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Thursday, May 26, 2011

CCI Launches a New Youth Anti-Violence Initiative

 (Youth Organizing to Save Our Streets) YO S.O.S, a new program of the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center and younger sibling to Save Our Streets (S.O.S.), is proud to announce its official launch, celebrated at a Founding Action Event on Friday May 20th. The event introduced the YO S.O.S. youth organizers to the community and celebrated their accomplishments. In just one short month, YO S.O.S. participants have attended an anti-violence march, traveled to Washington D.C. for an anti-gun violence lobbying day, and created a PSA at the Manhattan Neighborhood Network - all on top of their biweekly workshops on leadership, community development and job training.

Deservingly, these young people were celebrated by an array of community members, including two wonderful guest speakers: Tanisha Douglas, CCI's own recent intern at Quest, and Wayne McKenzie, General Counsel to the NYC Department of Probation.

More info about the program is available at, on Facebook, and on Twitter (yo_sos). Hope to see you 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

New York Times Article Explores Impact of Budget Cuts on Court System

Cuts Could Stall Sluggish Courts at Every Turn
Published: May 15, 2011
Weekend arraignment courts will be reduced, presenting the possibility that prisoners will not see a judge within 24 hours, as required by law.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Second ACT Mural Project (Bronx Week Event)

In celebration of Bronx Week, Bronx Community Solutions, in collaboration with TAT'S CRU INC, the New York City Police Department's Forty- Fourth Precinct, Forty- Sixth Precinct, Community Board Four, and Community Board 5 hosted our Second Project A.C.T. (Artist Coming Together).

Project A.C.T. is our newest anti-graffiti initiative. This year's mural theme is "culture and community". This Bronx Week created community beatification in  area that lacks municipal agency attention. BCS and the artists are committed to maintaining the murals in these areas as a way to help promote businesses that thrive in the South Bronx, and neighborhoods that want to change the area's appearance by deterring.

The mural is a back drop to an ever changing area in the south west part of the Bronx. Sidney Flores, a community resident and partner to project ACT has taken this area of Morris Avenue as one of his major community transformation projects. He has not only worked on this Mural project but also helped to create the park that is adjacent to the Mural. Mr. Flores has lobbied for a traffic light on that intersection, added additional garbage cans on two of the four corners of that street and continuously patrols the neighborhood to ensure the area is safe.

Saturday's event was a success to all that showed up and participated; this was one of the only BCS events that occurred completely with community volunteers (no mandated clients). Our volunteers ranged from neighborhood junior high school students, Justice Corps members, the neighborhood bodega owner and Sidney Flores. They all spent the day painting, cleaning and enjoying the weather. Sidney talked with the students about "community responsibility" and "being the change you want to see"

Special thanks to the facilitators of the event, Moises, Ramon, Matthew, Omar, David and Michael the super crew supervisors! Not only did they identify the space for the Mural, they also collaborated with all municipal partners to insure garbage pick-up and painting occurred.

Written by: TK Singelton,
Community Initiatives Coordinator

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Law Day Reflections from an AmeriCorps Member

By, Michael Patterson

On Law Day (April, 29th) three attorneys from Bronx Defenders, Judge Hecht, and myself sat with a group of students from the school of Law Government & Justice high school to examine the role of defense attorneys in the criminal justice system. The students asked a few questions and each of the panelists would answer each question the students asked.  It was a learning experience for them and for me as well because i received answers to some of the questions I always wanted to ask. Three Questions that caught my attention were:  1. What made the panelists want to become a defense attorney?  2. Why should an attorney defend a guilty client? 3. What makes me (Michael) want to become a defense attorney?

What made the panelist want to become what they are today? I always felt like this was a very competitive field to study with a lot of difficulties so I found that question very interesting and I always wondered how an attorney or judge would answer that question.  One of the attorneys answered that question by saying he wanted to be the voice for those who couldn’t afford a private lawyer. I agreed with him because that would be the reason why I would want to become a public defense attorney. I live in similar neighborhoods that these defendants come from so I know how it is to not be able to afford a lawyer and I know how it is to be accused of something that you did not do.  For  example, “Trespassing”.  A lot of people don’t know or even think about trespassing when they are at their destination. So for the police to approach them off guard can be a little aggravating. Although it is the law, I feel if the person can prove that their going to a friend’s house or they do have a reason for being at that location then the arrest should not be made.

