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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Changing the Courts in the UK

One year after opening pilot community justice centers in North Liverpool and Salford, Lord Chancellor Falconer (essentially the UK's chief court administrator) announced that ten new courts will be opened across England and Wales, and other jurisdictions encouraged to adopt this new approach.

The ultimate goal: "to see community courts in every part of England and Wales in the next two years," according to Lord Falconer.

The ten court projects are slated for Birmingham, Bradford, Devon and Cornwall, Hull, Leicestershire, Merthyr Tydfill, Middlesbrough, Nottingham and London. Planners will be spending the next few months meeting with community residents to learn about their concerns.

Lord Falconer's announcement shows not only the increasingly international appeal of the community court model, but the powerful role that national leaders can play in advancing the movement.

I'm hopeful that community courts in the UK will serve as a laboratory of innovation, providing ideas and new approaches that can be adopted in the Bronx. For example, based on the example of the Salford Community Court, we're looking at creating a "Judge For Yourself" event, in which citizens meet with judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys and discuss how the court responds to real-life low-level criminal cases.

We'll be following the UK's experience over the next months to see how our partners are doing across the Atlantic!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

First Steps

Today, the Bronx Community Solutions community service crew took a broom, shovel and rake to the first of what will be many step streets throughout the Bronx.

Pedestrians traveling on 176th Street at Jerome Avenue, on Clifford Place at Jerome Avenue, and on Davidson Avenue at Featherbed Lane should see a noticeable difference. Old car doors from nearby chop shops have been removed, planter boxes filled with bottles and chip wrappers have been thoroughly cleaned, and piles of slippery fall leaves on step slopes have been raked into bags. And the whole thing will be cleaned again in two weeks.

Located in Community District 5, the three sites cleaned today were identified by Community Board 5 and by the Department of Sanitation as locations in need of some serious attention. In addition to trash buildup, the areas are home to walls covered in graffiti and the heavy foot traffic of subway riders.

Although the Department of Sanitation makes an effort to clean the steps as often as they can, they simply do not have the resources to be out on the steps on a consistent basis. This is where Bronx Community Solutions comes in – through our community service mandates, Bronx Community Solutions has a steady stream of labor and a desire to respond to the stated needs of different Bronx neighborhoods. So we’ll be back every other Tuesday now to make sure that these steps stay clean and safe.

And this is only the first phase of the cleanup – our goal is to work with community residents, local businesses, and community-based organizations to remove the graffiti, make sure the lights are working, and put flowers and plants in the planter boxes that are usually home to trash. Today was definitely a successful start to the project and we’re looking forward to the work ahead!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Before and After: Bronx Zoo Service Day

On a nice autumn day, I decided to revisit the Red Hook Public Safety Corps Bronx Zoo Service site.

As I walked to the underpass, my mind went back to my first observations of the mural, when Bronx Community Solutions decided to take on this endeavor and the mural was in dire need of repair.

I was uncertain if we would be able to totally restore this mural - Boy was I wrong! As soon as I reached the outer point of the mural, immediately, I was amazed at the transformation of the mural.

From the service project to Crash's detail work, the mural was restored plus!