Bronx Community Solutions

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Friday, July 31, 2015

A Day in the Life...Community Service from the Perspective of a Resource Coordinator

Jeffrey Seplowe, BCS Resource Coordinator, in the grey shirt
As a Resource Coordinator I am usually stationed in courtrooms, providing alternative sanction recommendations to judges that include but are not limited to community service, social service groups and longer-term programs that divert participants from otherwise serving out their sentences at Rikers Island. I was invited to come help out the crew, and learn first-hand what it's like for our clients to participate in community service.
The site, before we began our work
The corner of 151st Street and Cedar Avenue, Bronx
I was paired with one of the Community Service Supervisors, Ramon Semorile. As we approached the site with graffiti as well as garbage I began to get a better understanding as to what the crew supervisors go through on a daily basis. We took out the paint, put on gloves and started getting to work alongside the participants whom had been mandated to perform community service. Halfway through the day, two women from the neighborhood passed by and thanked the whole group for our service and smiled as they continued walking down the block. That community presence added to the experience and had showed the participants that participating really does make a difference in the community. We as a staff know that their participation also upholds one of the many goals of Bronx Community Solutions - to demonstrate restorative justice to the community and to the courts. This experience greatly helped improve my overall knowledge of our community service program. It also gave me direct insight as to what not only community service crew supervisors handle on a daily basis but also what our participants go through when mandated to community service. 

Participants and BCS staff working on repainting the wall
A few days later, I stood on a case in court on behalf of a client who was one of the participants in the community service crew that I joined the week before. Back in my role as resource coordinator, I reported to the judge on his completion of his community service mandate, which helped him avoid a criminal record. This made the experience even more impactful and allowed me to see the process come full circle. 

- Jeffrey Seplowe
Resource Coordinator, Bronx Community Solutions

The finished product!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

BCS Helps Out Harmony Day

Hi everyone,

On July 21, BCS participated in the annual Harmony Day Picnic, a success event by NYPD at Van Cortland Park. The goal of Harmony Day is to provide a place for police officers and the community to come together to enjoy a warm day with food, drinks and a lot of games for all ages. This year, Bronx Community Solutions assisted by providing community service staff and clients who helped by building tents, cleaning the area and setting up barriers around the premises, working alongside participants from the NYPD Explorers program.

Enjoy the pictures!

- Moises Reyes, Coordinator of Community Service and Initiatives

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

BCS Helps Prepare for a Mural on the 177th Street Bridge

Preparing for a mural to go up on the 177th Street Bridge
On June 18, 2015, BCS Community Service was invited to participate in the first stages of a graffiti removal/mural project by priming the East 177th Street Bridge, between the Bronx River Parkway off-ramp and Park Avenue in the Bronx. We were prepping for Saturday June 20th, at which time an organization called Publicolor would come and do what they do best, creating cultural designs. This one of many projects put together nicely by Emily Colasacco, the ‎Director of Urban Art/Summer Streets at the NYC Department ofTransportation. Some of the pictures reflect the enthusiastic of BCS staff and clients. All supplies were provided by The Department of Transportation.

BCS is looking forward to keep doing this type of work with Emily Colasacco and her team.

Enjoy the Pictures!

- Moises Reyes, Coordinator of Community Service and Initiatives

Covering graffiti and prepping with the base color
Preparing for the work, paint at the ready

One side of the surface, prepped and ready
...And the other side of the bridge
Stage one of adding colors to the mural
The finished product!

BCS Cleans Up Graffiti in the 48th Precinct

On June 17, 2015 we received a call from Community Affairs Officer Perez from the 48th Precinct, requesting that we provide assistance with graffiti cleanup on East Tremont Avenue in the Bronx. We decided to conduct this work on July 7, 2015 at 1:00pm, utilizing the combined efforts of BCS Adolescent Diversion Program community service participants and participants in the NYPD Explorers Program from the 48th Precinct. 

Some of the locations required retouching on beams, which meant painting over numerous times. The day was humid and hot but despite these conditions, the ADP clients and the Explorers worked with enthusiasm. They expressed joy in doing work that would improve the visual appearance of the neighborhood.

This work is part of a long-term partnership with the area. Since 2007, BCS has adopted more than 50 locations in the West Farm section of the Bronx to target for removal of graffiti. 

In all we retouched four locations - three of them are pictured below.

