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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Bronx Community Solutions does it's small part, to address a Big problem in the Bronx court house.

Since arriving in January, Justice DiMango has been an anomaly in the Bronx courts, where she is charged with clearing a backlog of felony cases that had swelled to crisis proportions. Her brash style and forceful personality, not to mention her relentless efficiency, have set her apart in a courthouse infamous for inaction.
In six months, she has churned through more than 500 cases, slashing by 40 percent the backlog of those over two years old, and leading senior court officials to declare a partial victory after years of failed efforts (read full article here)
While Bronx Community Solutions takes no credit for this victory, at the request of Justice DiMango, we have and  continue to make ourselves available on cases she deems appropriate for a community service disposition.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Staff Summer BBQ!

Last Friday, Bronx Community Solutions staff and interns enjoyed our annual staff picnic/BBQ to celebrate the summer. This year it was held on the rooftop of Via Verde, a new residential building complex in the Bronx where we have conducted community service projects in recent weeks. Staff brought their families and everyone had a great time! The rain that day chased us off the rooftop unfortunately, but a community room on the top floor of the building was available for us to set up food and drinks. It was great to unwind with the BCS family and toast to our hard work all year long. Enjoy some pictures from the event below.

Bronx Community Solutions cleans up!

Councilman Andy King with BCS Crew Supervisors Matthew and Moises
Last Wednesday, at the special request of District 12's newly elected councilman Andy King, Bronx Community Solutions embarked on a new initiative to clean under the elevated 5 train from Gunhill Road to 225th Street (in the northeast section of the Bronx). This block of train stops have been historically plagued with litter and garbage, and are a huge eyesore for the community. Bronx Community Solutions plans to keep this span of blocks on our regular community service rotation, maintaining the area to a higher standard of visible order.

Press was there to cover the cleanup event. Community service crew supervisor Matthew Usher was interviewed briefly by News12!
 Great job to Moises Reyes and the BCS Community Service team!!
- T.K. Singleton, Coordinator of Community Initiatives

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Bronx Community Solutions Participates in Re-Entry Resource Fair

On June 20, 2013, Bronx Community Solutions, in collaboration with the Bronx Re-Entry Task Force, participated in a Re-Entry Resource Fair held at Hostos Community College in the Bronx. The event was aimed at connecting organizations and service provider agencies with returning citizens, to discuss issues related to re-entry and provide them with valuable community resources. Below is a description of the Fair by an Intern of Bronx Community Solutions, who took part in the day's event.  

"I was recently able to attend the Bronx Reentry Working Group’s (BRWG) Third Annual Community Forum Resource Fair, and I can wholeheartedly state that the event was a success! The fair was comprised of multiple sections, and included a panel discussion from returning citizens who are now professionals within the human services field, informative introductions from organizations about the services that they provide, and savory lunches for everyone to enjoy. The panel discussion was especially moving because of the panelists’ candid honesty on the personal obstacles that they encountered after their release from incarceration. It was also inspiring to know that they were able to utilize their personal experiences as points of reference for their professional work despite the adversity that they faced."

"The speakers touched on the issue of juvenile justice, and its relationship to the Department of Education (DOE). They suggested that the DOE should employ initiatives geared towards the adolescent population that instill sentiments that are oppositional to criminal behavior, and that enforce the importance of educational advancement. Another highlight of the event was Nichole Singleton’s presentation of the Offender Reentry Awareness Program (ORAP), and her passionate emphasis on the essential role of the community for a returning citizen’s reintegration into society. A returning citizens’ relationship to their community can illuminate resources that can propel that individual’s academic or career endeavors, which can consequently affirm their identity, reinforce cultural norms, and hopefully deter further criminogenic behavior."

