Menino's mosque

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  November 24, 2008

Another contractor who has stepped in to help finish the job is Azid Mohammed, owner of Trinma construction.

Mohammed, according to reports in both the Globe and the Herald, is "Associate A" in the FBI affidavit outlining the current case against Wilkerson, submitted in federal court last month. A petition Wilkerson filed last month sought to name "Trinma Development and Management LLC as the developer of parcel 8." According to the FBI's allegations, Wilkerson accepted cash bribes in exchange for this assistance in giving Mohammed's company the rights to develop a large project in Lower Roxbury — without going through normal city designation processes.

Sources who know both Mohammed and Ali-Salaam say that they are close friends. Both attended the Shawmut Avenue mosque for years. According to Moriarty, Ali-Salaam and Mohammed both attended an important pre-groundbreaking planning meeting, held at ISB's mosque on Prospect Street in Cambridge. And, says one source close to the project, Mohammed's company took over the Roxbury mosque construction project as a personal favor to Ali-Salaam.

As the federal case against Wilkerson proceeds, it will be interesting to see if it sheds any light on Wilkerson's stalwart support for the mosque. A person who worked for a time with the ISB now says that he had always found Wilkerson's support surprising, since the project seemed clearly to be for the benefit of a non-black, non-Roxbury group.

It does not appear that the city has kept an eye on whether the mosque leadership has followed through on promises to contribute to the local community, either. Many Roxbury Muslims, and other residents this reporter has spoken with, say the failure has been clear.

One indication of lax oversight is the apparent neglect by the mosque of its contractual obligation to maintain nearby parks.

When transferring the land for the mosque, the BRA credited the ISB with close to $200,000 toward the purchase price, in exchange for an agreement to maintain the adjacent Clarence "Jeep" Jones Park — named after the BRA's chairman — and the White Play Space.

The 10-year agreement took effect in February 2003. In effect, the city has been paying the ISB $1600 a month for the job — which, even Kaleem concedes, it has not been doing.

Throughout this past summer, Jeep Jones Park was a mess. Garbage was strewn everywhere; graffiti marred some surfaces; a series of exercise stations were mostly rusted and weeded-over to the point of inaccessibility; thick cracks ran across the basketball-court concrete; benches were badly in need of paint. Sections of a chain-link fence separating the park from the Timilty Middle School have been wrenched away and left leaning against one another.

As bad as Jeep Jones Park is, at least it's usable — which is more than can be said for the White Play Space. Although a sign still proclaims HOURS: DAWN TO DUSK, the gates were padlocked 24/7 for more than a year — until mosque leaders were recently informed that they were not allowed to close a city-owned open space. (Read more on the mosque's Failed Commitments.)

A quiet coup
For the past few years, mosque leaders have worked to allay fears that the new facility will harbor conservative practices, or even dangerous extremism. But the signs have been mixed.

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