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Roxbury mosque to open cafe in part so non-Muslim neighbors can better get to know them

The Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center plans to open a cafe in its mosque at 100 Malcolm X Blvd in Roxbury Crossing.

At a hearing before the Boston Licensing Board this morning, one mosque official said part of the reason for the Islamic Common Word cafe is so "the public can begin to come in and meet our congregation - times are such, they are difficult."

The cafe, which would be open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, would serve a variety of dishes from the countries from which mosque members come.

The board decides tomorrow whether to grant a food-serving license. The mayor's office and the offices of at-large City Councilors Ayanna Pressley and Annissa Essaibi-George supported the proposal. Nobody spoke against.

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Comments

The more people get to know one another, the more commonalities can be seen and related to. I hope they succeed.

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The worst wars are 'civil' wars. Do you think that Syrians don't know each other? Serbs and Croats lived next door to each other for their entire lives before they started slaughtering each other. Hutus and Tutsi knew each other as well as I know you. Think about it.

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I hope so too, though that location is a really tough place for this to succeed. Even though Reggie Lewis Center is right there, it's on the other side of a very busy and difficult to cross street and it's not likely to get much foot traffic. The only people who walk directly past it are usually going from the Orange Line to the nearby bus stop, or are residents who live right up the hill and are probably already familiar with the mosque and its congregation. Love the idea, but location, location, location still rules. Hope I am wrong.

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I like the idea and the location could work well. Although it's not a commercial center, it is a busy location on the Southwest Corridor Park with about a thousand bicyclists and four thousand MBTA commuters per day. The T station serves Mission Hill, Eilot Square and Highland Park, as well as two high schools, an adult education center, a middle school, a community college, several churches as well as the Reggie Lewis center. If people know about this coffee shop many will visit.

(BTW there is a full four-way pedestrian light at that corner -- it takes time to wait for the walk light but I don't mind waiting and crossing with the walk signal.)

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You can also bop on over to the corner of Shawmut Ave and Williams Street and get a good lunch at Dayib Cafe which is in the same building with the "Mosque for Praising Allah." It's cheap and the food is plentiful and good. Folks are pretty nice too.

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The overall intent here is nice, but the café is not allowed under zoning in that district. Restaurants, and that is what this is, are not allowed, not even conditionally, under the Community College Community Facilities Subdistrict of the Roxbury Neighborhood District.

Here - See for yourself; https://www.municode.com/library/ma/boston/codes/redevelopment_authority...

I am wondering is the city going to broom this through, since they kind of broomed the sale of the site to this organization under a very, very dubious price ($175,000), even by 2003 standards for 1.69 acres of prime real estate across from a T station. The appraisal for the site was handled by a Mideast based bank and I believe the BRA would not release the report to the public, despite the BRA being, you know, public and the lot sold being, you know, a publicly owned parcel of land.

Here is a little snipet from The Forward about the concern about some groups over the mosque. http://forward.com/news/11052/lawsuits-dropped-but-battles-over-boston-m...

Good luck. I hope the BRA/BPA is just as nice to other churches / mosques / temples / congregations when they want to take their non-profit status out for a commercial ride in an area that forbids it.

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If you crossed out "mosque" and substituted "Catholic Church", would you or any of those "concerned citizens" still have the same "concerns".

If "yes", then carry on.

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Good luck. I hope the BRA/BPA is just as nice to other churches / mosques / temples / congregations when they want to take their non-profit status out for a commercial ride in an area that forbids it.

I'm sure you'll hear all about it, the very second they decide to crack down on bingo games, bake sales, and other fund-raising activities whose connection to outreach is much more tenuous than this.

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The issue for me is do they have zoning clearance to do this?

A lot of houses of worship lie in areas that allow such uses, at the Roxbury Crossing site, they are not allowed to do this.

Are you suggesting that they should be allowed to do it owing to just because someone else did it? So, two wrongs, make a right?

By the way. There is some picking on Catholics here. I have no beef with the mosque (though plenty with the Holy See). I am sure they are very nice people at the mosque, but we have rules in society. Rules are good. They keep people from doing things that human nature sometimes leads to, like hate speech, against Catholics or others. I also see hate speech against Catholics seems to be tolerated on UHub a lot more than hate speech against other faiths. It is just something I have noticed over the years. I am firm lapsed Catholic by the way, but I will defend the church a lot, despite its ridiculous flaws.

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"but we have rules in society. Rules are good"

The issue with your argument is that you are advocating for a rigid approach to zoning laws when these same laws are being disregarded regularly all around the city. If a developer can disregard zoning and state laws, why should this mosque not be allowed to do the same for a better reason than profit?

And this doesn't really even touch on the nature and type of zoning laws these are, and whether they are better or worse than other types of zoning regulations for the community they are meant to protect and enhance.

"There is some picking on Catholics here"

No one has bashed or committed hate speech against Catholics. You made a point in saying this mosque is receiving special treatment, implying that other institutions are not, when in fact the Catholic Church has received special treatment for decades. And that is a fact, not hate speech or getting picked on.

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As Did an Anon above.

Why didn't you say Unitarians? Is there something deeper here you want to explore or are you just filled with hate of papists?

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And they get permits for bake sales. They don't hold massive gambling events on a regular basis.

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You questioned whether the city would exhibit equally favorable behavior towards other institutions, even using the example of the church.

As a response the anon and myself were giving an example of a non-profit institution that the city has already exhibited favorable behavior towards, and the perfect example of such institution in Boston is the Catholic Church.

