Making a difference

Ever since Bronx Community Solutions began operations in 2005, one of its main goals has been to demonstrate that an innovative approach to court-ordered community service can result in projects that are more meaningful for both defendants and the community and lead to higher rates of compliance. By scheduling clients to begin community service immediately, identifying new community service partners, developing its own clean-up crew, and closely monitoring the work of clients, Bronx Community Solutions has created visible improvements to neighborhood conditions in the Bronx.

We recently received some awards recognizing the contributions that our community service programs have been making in the Bronx, so I thought I would share a little bit of the story behind each of them.

Graffiti and the 44th Precinct
Despite hundreds of millions of dollars in economic development and rising property values in the Bronx, complaints of graffiti in the borough increased by 58% in 2008 (New York Daily News, "Graffiti a slap in the face to changing Bronx"), costing business owners and taxpayers thousands of dollars. In response, Bronx Community Solutions has partnered with the District Attorney and the NYPD to tackle the issue. First, the District Attorney and Bronx Community Solutions work to make sure that graffiti offenders who don’t face long incarcerations are sentenced to community service and assigned to clean-up crews that work specifically to repair the damage of graffiti (you can view an analysis of the sentences graffiti cases receive in the Bronx that we conducted here).

Then, Bronx Community Solutions works with NYPD Community Affairs officers in 8 of 12 police precincts across the Bronx to identify sites, work with property owners to obtain permission and conduct clean-ups. Bronx Community Solutions was recently recognized by the 44th Precinct Community Council for its efforts to address the problem of graffiti in a ceremony attended by the Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. and District Attorney Robert Johnson, and has also been recognized in several newspaper articles.

Coordinator of Community Service Moises Reyes and Crew Supervisor Ramon Semorile celebrate their award from the 44th Precinct with Officer Lonesome of the NYPD.

Southeast Bronx Neighborhood Centers
In the Summer of 2008, Mike Rustin, the director for youth and family services of Southeast Bronx Neighborhood Centers (SEBNC)’s Forest Neighborhood House, approached Bronx Community Solutions. His organization had three neglected and overgrown lots that had been the site of considerable dumping. His dream was to rehabilitate them and put them to use for gardening with mentally disabled adults. However, like so many small non-profits, his budget was tight and he was hoping Bronx Community Solutions might be able to assist him.

We already had some experience tackling tough projects like this (back in 2007 we worked with Mount Hope Housing Corporation to address severe dumping that had occurred on the site where they have now built a beautiful new community center), and we've been working with Sustainable South Bronx and others to assist community gardens, so we thought that we could help.

We brought out crews of community service participants to clear out the dumping and now we're working with SEBNC to develop a garden on the site. After SEBNC installed a new floor in their gymnasium we helped them paint the facility and then decided to partner with them on hosting our basketball league. The league, designed to provide a forum for positive interactions between youth and law enforcement recently completed its third season with a spirited championship game between a youth team and a team of police officers from the 41st Precinct.

Judah Zuger accepts an award from SEBNC