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Showing posts from 2012

Two Goodbyes

Our last day before we close for the holiday break saw both a happy and a bittersweet goodbye. One of the students in our on-site GED Plus program passed her GED test, and received a standing ovation in the courtroom with a special thanks from her teacher and Judge Calabrese. Now that she has her GED, she is planning on building the baking business she recently started.

The other goodbye is not a true goodbye, but today was Viviana Gordon's last day in Red Hook before she moves on to a new position with our sister project, the Brownsville Community Justice Center. Viviana started in Red Hook over four years ago as an Avodah member in our clinic, and most recently served as the Program Coordinator of our AmeriCorps service program, the New York Juvenile Justice Corps. She has been an amazing colleague, an inspiration and resource to the Red Hook community through her work coordinating commnity service projects and running the Red Hook Youth Baseball League, as well as a great frie…

"We're here to help them learn and grow from this."

Staff from throughout the Justice Center's many partner agencies came together today to learn about the launch of our new Peacemaking program in much the same setting that participants in the program will: by sitting in a circle and breaking bread together.

Peacemaking program staff described the training process, during which peacemakers learned from the experience of Navajo Nation peacemakers and heard from a professional storyteller in addition to sessions run by our Tribal Justice Exchange staff. Describing the way that peacemakers came together despite personal struggles in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Deputy Director Brett Taylor noted that the training process "created a community that trusts each other" and worked to "empower peacemakers to build consensus."

Peacemaking Program Director Erika Sasson expressed her confidence in the abilities of the new peacemakers as we approach the launch of the program next month by telling a story: when one peac…

Problem-Solving with Style

Office of Court Administration Resource Coordinator Alvin Lott buys new glasses because he wants to look more like Red Hook Project Director Julian Adler.

May it Please the Court

Starting today, arraignments are back at the Red Hook Community Justice Center! Thanks to the hard work and coordination of many agencies, the last missing piece of our court operations has been put back into place.

We have also made amazing progress on restoring our basement, which is almost entirely complete. Take a look at photos from less than three weeks ago compared to today:


Justice Never Rests

Alternative Sanctions Coordinator Jackie Soto and Judge Alex Calabrese take a break from the Justice Center's holiday celebration on Friday to discuss a mediation referral.

Open Letter to the People of Red Hook

The most recent issue of hometown paper the Red Hook Star Revue contains a letter to the editor written by our own Judge Calabrese. In the letter, the Judge expresses his deep admiration for the people of Red Hook, praising a community full of "True Champions." Take a look at the letter below, on the Star Revue's website, or pick up a print copy at the Justice Center or your favorite Red Hook business.

Open letter to the people of Red Hook
I am writing to show my deep admiration for the people of Red Hook. Sandy devastated our community. Local businesses endured massive flooding which caused structural, property and inventory loss. Residents saw their homes destroyed or faced unbelievably hard conditions, without water, heat or electricity for an extended period of time, losing personal property, their vehicles and the normal comforts of home.
Despite these difficulties, the people of Red Hook came together as a real community and assisted each other in every possible way…

Small Town Justice

One of the Red Hook neighbors chosen to grace the front page of the Winter 2012-13 issue of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's "Brooklyn Newspaper" under the headline "Brooklyn: Neighbors Helping Neighbors!" has a familiar face. While the caption, "Even some of our youngest Brooklynites wanted to pitch in on the recovery effort after Sandy," focuses on the photo's adorable young helper, the one we recognized is our very own Judge Alex Calabrese, pictured distributing meals in Red Hook's Coffey Park during the week following Hurricane Sandy. Though his service--and the contribution of the hundreds of other volunteers who helped out in Red Hook following the storm--is not directly acknowledged by the paper, we wanted to express our appreciation for all of the unidentified Red Hook neighbors who continue to help each other through our community's recovery.

The rest of the issue can be viewed online here.

