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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Praise for Court Staffers

The steps of the Queens County Courthouse became a familiar site to New Yorkers during the weeks of coverage surrounding the Sean Bell case. Whatever you might think about the proceedings and the verdict, an article in today's Daily News says both the victims and the defendants in the trial are unanimous in their opinion that the court personnel handled the trial with upmost professionalism.

"The respect, protection and the sincere kindness that was received from [the] court officers ... serves as a small comfort at a most unfavorable time in [our] lives. Mr. and Mrs. Bell would simply like to say: Thank you," Valerie and William Bell wrote in a letter.

"The highly professional court staffers ... served the interests of justice ... in their efforts to assure that equal-handed, courteous treatment would be shown to all," lawyer Steven Kartagener wrote on behalf of the three acquitted detectives and their legal team

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Graffiti Wars, Continued

Addressing graffiti as a quality of life issue is complicated. Positive art form? Self-expression? Contesting ownership of urban public space? Gang warfare? While there is a lot of nuance, and a lot of different situations, this article from the Daily News shows what an outrage graffiti can sometimes cause. Vandals recently defaced a mural to a fallen FDNY officer killed on 9/11.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Celebrating Team-Up to Clean-Up: Taking it another notch!

From Coordinator Of Community Initiatives, T.K. Singleton:

“Why even bother? These punks are going to come back here and tag up on these walls the minute you guys leave!” -A business owner on Timpson Place

How would you respond to that statement? Many of us here at Bronx Community Solutions are trying to solve that question. Ever since we started coordinating graffiti clean-ups around the Bronx, that has been our struggle- more like a war! As complaints and arrests for graffiti are on the rise in the Bronx, Bronx Community Solutions has been working steadily to solve the issue of these eye-soars (working in 10 out of the 12 precincts in the Bronx).

When thinking about participating for the second year in the Bronx Borough Presidents Team-up to Clean-up event, we wanted to create a community service project that would be sustained and change the overall look of a community. With close collaboration from NYPD commanding officers, we developed Community Impact. Community Impact was created to support and develop local infrastructures that would otherwise have a challenging time to achieve and sustain long-term change in a small concentrated area that is plagued with graffiti, trash and other eyesores. It’s our second generation of community service and community engagement projects geared towards addressing particular issues that effect the overall look of a community. So far, we’ve got four Community Impact projects planned, in Community Boards 2, 6,8 and 9, and we kicked off in Community Board 2 for Team-up to clean-up.

This collaboration includes the NYPD local precinct, tenant associations, business owners, the Department of Sanitation, the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit and local community-based organizations. With the 41st Precinct’s Community Impact area we have the Precinct Councils president’s full assistance and support.

Weeks leading to the event, Rosa B.(41st Precinct Council President) and Officer Haddock( Community Affairs Officer for 41st Precinct) scheduled meetings with multiple tenants associations, building management companies like South Bronx Community Management and Citizen’s Advice Bureau. Moises, our Coordinator of Community Service, and myself went to many informal meetings with residents, building superintendents, and business owners, and we received mix emotions about the concept of Community Impact. But we keep on pressing!

Team-Up to Clean-Up incorporated Law Enforcement Explorers from the 41st precinct, and Bronx Community Solutions clients completing their community service requirement. We arrived at the site on cold, misty Saturday morning. The day was full painting and pizza. As the day went on, one business owner came out and gave us a graffiti waiver so that we could clean his building. “You guys are coming back right?”

For more information on this project, contact T.K. Singleton, Coordinator of Community Initiatives: E-Mail

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Community-Based Planning

Here's a link I found today. It opens a PDF document: Planning for All New Yorkers: An Atlas of Community-Based Plans. Bronx Plans.
  1. The Bronx Center
  2. Decommissioning the Sheridan Expressway
  3. Draft Hunts Point Bronx CB-02 197-a Plan (Draft)
  4. Partnership for the Future Bronx CB-03 197-a Plan
  5. Melrose Commons Urban Renewal Plan
  6. Claremont Village; Creating a Public Housing Community
  7. West Farm CCRP
  8. Jerome Park Reservior Plan
  9. Discovering the Center: A Vision Plan for the Bronx Hub
  10. South Bronx Waterfront Revitalization Plan
  11. Mid-Bronx Neighborhood CCRP
  12. Mount Hope CCRP
  13. Mt. Hope / Mt. Eden CCRP
  14. Longwood / Hunts Pt. CCRP
  15. Crotona Park East CCRP
  16. Bronx Comunity District 08: A River to Reservoir Preservation Strategy 197-a Plan
  17. Acheiving a Balance: Housing & Open Space in Bronx Community
  18. Protecting Our Hunts Point Neighborhood from Dangerous Truck Traffic
  19. The Old Croton Aqueduct
  20. East 138th Street Revitalization Plan
  21. Bronx River Greenway
  22. Greening Hunts Point
  23. The Oak Point Eco-Industrial Park: A Sustainable Economic Development Proposal for the South Bronx
Click Here to download the full document, with details for each plan

In this post from a few months ago, I meditated on the obvious changes taking place around the 161st Street/Grand Concourse corridor, some of which are elements of the "Bronx Center" plan.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Inside a Mental Health Court

Channel 7 did a story on the Brooklyn Mental Health Court. Click here for an inside look.

Changes in the Juvenile Justice System

According to NY1, Mayor Bloomberg recently announced that starting next month, juveniles arrested in the city on the weekends will be taken before judges in Manhattan, to prevent youth from being held in jail for up to several days.

(Before this change, anyone under the age of sixteen arrested over the weekend had to wait until Monday to go before a judge, unlike individuals in the adult criminal system, where arraignments take place 365 days a year, day and night)

"At a press conference Monday, 'Ani' said she was 15 years old when she got arrested and detained in jail.

'It's not even safe in there,' said Ani.

Instead of quickly going before a judge, she said she stayed behind bars for three days."

As the article explains, Ani is a participant in QUEST, an alternative to detention program run by the Center for Court Innovation.

"The only reason I changed is because they were calling my house, calling my school, making sure I was on track. If not, I was going to go to jail," said Ani.

Which got me thinking...

Ani's quote reminded me that attention and follow-up, the perception that someone is paying attention, can affect people's actions when it comes to complying with a program and following court orders. For the roughly 1000 clients we handle each month, there are limits on the amount of time we can spend dealing with each individual. However, as we've assessed the cost/benefit ratio of various practices, we've discovered that placing a phone call or sending a letter the very first time any client fails to show up for an appointment has a real effect. To this day, it still shocks me, but it's often clear that one simple phone call can bring someone into compliance who had forgotten, blown off, or otherwise ignored their mandate.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


221.10, a section of the New York State Penal Code dealing with possession of marijuana, is a typical charge for Bronx Community Solutions and for the Bronx court system as a whole, representative of the high-volume, low-stakes business that makes up the major bulk of criminal cases processed in New York City. This article in the NYT gives a good snap shot:

"He had been caught with $30 worth of marijuana after his car was stopped on Riverside Drive, an offense against Section 221.10 of the New York State penal code. His case involved surveillance by an unmarked car and two officers who then stayed late into the night processing their prisoner, fingerprinting him, writing a complaint and taking his mug shot.

The court proceeding lasted about 45 seconds. The charges would be permanently dismissed if he stayed out of trouble for a year, which did not appear to be a big challenge, since he had never been arrested before."