Bronx Community Solutions

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Friday, September 09, 2016

Partnerships in Action: BCS and NYPD Team Up to Clean Up

by Moises Reyes, Community Service Coordinator


Bronx Community Solutions' work in action.
(mailbox graffiti before and after)
Today, the community service team, along with police officer Clarivel Socola from the Bronx's 41st Precinct, headed to Prospect Avenue to assist with painting over graffiti on residents' mailboxes.  This clean-up was requested by two longtime Bronx residents at a recent precinct council meeting attended by BCS staff members.  The project succeeded with the help of BCS Crew Supervisors Anthony Gonzalez, Corey Hatton, Omar Camacho, UPNEXT Intern Samuel Torres and three Bronx Community Solutions clients.  We were able to paint 15 mailboxes along Prospect Avenue and the residents were very pleased to see their mailbox looking like new again.  Projects like these point to the solid partnerships Bronx Community Solutions has built over the past 11 years and how those enable us to best-serve our clients and community.  The positive relationships that have been cultivated with our local police precincts enable BCS's community service team to address the Bronx's most pressing needs and for our clients to give back in practical, restorative ways.   









BCS Crew Supervisor Anthony Gonzalez assists a client with painting


Friday, August 12, 2016

National Night Out

by Moises Reyes, Coordinator of Community Service & Initiatives


On Tuesday August 2, 2016, Bronx Community Solutions' Community Service Crew went to Longwood Avenue and Southern Blvd to support the NYPD's 41st Precinct with National Night Out, an annual nation-wide community building campaign that promotes and brings together precincts and their communities.  Music, food and games are provided for residents of every age.  Bronx Community Solutions assisted by sweeping the sidewalks and removing trash.   

The Community Service team then moved on to join the 44th precinct at 169th St. and Jerome Avenue where they helped with clean up around the area and the parking lot, making sure National Night Out was safe and clean for all children and families coming to the evening event.


BCS's Community Service Team helps the 44th precinct (above) and 41st precinct (below) prepare for National Night Out

43rd Precinct National Night Out (below)


Families and residents enjoy the climbing wall, moonwalk and other fun and games


BCS Community Service team members (left to right) Anthony Gonzalez, Tiffany Barksdale and Corey Hatton


 


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

BCS to the Rescue

by Anthony Gonzalez, BCS Crew Supervisor

On the morning of July 5, 2016, BCS Community Service crew members Corey Hatton, Intern Jamal Carmichael and I, along with three BCS clients, set out to one of our regular work sites.  While riding in the van on Jerome Avenue, we noticed an enormous amount of trash and debris left behind by crowds of people celebrating 4th of July the previous day.  Even though this was not our original destination it was obvious Mullaly Park was in desperate need of extreme clean up.  I asked the park supervisor (one of our partners from Parks Department District #4) if we could lend a hand.  They were very grateful to utilize our assistance and we were grateful to take advantage of the chance to help our partners, neighbors and Bronx community.  

Mullaly Park in the aftermath of July 4th celebrations (3 pictures below)



Back to pristine condition after the BCS Community Service Crew took
charge (3 pictures below)






Monday, May 23, 2016

Bronx Community Solutions Hosts Appreciation Breakfast for Our Partners

by Shlomit Levy, Clinical Coordinator

On Friday May 20, 2016, Bronx Community Solutions hosted an appreciation breakfast to personally thank those agencies who have partnered with us over the years.  Our partners range from employment training, substance abuse treatment, Department of Veteran’s Affairs, health education services, Planned Parenthood, CASAC training institute, Community Service sites, and various other agencies.  Our preferred partners assist in providing group facilitation to our menu of social service groups, provide outpatient treatment and support services, and refer interns who are seeking learning opportunities.  The providers had the opportunity to hear from all of Bronx Community Solutions’ program coordinators as well as network and learn about each other’s roles at BCS.  Awards were presented to three providers that have served the clients of BCS for over 10 years: Arms Acres, Vertex and World Vision.  One provider stated “I never realized how many clients Bronx Community Solutions served and how many programs you have”.  
For more pictures of the event, check out the slide show above.   