"During lunch, the organizations were able to interact with returning citizens to make assessments of appropriate referrals to services. It was a great way for reentry practitioners, community-based organizations, and policy makers to form potential collaborations and to meet with prospective clients that could help fulfill their missions and goals. The forum was also an effective method for returning citizens to build a robust and healthy support system, which is vital towards a successful reentry. In addition, the information that was provided during the forum helped the returning citizens to be abreast of the ever-changing regulations that pertain to the general equivalency diploma (GED), health-care systems, housing, and other policies concerning individuals involved with the criminal justice system. Special acknowledgements should be given to Health People for making the event possible and for providing compensation to acquire the locale, Metrocards, and food."

- Janer Cordero, Bronx Community Solutions Pinkerton Fellow

Monday, July 01, 2013

The First Days of Summer

BCS Staff and Crew cleaning up the lot outside Via Verde
When you think of Summertime in New York City, you may think of Coney Island, free summer concerts, and Shakespeare in the Park - but here in the Bronx we think about community service. During the first official week of summer, Bronx Community Service was buzzing with some amazing community service events.

On the first day of summer, Friday, June 21, Bronx Community Solutions partnered with Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo, the New York City Mayor's Office, Department of Sanitation and the residents of a new Bronx residential development called Via Verde to clean a Mott Haven lot that used to be a railroad, which over time had become a community eyesore. This area is sandwiched between a high school and a sports field, near the newly developed condominium. The lot had been being used as a shanty town which was removed to make room for the new residential building - however the area was left with a large amount of garbage and other debris. Bronx Community Solutions brought a crew of eight defendants and focused on raking up trash and grass, picking up all of the garbage and construction litter. Our day's work substantially improved the appearance of the lot and surrounding area.
BCS Staff and Community Service Participants picking up trash left in the lot

An aerial view of the lot outside Via Verde lot, before cleanup
The same lot, after!
On Monday, June 24th, Bronx Community Solutions partnered with the Bronx River Alliance, the Department of Sanitation, Community Board 9 and the Mayor's Office to clean-up a Bronx River waterfront which had become a neighborhood eyesore. This waterfront was owned by a private owner but had been essentially abandoned, subject to years of neglect. The Mayor's office took over ownership and donated it to the Bronx River Alliance but was in need of assistance in cleaning up the waterfront. BCS brought nine community service participants to pick up garbage and debris that had been collecting there over time: tires, discarded mattresses, pieces of wood, and litter. 
Trash that had accumulated on Westchester Avenue, next to the waterfront

The crew in action at the waterfront area
Picking up the garbage alone took almost three hours to complete
The waterfront area looked much better after the efforts of the crew!

For both cleanups at Via Verde and at the Waterfront, there were hundreds of discarded hypodermic needles littering the area that needed to be cleaned up safely. The Department of Sanitation has an Environmental Police Unit that specializes in the safe removal of needles and other dangerous items. They sent four representatives from the Unit to each event to safely manage the removal of the needles, to insure that BCS staff and participants would not be at risk of infection or harm.

Youth Police Explorers and BCS ADP Crew Participants painting over graffiti behind the Paradise Theater
On Thursday, June 26, Bronx Community Solutions partnered with the 46th Police Precinct's Youth Explorers Program and a local church for a graffiti cleanup event. The Atlanta based church World Changers International recently purchased the historical Paradise Theater. Volunteers from the church, Youth Explorers from the 46th Police Precinct and BCS Adolescent Diversion Program community service participants worked together to clean-up graffiti that had accumulated on the wall behind the Paradise Theater and pick up trash and debris on the surrounding sidewalks. Local neighborhood activist Sidney Flores was present at the event, offering drinks to all the volunteers and speaking with community members. This graffiti clean-up was a part of the preparation for a Community Block party sponsored by the Church. Many community members spoke to us and expressed their gratitude for our efforts, thanking us for helping to engage local youths in maintaining and improving the community.

As the season gets in high gear we look forward to what is in store for Bronx Community Solutions and our transformative community service programs!
- Moises Reyes, Coordinator of Community Service
Bronx Community Solutions