When I asked the panelists “Why should an attorney defend a client if he/she is guilty?” I thought they wouldn’t know how to answer it. I thought that was a brilliant question because that is a question I always asked myself but never had an answer until that day. Sean Riley, of the Bronx Defenders said that everyone deserves a second chance and as an attorney it’s his duty to defend his client as much as possible. The students didn’t seem to agree by the looks on their faces.  I agree but I wonder how the attorney feels when the accused was proven innocent with them knowing that their client was really guilty. Tricky question.

When one of the students asked me “What makes me want to become an attorney?” it sort of caught me off guard because I wasn’t expecting to answer any questions. I would like to be an attorney because I’ve been on both sides of the fence which gives me the ability to understand my clients more.  I’m young and I’ve had police interaction before. Also from what I see and hear, the majority of the people getting arrested for low level crimes are age 17 through 25. I see a problem in that and I wouldn’t mind being the voice for the accused.  Sean Riley of the Bronx Defenders said if the youth see the police the first thing they think is harassment and when the police see the youth the first thing they think is trouble. I agree with that statement and I feel there has to be a way to change that perception.

Having the opportunity to sit with the students from L.G.J. and the 4 panelists was a great experience. It was also an honor. I never actually got to sit beside judges and defense attorneys before.  I hope to do something like this again.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

BCS and Albert Einstein College of Medicine Organizes Reentry Forum

The Bronx Reentry Working Group, a collaboration between Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Bronx Community Solutions, is hosting a Reentry Forum and Resource Fair, I'm Home ... What Next  on Saturday, May 7, 2011 from 9:00 AM - 3:30 PM at the School of Law, Government, and Justice, 244 East 163rd Street Bronx, NY (behind the Supreme Court building).
The day will include a Resource Fair with over twenty Bronx-based organizations; a keynote address by Camella Pinkney-Price, Deputy Chief of Staff for Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr; a moderated panel discussion on strategies for success coming home after incarceration (featuring CCI's own Ramon Semorile and Cramon Milline); break out sessions on health, financial literacy, and knowing your rights; and community organizing sessions informing participants about local advocacy campaigns.
The full program is below.  Lunch will be provided. 

I’m Home … What NExt?

9:00     Resource Fair
            The Resource Fair will be available in the gym from 9:00 AM – 3:15 PM

9:30     Welcoming Remarks
Pamela Amie Valera, PhD, MSW, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, Division of Community Collaboration and Implementation Science, Bronx Reentry Working Group Co-Chair

Mandy Restivo, MA, Bronx Community Solutions Deputy Project Director, Bronx Reentry Working Group Co-chair

9:45     Keynote Address: What Next?
Camella Pinkney-Price
Deputy Chief of Staff to Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.

10:15   Panel: Coming Home: Strategies for Success
            Moderator: Mario Rodriguez, Outreach Specialist, Bronx Community Recovery Center

            Panel Participants:
Theresa Harari, Director of Operations and Business Development, CMO Network
            Cramon Milline, Case Manager Aide, Harlem Community Justice Center
Damon Moore, Director of Programs and Community Outreach, CMO Network
Ramon Semorile, Crew Supervisor, Bronx Community Solutions    

11:30   Break Out Session One
            Know Your Rights: Encounters with the Police, Kate Rubin and Colleagues…..   Room 147
            Financial Literacy, Damon Moore and Theresa Harari….…………………….....   Room 149
            Women’s Health 101, Dr. Rachelle Darout……………………………………....   Room 151
12:45   Lunch in Break Out Rooms
            Hot food items donated by the Habana Room,