Arms Acres drug treatment program received a certificate as one of BCS's longest partnerships

Monday, May 16, 2016

Talking Bail Reform at the Schomburg Center

by John Megaw, Director of Special Initiatives

The Vera Institute of Justice and the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice hosted a forum on bail reform last week at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. The forum, titled “Resetting Bail: the Price of Justice in New York City”, took a hard look at the current bail system – how it works, strategies for improving to make it more fair and effective and the pioneering practices already in place to inspire enduring change.

Speakers included Elizabeth Glazer, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, Miriam Popper, Program Director of Alternatives to Detention and Incarceration at the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, Nicholas Turner, President and Director of the Vera and Honorable George Grasso, the Supervising Judge of the New York City Criminal Court Arraignments.

One of the pioneering practices highlighted is the new Supervised Release program that began on March 1 in Criminal Courts in all five boroughs.  Over 500 men and women who might otherwise be languishing on Rikers Island awaiting trial have already begun in the program in less than three months!  A video highlighting some of the success stories from the program, including a Bronx Community Solutions client, was well received by the 250 criminal justice reformers and community members who attended the forum.
 


 

National Reentry Week


by Ramon Semorile, Intake Specialist

April 24-30 was National Reentry Week--a week focused on bringing awareness to the needs of individuals returning home from prison.  On April 28th, Reentry Anonymous, a support group for returning citizens, was invited to participate in a forum called, "I'm Home, What's Next?" for inmates who were nearing the end of their sentences.  I represented Reentry Anonymous on the panel and answered inmates' questions.  Common questions were how to avoid negative people, places and influences and how to cope with the anxiety of supervised release, career and confronting old habits. 

Most of what I witnessed was the inmates' courage--the courage to change their lives.  I saw this in how they nodded their heads in approval and hearing what they believed or were attempting to achieve as returning citizens. 

The two other panel members were returning citizens and became inmates again but they recognized their mistakes.  They told the other inmates what errors they have committed, recognizing they needed another approach to keep themselves out of jail.  It was a great event  and I can't wait to go back for another opportunity to speak.  It is just as important to give returning citizens the opportunity to become productive members of society as it is to close prisons and jails. 
 



Friday, March 18, 2016

NYPD hosts BCS at Annual Community Partners Appreciation

by Moises Reyes, Community Service Coordinator and Jennifer Petersen, Deputy Project Director

On Monday night, BCS was escorted by 44th precinct Detective Carmen Tejada to the NYPD Community Partner Appreciation Day.  The event focused on thanking organizations like BCS for building and improving the relationship between police officers and the community through the NYPD's Community Partner Program.  The program assigns new Police Academy graduates to work with a group of local community partners who orient the officers to their assigned neighborhood--local leaders and the policing issues of greatest concern to residents and businesses.  Officers must introduce and get to know constituents of all ages and backgrounds in their patrol area, building trust and a sense of safety among residents.  

Since 2005, Bronx Community Solutions has maintained a positive relationship with the 44th precinct through the precinct's Community Affairs department, led by then-Officer (now Detective) Carmen Tejada.  Joint projects have included BCS clients assisting the precinct in graffiti cleanup, trash removal and event setup.  


Captain Brienza, 44 Precinct; Dr. Cary Goodman, 161st St. Business Improvement District;  Marie Forbes, NYC Housing Authority, Detective Carmen Tejada, 44 Precinct, Elyse Allbee, Daughters of Jacob Nursing Home; Jennifer Petersen, Bronx Community Solutions; Moises Reyes, Bronx Community Solutions; Cory Shaw, West Bronx Recreational Center; Officer Santos Collazo and Officer Brian Ortiz, 44 Precinct


Along with remarks from Commissioner William Bratton, we heard from an NYPD recruiter about their efforts to make the city's police force more culturally and ethnically diverse. The event closed with the night's community partner honoree, Music With a Message. This talented group of young people is spreading positive messages through song and has even recruited musically-inclined local NYPD officers to join their band.  Though many issues still need to be addressed, it was encouraging to see the results of NYPD's recent efforts to outreach and address the concerns of their community. 



