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Monday, June 30, 2014

Success Story - Ms. R.

Sometimes at BCS we are asked by judges or attorneys to help a client by finding a unique solution appropriate to their situation. Special attention to individual cases is something that we are able to offer the court. One such case was brought to our attention a couple of weeks ago - Ms. R. The case had garnered some media attention, heightening the sense of urgency to respond to it appropriately. Ms. R. was facing a charge of child endangerment after an incident that occured while she was under the influence of narcotics. Though her lawyer was eager to get some help for Ms. R. because, as it almost always is, the details of the case tell a complicated story.

Ms. R. revealed to her attorney that she has been battling substance abuse for two years. The attorney felt strongly that jail would not be the best option for her due to a long history of trauma with which she was struggling to cope. We coordinated with a colleague at CCI who works with women who have experienced trauma. She knew of a treatment program that provided substance abuse treatment to women who have also experienced intimate partner violence.

The referral process is not always as straightforward as making a call and showing up, especially when the client in question is incarcerated and cannot simply show up at the program for an intake. Ms. R. would only be released on the condition of us finding her a program that would treat her, and her going directly to that program. We had to be sure ahead of time that she would be accepted by that program. Consent forms needed to be signed and sent to all parties (BCS, the client, Riker's Island, and the program), evaluations needed to be acquired and conducted, and then of course the court parties had to all agree that this would be an acceptable disposition. BCS was able to do this but it pulled in many staff members - three social workers, two resource coordinators, and even our Project Director stepped in.

Ultimately we were successful in enrolling Ms. R. in the treatment program, and the court was willing to offer her a mandated treatment program as an alternative to jail. We don't yet know how Ms. R.'s story will end, if she will turn a corner at this point in her life and make the necessary changes to stay sober, cope with her traumatic history and avoid future arrests. But I felt certain that at the very least we had done everything we could to give her an opportunity to make that change. Spending a year in jail would not likely have afforded her that chance.

- Robin Berg, BCS Deputy Project Director

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

BCS Helps Out in the 41st Precinct

Bronx Community Solutions is able to respond to specific requests by community partners who require assistance in improving the appearance of various streets and neighborhoods. Sometimes this strays from the usual litter cleanup and graffiti removal projects in which we have become specialists. This week we were asked by the 41st Precinct to assist with a special project near the police station, where we expanded our painting expertise. Moises Reyes writes about it below:

"BCS has being working with the 41st Precinct for around eight years. We have done many projects together such as graffiti removal and supporting events in the community, and we have built a strong relationship with them. On June 2nd Bronx Community Solutions did an unusual project, consisting of painting lanes on the parking lot of the precinct and giving a new coat of paint to the posts protecting gasoline pumps on the same lot. This job was requested by Lt. Betances. Of course we do not have any experience doing this type of work, but with a little creativity on behalf of both the precinct and BCS, and a good crew who did careful work, we were able to make it happen. Matthew Usher was the crew supervisor for this project. Matthew, thanks for the hard work you put into this project. I think it looks awesome."

- Moises Reyes, Coordinator of Community Service

The parking lot Before...

...and After, with bright new lanes
The posts Before their new coat of paint, looking spotty
...and After, looking spiffy

Brownsville Community Justice Center Cleans Up

Our sister project, the Brownsville Community Justice Center, recently tackled a longstanding neighborhood eyesore, succeeding where other attempts had failed. It's a great story that illustrates how complicated it can be to do something as seemingly simple as a clean-up project, and how rewarding it is to make a visible change for the better in a neighborhood. It involved collaborating with community and municipal agencies as well as a lot of ad hoc monitoring of the site itself. Bravo to BCJC staff for going the extra mile!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Justice Center coordinates massive, multi-agency clean-up in Brownsville

For as long as anyone can remember, the space behind the fence in the Langston Hughes parking lot has been a dump site. For well over a decade, a homeless man had made it his encampment and accumulated literally tons of trash and debris behind it. The site has been an eyesore and health hazard in the community. It smelled of urine and feces, children in the adjacent playground were afraid to go near it, and no one would park in the spots nearby because the man was known to vandalize cars. Even though everyone wanted it gone, there was no a quick fix. The dumping was actually on private property (behind a Belmont Avenue sneaker store), but the property owner didn't have access because NYCHA had put up a fence and he had no rear entry. The lock on the fence had long rusted over and Sanitation could not gain access. As far as NYPD jurisdiction, while the parking lot was policed by PSA 2, the dumping site was technically precinct turf. There was also great concern from all parties about how the homeless man would react if the site were cleaned which had stalled previous efforts.

The solution to this problem required a commitment from all city agencies involved to work very closely together. Luckily in Brownsville's community district 16, we have phenomenal partners committed to going above and beyond to get the job done. This project would not have been possible without NYCHA and Langston Hughes Property Management, Dept. of Sanitation BK 16, NYPD's 73rd precinct and PSA 2, Common Ground's homeless services outreach team, and Ms. Viola Greene-Walker, our Community Board 16 District Manager.

At the end of the day, the project was a success on multiple levels. Not only did it show us that no job is too big if we work together, it removed a huge symbol of blight and disinvestment from the community. Throughout the morning, dozens of Langston Hughes residents stopped by to express their excitement and relief that the site was being cleaned. One even leaned out the top floor of the 21-story development to shout, "Yay! It's finally being cleaned. Thank you!"

The clean-up was an initiative of the Justice Center's Belmont Revitilization Project and Operation Toolkit. Operation Toolkit takes a problem-solving approach to tackling discrete neighborhood problems, particularly hotspots and conditions of disorder that impact public safety. To learn more or to suggest an Operation Toolkit project, contact Viviana at 347-404-9940.
Before the cleanup. The dumping measured 22 feet wide, 4 feet deep and between 6-9 feet tall.
NYCHA's welder was the first to arrive at the site.
Soon after, NYCHA property management, NYPD conditions officers from the 73rd precinct, and Common Ground street outreach workers arrived
along with the Department of Sanitation BK16 cleaning and field officers.
NYPD was effective in engaging the homeless individual to leave the site voluntarily and without incident.
After NYPD used their bolt cutter, the welder began to dismantle the fence.
The garbage was so compacted it did not fall with the fence.
DSNY surveyed the site as their sanitation truck arrives.
The first half of the fence comes down.
And the clean-up begins.
First to go were the corrugated metal and wrought iron fences.
NYCHA, NYPD, DSNY and Justice Center staff look on.
NYCHA provided two "front-loader" bobcats to assist with the clean-up.
DSNY strategize with their district superintendent.
It got a lot dirtier before it got cleaner.
Ready for the second half of the fence to come down.
NYCHA and DSNY survey the second half.
Like the first half, it was so compact it did not fall.
NYCHA hard at work breaking up the debris.
The NYCHA Borough Administrator for Property Management and BK16's Cleaning Officer track progress.
At one point 3 cats ran out of the site.
A few rats, and many, many roaches.
More than 6 tons of debris were removed.
NYCHA returned after this to sweep the premises and exterminate, DSNY came through with their street sweeper and NYCHA will power wash the wall.

NYCHA will not replace the fence so the dumping problem does not recur. The Justice Center will work with the property owner to finish cleaning the site, scrape and repaint the wall, and monitor it to prevent future dumping. The Justice Center, property owner, and NYCHA will develop a project to permanently reclaim and beautify the space - possibly planter boxes of flowers and a mural.

Stay tuned for more updates!