1:15     Break Out Session Two       
            Creating Healthy Support Systems, Mario Rodriguez……………………….…...   Room 147
            Healthy Eating on a Budget, Dr. Rachelle Darout……………………….............   Room 149
Certificates of Relief from Disability and Good Conduct:                                       
What They Are and How to Get Them, Kate Rubin and Camella Pinkney-Price.... Room 150
            How Does Going to Prison Affect your Health? Dr. Matt Anderson………….....  Room 151

2:30     Community Organizing Forums
            Women in Prison Project………………………………………………………......  Room 147
            The Bronx Reentry Working Group…………………………………………….....  Room 149
            Stop and Frisk………………………………………………………………….......  Room 150
3:30     Closing Remarks

Liz Schoen, Esq., Director of Legal Programs, CMO Network
Chris McLaughlin, Research Assistant, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

An Update from New York City Community Clean Up

*Community service crews supervised by NYC Community Cleanup, in partnership with MTA New York City Transit, will begin conducting cleanup activities at highly trafficked subway stations in Jamaica and Long Island City (Queens); Brownsville (Brooklyn); Harlem (Manhattan); and the Bronx (in partnership with Bronx Community Solutions).  Station cleaning efforts began on April 20,  in Jamaica and April 27 in Harlem with additional stations to come.

*Cleanup worked in partnership with the Manhattan District Attorney's office to address visible quality of life issues in the location of a recent major gang prosecution.  In the area around 137th Street and Adam Clayton Boulevard, Cleanup teams painted over several graffiti tags and picked up trash to improve the appearance of the block.
*Cleanup assisted the DOT Urban Art Program with priming at three separate locations in Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan, in preparation for the installation of murals on concrete jersey barriers next to the roadway.
*Cleanup teams painted over several large graffiti sites in Brownsville, Brooklyn.
*Cleanup has been working in partnership with the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation to address dumping at a long-standing eyesore property.
*Participants in our specialized youth diversion service learning program continued working on a mural they're painting inside our office with the help of a volunteer artist.  In addition, working together with respondents and participants from the Greenpoint Youth Court, they helped Rev. John Merz clean his church in preparation for Easter services and helped staff at East River State Park to spread mulch around trees and move cobblestones to prevent waterfront erosion.
*As always, Cleanup teams provided extra help along particular Department of Sanitation routes, removing hundreds of extra bags of garbage.  In Long Island City, Cleanup, responding to requests from residents, to help support the installation of additional neighborhood "adopt-a-cans."

For more information about NYC Community Clean UP visit the website:

Monday, May 02, 2011

BCS Facilitates New York City Housing Authority Community Talks

By TK Singleton, Community Initiatives Coordinator
“No officer should ever curse at you and I am sorry, for that” was a response from an officer that was asked about the proper protocol when speaking to youth -- This comment broke the invisible wall in the room for the one of the NYCHA community talks.
Bronx Community Solutions hosted the tail end of a NYPD city-wide initiative to create open dialogues with officers and the community.  We hosted the PSA 7 and PSA 8 community talks.
The First community dialog took place in the Monroe Housing complex, located in the Soundview area of the Bronx (the same neighborhood of the Amadou Diallo shooting). The fifteen community representatives were specially invited (ages varied from 19-54) by the tenant association. Despite the familiarity with NYPD; the relationship between the tenant association’s members and the average patrol officer is estranged. This dynamic led to some interesting conversations. 

The  main topics of discussion were: vertical patrol, trespassing violations and the "writing of names" in the officer’s scrap book. An officer wanted to emphasize that he was passionate about the work he does in the community that he has patrolled for over 10 years- "I care! I care about this job, this neighborhood and the safety of the residents-It might not look like it, but I do." One of the youth replied  "If you take the extra 10 seconds to explain why I'm being stopped, then that will show me you care”

The second talk had over 60 people, mostly youth between 13-22 years of age. The youth had all had prior contact with NYPD and their experiences were varied from positive to negative. At times, keeping the conversation productive was challenging: . Overall, I was pleased with the openness of both the officers and the residents. 

The main questions of the night were about “trespass” and “stop & frisk.” I commend each young person who spoke; they were both respectful and passionate when they spoke about their experiences or when they asked questions.
The discussion took over two hours to finish- both the officers and the youth left with smiles