Bronx-Based "Music With A Message" performs at the NYPD Community Partner Appreciation




Monday, March 14, 2016

Supervised Release: Bail Alternative Program Proves Early Success for Clients and Community


BCS's Supervised Release team: John Megaw, Latoya White, Elizabeth Swan-Taylor, Tracee Paige, Rosa Aguirre, Anibal Cortes and Mabel Jerez (not pictured: Shaina Adjei and Doreen Gonzalez)
Mayor De Blasio's citywide focus on bail alternative programming has allowed Bronx Community Solutions to expand its court presence through a new initiative called Supervised Release.  Designed to reduce dependence on unnecessary jail time and monetary bail, Supervised Release allows lower-risk defendants to remain in their communities, jobs and families while awaiting trial.  In addition to their court-required check-ins, all defendants in the program receive a thorough needs-assessment from BCS social workers and are referred to needed services such as vocational programs, housing or substance abuse treatment.

Early Success
David* was mandated to BCS's supervised release program through a charge for criminal possession of a controlled substance.  During his initial intake, the 28-year old male revealed that he was unemployed and was expecting his first child.  With a baby on the way and no employment prospects, David wanted to focus on creating a resume and finding a job.  BCS Director of Special Initiatives, John Megaw, referred him to Employment Works, a longtime BCS partner who assists individuals with criminal histories in finding employment.  Though David was mandated under "level 1" supervision requiring once per month contact, he chose to meet with John weekly to receive additional support and work toward his goals.  David was also without medical insurance and was able to meet with a Blue Cross Blue Shield representative at BCS's office to enroll in Medicaid.  Within a month of his initial intake with Supervised Release, David proudly reported that he had created his first resume and started full time work at a retail store in his neighborhood with the help of Employment Works.

David is just one of the 90 clients already assigned to Supervised Release and an early indication that bail alternatives can be a win for both individuals and the public. 


*name has been changed

To learn more about the citywide rollout of Supervised Release, visit
http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/336-16/mayor-de-blasio-citywide-rollout-17-8-million-bail-alternative-program

Friday, February 05, 2016

Career Talk With Our Court Clerks

Senior Court Clerks Jackie Oates and Anthony Dorsey (middle) with our BCS interns
The following post was written by Bronx Community Solutions' Compliance Coordinator, Lovis Nelson-Williams.  Among the many hats she wears, Lovis organizes a quarterly "Career Talk", an opportunity for BCS interns to learn about the many career opportunities within our court system. 
 
“Upward mobility”, “job security” and “lifelong friendships”.  These are key words used by Senior Court Clerks Jackie Oates and Anthony Dorsey to describe working for the New York Unified Court System.  Ms. Oates and Mr. Dorsey were invited to speak with Bronx Community Solutions’ interns as part of a quarterly career talk hosted by BCS.  The two clerks provided an overview of how they came into their careers and insight into their role in the courts.  Oates and Dorsey have both previously worked in the private sector and were able to lay out many benefits to working in the public sector.  From amazing health benefits to unionized protections (that provided job security even during the economic downturn), both recommended that our interns seek out employment in the court system.  In addition, BCS interns learned about the promotional exams that allow for a tremendous amount of room to grow in the profession of court clerk (which includes financial as well as task-oriented growth).

We learned that court clerks are also considered peace officers, can perform arrests and are able to carry firearms.  Mr. Dorsey and Ms. Oates work together in the Bronx’s arraignment court, which handles everything from approving search warrants to general arraignment work (seeing defendants upon their first contact with a judge).  Court clerks are known as “New York’s Smartest” because of the comprehensive knowledge required of the role; clerks must be well-versed in civil, criminal and housing court procedures.

Ms. Oates and Mr. Dorsey, like many court employees, have years of experience working in the court system.  In this time they have forged lasting friendships and familial bonds.  They expressed an appreciation for a work environment that “doesn’t even feel like you’re going to work.”  As with any family, there will always be rough patches but the general consensus is that embarking on their careers in the courts has been one of the best decisions that they have ever made.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Community Service Crew Brings Relief after Winter Storm

The mornings of January 25-29 were cold yet prosperous days for Bronx Community Solutions' Community Service crew.  The staff assisted in removing the snow that paralyzed the Bronx during the first blizzard of the season, and one of New York City's largest in history.  The areas of focus included the 161st Street and Sheridan Avenue strip.  With six BCS clients in tow, crew supervisor Anthony Gonzalez and intern Parnell Farrow took the lead in clearing snow around fire hydrants, opening paths for the handicapped to navigate and providing sidewalk space for pedestrians to travel smoothly and safely to their destinations.   

Snow removal at community partner site, West Bronx Recreational