Why don't you respond to any other aspect of my arguments?

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If you want to get into it, make an appointment with me sometime and we can argue it out, for now, this is a zoning issue that does not pass the smell test on its legality.

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Didn't you say last week that the over 50 zoning variances given for the development at 64 Allandale Street were fine? Or am I misremembering?

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Only, the developers there went through the zoning process and worked on Conditional Uses. Here we have a Forbidden Use. There is a difference.

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on the distinctions--where is conditional use in the zoning regs? I'm not being snarky, just want to understand.

If something is zoned for one-family homes, max. 35 ft. tall, and no basement units allowed--allowing all that and more is conditional use and not forbidden? Can't the mosque then go through the zoning process?

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Some things are just allowed under the zoning code, period. Like in an area zoned for a maximum height of 35 feet, you can build something up to 35 feet tall without permission from the zoning board (assuming you meet the other limits set in the zoning for that parcel).

Some things are allowed, but only if the zoning board approves. You don't have to make a case that could survive a lawsuit, but the drafters of the zoning for you lot just wanted one last set of eyes on the proposal.

And some things are explicitly forbidden. If you want to put up, oh, a three-story apartment building on a lot zoned for single- or two-family homes, when you submit your request to ISD for a building permit, you'll get a denial notice (and chances are, if you're doing something like that, you're probably also wanting to put your building closer to the property lines than the zoning allows and your building will have more floor space than allowed and these days you probably won't meet the city requirements for parking spaces, at least outside of areas such as the Back Bay and the South End).

But the law recognizes that zoning is an imperfect science and that no matter how many times a municipality does rezoning, somebody's going to own or buy a piece of land and get hurt and so you can appeal your denial to the zoning board for "variances" to override the zoning so you can build what you want. You're supposed to make a really good case for why you deserve variances.

I could go on, but it's kind of pointless, because, at least based on my limited viewing of zoning-board hearings, they tend to give variances to developers like candy (I mentioned the apartment example specifically because they did that for a developer who wanted to put an apartment building in a single/two-family zone in Ashmont like half a block away from an area zoned specifically for apartment buildings - and then they told the developer to redesign his exterior to better fit in with the apartment buildings the board's decision had just set a precedent for).

Note I said developers. They will squash you like a bug if you're a single-family homeowner and try to do something like put in dormers if even one neighbor objects.

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So you are discussing where something is specifically F (forbidden), A (allowed), or C (conditional). I get this.

So, let's say, making your one-family into a BandB is conditional. Putting in an ATM or a printing plant is forbidden.

In the West Roxbury regs. for 1-Family zoning, townhouses, basement units, row houses, multi-family, are Forbidden. Just like putting in a cafe. Those items are not listed as conditional.

That was why I was puzzled by your response. And again thanks for taking the time to write.

And relating to your last comment, I am involved in a neighborhood association where I can't remember any time a request for adding a dormer did not prompt a supporting letter to the BOA. I do understand that different neighborhoods react differently and don't doubt your experience. And I do think that individual homeowners often have to jump through too many hoops to make minor changes.

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This isn't a WEST Roxbury thing.

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referencing 64 Allandale development from a previous post.

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You were replying to me, not to the anon, and I didn't mention the word "Catholic". That was your invention.

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To say this shouldn't happen because it does not qualify as an allowable use in that tiny zoning subdistrict, and should not be allowed based on the rigid following of those zoning laws, is absurd. This is a case where prescriptive zoning is no good, and we should be using a performance based zoning.

Beyond that, much of the city zoning has been thrown by the wayside by the BPDA so developers can build enough bulk to achieve returns on their investments, and you're telling me that in this specific situation we should not allow a small cafe with community and cultural aspects to be allowed? Hell the Mayor is trying to abolish a state law so a developer can build a bigger tower that illegally casts shadow on the Boston Common.

Admittedly I know very little about this specific story, but reading that link you posted, there are an awful lot of "alleged", "accused" and "suspicions" but not a whole lot of facts or actual sources. Not to mention this little snippet - "The Boston-based David Project was created in 2002, but it quickly developed a national reputation for hounding Muslims that it perceives to be a threat to the Jewish community." Not so positive.

One more thing- you don't have to hope that the city is just as nice to other institutions taking their non-profit status for a ride because they've already done it with this little institution called the Catholic church.

Why do I feel like if this weren't a mosque, there wouldn't be quite as much uproar about a tiny cafe?

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I think the bigger issue here is why on earth is there a zoning restriction on placing a cafe or restaurant *across the street from a T station*.

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Catholic church has gotten some mighty fine deals in this city as well...any issues there?

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Great idea I wish them the best of luck!

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My problem is that, as a neighbor, I feel that they should not be given a variance until they obey the noise code. I do not want to hear them call to prayer when I am inside my home with the eindiws closed.

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you should get soundproof eindiws.

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It's been a few years since I stopped in, but there used to be a cafe in that building. They had decent coffee and food, and the service was generally pretty friendly - enough that even my Jewish wife felt comfortable stopping in for a bite - if not exactly speedy.

Is this not the same business? Did the cafe go away? Regardless, they should allow it, that area needs some life and the people running the cultural center have been nothing but good neighbors.

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"even" your Jewish wife? I'm Jewish and feel more comfortable in a mosque than in a church...

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jewish ppl and muslims are like cats and dogs! always fighting!!! haha gee golly it was a riot to see them get along

ps. you are not supposed to feel comfortable in a church. the discomfort is to remind you that the watchful eyes of the lord are upon you

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