- Ramon Semorile, Bronx Community Solutions Crew Supervisor

729 East Tremont - Before
729 East Tremont - Before, with police barrier to prep for our work
729 East Tremont - putting on the finishing touches
729 East Tremont - Finished
731 East Tremont Avenue, after our work with a fresh coat of paint
815 East Tremont Avenue - Before
815 East Tremont Avenue - After

Thursday, July 02, 2015

BCS Helps Out at the Bryant Hill Community Garden

Justin Briggs (BCS), Gerald (WorldChangers Church) and Moises Reyes (BCS)
On Saturday, June 20th, Bronx Community Solutions invited community partners to a beautification project taking place at the Bryant Hill Community Garden. The project was the result of a collaboration with Ms. Hernandez who oversees the Garden. We collaborated with her to apply for a grant through Love Your Block, an initiative of the Citizens Committee for New York City. We were successful with our application and began planning our collaborative project. On the day of the event, BCS staff and some of their family members chipped in by helping with the garden. Four Adolescent Diversion Program community service participants worked alongside us, as part of their mandated community service. Justin took over the grill, but after two hours of work we were interrupt by rain which made us wrap up early for the day. We were nonetheless able to do some work such as: removing branches from one side of the fence, pulling weeds from around plants, cleaning and opening old walking pads so people could navigate around the garden. We spoke about coming back for a second clean up. Gerald from World Changers church is one of the partners who are willing to come back. We are aiming for Friday August 21 - stay tuned!

- Moises Reyes, Coordinator of Community Service and Initiatives


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Procedural Justice at Work in Newark

Another press clip about a partner project of Bronx Community Solutions - this time featuring Newark Community Solutions, and the procedural justice tenets they are able to employ with the help of an enthusiastic judge, Judge Victoria Pratt.

The Simple Idea That Could Transform U.S. Criminal Justice

"[There are] four principles of procedural justice: first, that people who come before a judge trust that the process is impartial; second, that they are treated with respect; third, that they understand what is going on and what they are expected to do; fourth, that they have a voice. Defendants find the procedure fairer when they are allowed to state their views. Experimental evidence shows that this is true even when they are allowed to speak only after the judge has announced their decision. No one likes to lose a court case. But people accept losing more willingly if they believe the procedures used to handle their case are fair."

Monday, June 22, 2015

Red Hook in the Press

Judge Alex Calabrese, who has presided over RHCJC for the last 15 years

Recently there was some great press in the New York Times about our partner project, the Red Hook Community Justice Center. Check it out here:

A Court Keeps People Out of Rikers While Remaining Tough

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

BCS Cleans Up and Gains New Partners

Last Thursday morning, BCS Community Service Crew Supervisor Ramon Semorile, BCS UpNext Intern Marlow and myself along with five BCS community service participants headed to Waste Management in the Bronx as part of a new collaboration. We met with Joanne Persad, Government and Public Affairs Manager of NYC Waste Management. Waste Management is responsible for the collection, transport and disposal of garbage, sewage and other waste products. This collaboration was made possible after the suggestion by John Johnson from GrowNYC, with whom Bronx Community Solutions has worked many times on educating the public about the important of recycling. 
We worked at the edge of the Harlem RiverYard Wild Life Habitat, a section of which was affected by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. We participated by picking up trash, raking dry leaves and pruning. Our work involved preparing the ground for an organization called the New York Restoration Project, who will now be able to start planting in the area.

We are hoping to have a follow-up event where we bring participants to help with the final product! To be continued...

- Moises Reyes, Coordinator of Community Service and Initiatives

Thursday, May 28, 2015

BCS Paints Over Graffiti in the 48th Precinct

At the end of last month we received a call from Community Affairs Officer Perez from the 48th Precinct asking for our help removing graffiti in his district. We decided on a date, and on May 14 we brought a crew of seven BCS participants over to a new location, 178th Street and Park Avenue. We covered the area including the MetroNorth overpass and spanning to an area that we had painted over before, expanding on our previous work. All participants worked with enthusiasm and it was a very productive day. Some of our participants started out expressing resistance about doing graffiti removal work, but by the end of the day they were smiling and proud of their work. Enjoy the pictures below.

- Ramon Semorile, Community Service Crew Supervisor
The area, before the crew painted

The finished product

The area now looks more well-tended

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

BCS Cleans Up Bronx Stadium Garden

BCS paired up with community partners to clean up and plant near the 161st street tunnel
Last Friday, the BCS community service crew headed up to Bronx Stadium Garden located at 161st Street and Gerald Avenue (at the 161st Street tunnel). In attendance were supervisors Ramon Semorile, Omar Camacho, myself and four community service clients. We worked together with a 161st Street Business Improvement District staff member and Jennifer Beaugrand from The Bronx Is Blooming. We started by pulling weeds, pruning bushes and planting. The photos speaks for themselves as well as the passion, energy and joy of everyone involved in this project including the BCS clients.

- Moises Reyes, Coordinator of Community Service and Initiatives
Clients and supervisors headed to the site
Learning about what the day's work will entail
Preparing the ground and clearing out weeds
A community service participant digging a hole for a new plant 
The ground is now ready
Another participant does some planting
Working hard
The tunnel, after our efforts!