towards Lower Mills or Mattapan Square):

Neponset trolley

Along the way, you'll find some wildflowers - some of which are pretty small and require some bending over to get a good view of.

Neponset purple wildflower
Neponset reddish wildflower
Neponset white wildflower
Neponset yellow wildflower

Construction of the new segment.

When completed, the Greenway will let you walk or bike from the mouth of the Neponset at Dorchester Bay to the Martini Shell in Hyde Park (which in turn is a relatively short walk to another path into the Blue Hills Reservation).

A new low in Boston world-classism

I was all set to complain about Dan Shaughnessy returning to his stupid "tomato can" fixation in his piece yesterday about just how badly the Celtics did (sorry, Dan, the German for "tomato can" is not "tomato can"), but, no, if I'm going to get all ranty about a Globe columnist today, I'm going to get ired up about Mike Ross, because, unlike Shaughnessy, Ross really should know better.

Ross wrote a column about how nice it is to work in an office where dogs are allowed. That is, well, nice, and booyah, good on ya, Mike, but he just couldn't leave it at that:

Pardon the hyperbole, but I’ll just come out and say it: We may never be a world-class city until companies in Boston adopt more dog-friendly policies.

Now, Ross was a city councilor during the Menino era, when questioning Boston's world-class status became a rhetorical device akin to the old "If we can put a man on the moon, why can't we ..." question. So you'd think he of all people would realize just how ridiculous that sounds.

But then again, maybe this is a good thing. Ross also used to argue Boston was failing at being world class because of our bitching about big stuff like the Olympics or the IndyCar race. If all we have to do to finally end the Great Boston World Class Debate is require local white-collar employers to install office fuzzies, maybe we're in pretty good shape as a city after all.

Man charged with stabbing T bus driver in Lynn

Transit Police report arresting a man they say stabbed the driver of a route-426 bus twice in the back around 11:45 p.m., Saturday.

Passengers on the bus grabbed the man after the attack on Boston Street at Fenton Avenue and held him until police could arrive. Police report the driver, stabbed "without provocation," was taken to a local hospital and is expected to survive.

Police did not identify the suspect, but said he is 53 and lives in Lynn.