A Round of Applause for Red Hook

The more than 6,300 residents in the 2,878 apartments of the Red Hook Houses continue to live through quite an ordeal, even after the nightmare of weeks without power, heat, and water has finally come to an end. Wednesday was our first Housing Court day since the storm, and what could have been a tense, hectic day turned out to be one of the calmest in recent memory. Before he began hearing cases, Judge Alex Calabrese asked all of the residents of the Red Hook Houses in the courtroom to stand up and be recognized for their patience, courage, and all-around amazing attitude in the face of such a difficult experience, and asked the court personnel and other staff to give them a round of applause. Touched, one tenant in the room expressed her thanks to the Judge, staff at the Justice Center, and AmeriCorps members for their consistent presence in the neighborhood in the weeks following the storm and their continued service to the neighborhood, and followed with another round of applause…

We're back!

After close to a full month following the storm, we're officially back! Most of our court operations are back up and running at our home base at 88 Visitation Place after a quick detour to the main criminal courthouse at 120 Schermerhorn Street, and we are set to start hearing online arraignment matters again on Monday, December 17th.

Take a look at a few photos of the rebuilding progress in our basement below:



Juvenile Justice Corps members give tribute to volunteerism in the wake of Hurricane Sandy at AmeriCorps Kick-Off in Albany

New York Juvenile Justice Corps members awoke bright and early this morning to make a 6:00 AM bus to Albany for the annual AmeriCorps kick-off event hosted by the New York State Commission on National and Community Service. More than 1,000 AmeriCorps members from across New York State gathered at the Empire State Plaza for a jam-packed agenda, filled with fun, reflection, and of course, service. 

Among the highlights of the day were Juvenile Justice Corps members being selected to deliver a tribute to AmeriCorps service in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and share some personal testimony from their relief efforts in Red Hook. The full text of the speech delivered by Corps members Salam Mustafa, Pete Martin and Claudia Choi is below.

Additionally, Corps members took the AmeriCorps oath of service, pledging to "get things done for America!" A video of Corps members reciting the pledge is below.

Finally, Corps members had the opportunity to mingle with AmeriCorps programs from other p…

The Meaning of Service Post-Sandy: AmeriCorps Members Reflect

Members of the New York Juvenile Justice Corps have been key to the volunteer efforts in Red Hook, one of the New York City neighborhoods hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy and home to the Red Hook Community Justice Center, our AmeriCorps' program's home base. Here is their story in their own words:

Gregory Mason:  I was really excited about being able to give of my time and not looking for nothing in return, I mean it just touched my heart to see the relief on people faces when I delivered the packages to them.I never in my life would had thought that it would be so fulfilling doing volunteer work and seeing how many people came out to help. I always had love for people no matter who they are and to be apart of something so wonderful is a blessing, and I'm proud to be an AMERICORPS member.

Danny Conyers: On Wednesday October 31st, a day after hurricane Sandy I came to Red Hook seeing the damage it had taken. After seeing the devastation left behind by the storm I knew there wou…

Peacemaking in Red Hook

After an intenselytryingperiod in Red Hook in the weeks following Hurricane Sandy, building, strenghtening, and healing relationships between residents and organizations has become crucial. This past weekend, we took a step towards preparing the neighborhood for the hard work ahead with a two-day workshop with peacemakers from the Navajo Nation for residents we are training to serve as peacemakers here in Red Hook.
A new project from the Center for Court Innovation's Tribal Justice Exchange, peacemaking is a traditional Native American approach to justice. While the exact form peacemaking takes varies among tribes, it usually consists of one or more peacemakers—often community elders—who gently guide a conversation involving not only those directly involved in an offense or conflict but family members, friends, and the larger community. While conventional Anglo-Western criminal courts generally focus on determining a defendant’s guilt and sentence, peacemaking is restorative, foc…

A Happy Thanksgiving!

The Red Hook Community Justice Center will reopen to the public on Monday, 11/26!

Red Hook on the Road

With the power still out and restoration ongoing at the Justice Center's Red Hook building, our court operations have been temporarily relocated to the main criminal courthouse at 120 Schermerhorn Street in downtown Brooklyn. Take a look at our slideshow of staff sewing together a patchwork of spaces, operations, and services to prepare for our first morning back to hearing cases.



As we approach getting back to normal, there are thousands of residents and small businesses in Red Hook who continue to struggle in the aftermath of the storm. We plan on continuing to be a part of that effort, and we ask that you consider a donation to help us get our innovative approach to solving community problems fully back up and running in order to best continue supporting the amazing community of South Brooklyn.

Shelter from the Storm

With the early arrival of winter in New York in the form of a Nor'easter and frigid temperatures, thousands of residents remaining without power, heat, and water, and headlines like "Misery Mounting at Red Hook Houses as Residents Wait for Heat and Power" and "Small Shops Shiver in Gloom of a Shuttered Red Hook Market," this past week was an especially difficult one for Red Hook. The most recent update from NYCHA reports 10 buildings remaining without electricity and 8 buildings without heat in Red Hook East, and 9 buildings without electricity and all 14 buildings without heat in Red Hook West--a total of over 3,000 residents.

There were a few spots of light amongst the gloom, however. We drew on partnerships with the New York City Mayor's Office and the Brooklyn Public Library to open two warming centers for residents who remain without heat in the NYCHA Miccio Community Center and the Red Hook branch of the library. The Mayor's Office also worked wit…

Approaching a New Normal in Red Hook

There was a spectacular outpouringofvolunteersupport in Red Hook over the weekend (including a celebrity or two), but Monday saw many volunteers taking the newly up and running subways back to work. Monday also marked the first time since the storm that all of the Red Hook Community Justice Center's staff and AmeriCorps volunteers who were able made it back to the Hook from far flung locations throughout the tri-state area, to check in with each other and on the Justice Center, as well as do a staff service day in the neighborhood.

As the neighborhood comes to grips with the grimreality of entering a second week largely without electricity, heat, or water, everyone is beginning to approach a new normal. FEMA and the National Guard have become a consistent presence in Coffey Park, continuing to efficiently hand out food and water, as well as blankets, baby care products, toiletries, flashlights, and other much-needed supplies. The orange t-shirts of volunteers from the Mayor's…

Renewal in Red Hook

The devastation that Superstorm Sandy has wreaked on Red Hook has been well-publicized inthelastfewdays, and hasn't spared the former Catholic school that houses the Justice Center. In the midst of so much destruction, we thought we'd shift the focus towards some of the amazing recovery efforts that have been going on in the past week throughout the neighborhood.
Starting Wednesday, members of our AmeriCorps program, the New York Juvenile Justice Corps, alongside staff from the Justice Center and several other Center for Court Innovation projects, came out in droves to assist in any way they could. Thanks to our strong partnerships with city agencies and community organizations, including the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, the New York City Housing Authority, and Red Hook Initiative, we were able to hit the ground running.
We started by going door-to-door to apartments in the Red Hook Houses, a public housing development with over 6,000 residents that had been…

Chess in the Hook

“You were just doing something, right? Let me take [these pieces] for now, until I get to something simple. But real strategists don’t think like that…the first thing I did was figure out the whole game…If you don’t know the strategy, nothing’s going to help you. You’re going to lose.” 

Yesterday afternoon, the Justice Center welcomed International Grandmaster of chess Maurice Ashley to teach the first session of our new chess program, "Think Before You Move," an innovative new initiative designed to teach critical thinking and decision-making skills to young people through the medium of chess. A group of teens ranging in age from 12 to 17 years old and drawn from both the South Brooklyn area and our adolescent diversion and family court programs, channeled their energy and focus on deconstructing the strategy behind a series of short games. Mr. Ashley challenged his students to look beyond the simple rules he had laid out for them in order to see how breaking down the design…

Make Your Mark! JustArts Fall Drawing Program

The Red Hook Community Justice Center's JustArts initiative is partnering withKentler International Drawing Space's K.I.D.S. Art Education Program to present Make Your Mark! this fall. Last week, youth age 11-13 from our catchment area began working with teaching artist Meghan Keane to develop their drawing skills, learn to express themselves through drawing, and craft a personal style.

Take a look at our slideshow of the most recent session of Make Your Mark! in which students worked on a project based on the gallery's current show, "To Be Young, Gifted and Black in the Age of Obama":

New Innovative Chess Program will help Brooklyn Teens improve their Skills on the Board and in Life

The Red Hook Community Justice Center (RHCJC) is partnering with International Chess Grand Master Maurice Ashley to run an innovative chess initiative called “Think before You Move” for Brooklyn Teens. The program will run for four weeks starting Oct. 25. The goal of Think before You Move is to teach critical thinking skills to young people through the medium of chess. Research has shown that chess instruction helps develop these thinking skills and prepares students to better approach problems, strengthen their personal discipline, counter negative peer pressure and exhibit greater self-control. Learning these skills through chess also helps enhance the students’ self-esteem as well as promote success in the classroom, the work-place and their personal lives. The program is open to local teens age 12-18. The program will also be an alternative diversion program for teens that have committed minor offenses and need to improve their decision making skills.




About Mr. Ashley: Maurice mad…

New York Juvenile Justice Corps Members Start a New Year of Service

The New York Juvenile Justice Corps is off to another great start. We’ve just entered our third year of operation and completed the first week of orientation and training. Established in 2010, the New York Juvenile Justice Corps is an AmeriCorps service program that seeks to prevent young people in New York City from becoming enmeshed in the criminal justice system. The Corps is comprised of 58 members that primarily come from New York City. Members work with hundreds of young people every year and serve at CCI projects including: Harlem, Red Hook, Brownsville, Midtown, Staten Island Ready, QUEST, CCI's Youth Courts, the Attendance Achievement Program and the Youth Justice Board. Members also serve with our partners at the John Jay College Office of Community Outreach and Service Learning, and the Office of Children and Family Services.
In addition to serving thousands of young people throughout the five boroughs, the Corps is also designed to give members a valuable service and p…

Our Red Hook Summer

This has been quiet a summer for Red Hook. The neighborhood has received a lot of attention, mostly from Spike Lee’s new film, Red Hook Summerwhich opened to very mixed reviews. The summer for Red Hook has also been mixed, with some highs and lows. But as always, this community pulls together and comes out stronger.

Unfortunately, we started the summer with some shootings in the neighborhood related to local gang activity and a string of muggings. The 76th precinct, Kings County District Attorney’s Office and the Court all worked together to quickly squash this outburst of violence. Kings County District Attorney also announced the arrest of six drug dealers who have been operating in the Red Hook housing developments through a major drug sweep after a six month investigation.
The community came together this week at a Town Hall Meeting hosted by Kings County District Attorney’s Office, NYPD and the Justice Center to discuss how we can improve police community relations and address vi…

Red Hook Town Hall Meeting with DA Hynes and NYPD

Arts-Based Restorative Justice for Court-Involved Brooklyn Teens

Monday was a very special night for eight court-involved Brooklyn teens. As participants in the Young New Yorkers program, these young people were given the opportunity to fulfill their court requirements by participating in a restorative justice arts program. Through a partnership with the Justice Center's Adolescent Diversion Program (ADP)--part of a statewide initiative to divert 16 and 17 year olds from criminal court and connect them to social services while allowing them to avoid the collateral consequences of a criminal record--this group of young people participated in a series of workshops centered around a curriculum designed to develop the emotional and behavioral skills of the young participants while facilitating responsible and creative self expression. 
The workshops culminate in the design of a public art installation that gives voice to the otherwise voiceless and voteless adolescents being tried in New York's adult criminal justice system. Monday night, teens …