Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Twenty-six young people came to the 94th Precinct in Greenpoint to participate in a youth court training on Monday and Tuesday, December 29th and 30th. These young people are training to serve as jurors, judges, and advocates, handling real-life cases involving their peers. The goal of the youth court is to use positive peer pressure to ensure that youth committing low level infractions pay back the community and receive the help they need to avoid further involvement in the justice system. The youth court teaches young adults that actions have consequences. Because this message comes from their peers, it is more likely to be heard and understood. Thank you to all the high school students who came out during their winter vacation to start training!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays!

The staff at the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center wish you a very happy holiday season!

Navigating the Financial Crisis

On December 17th We Are All Brooklyn, in collaboration with Project CARE, the Mediation Center, and Sovereign Bank hosted an event for the non-profit community about how to manage the current fiscal crisis. With over 200 attendees, this successful event taught us the importance of collaboration with other organizations and communication within our communities. Thank you to those who came to the forum. Special thanks to our presenters: Elana Broitman of UJA-Federation of New York, Marilyn Gelber of Independence Community Foundation, Nia Rock of Sovereign Bank, Wayne Ho of Coalition for Asian American Children and Families, Joanne Oplustil of CAMBA, and Ilene Marcus of Met Council on Jewish Poverty.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Reentry Resource Directory

The Mediation Center recently collaborated with the Langeloth Foundation and the Bellevue Re-entry Consortium to produce a directory of resources for formerly incarcerated people and their families. The directory is available in print at our office or online here:

Reentry Town Hall Forum stories

"Committing a crime is what I did, not who I am." --Mr. Campos

"In order to come back to society, my thinking had to change. I had to let someone else take charge of me and steer me for awhile. When I did it myself, it only lead me back to the chains." - Mr. Price

On Tuesday December 9th, District Attorney Hynes, State Senator Adams, City Council Member Letitia James, and ComALERT graduates Mr. Campos and Mr. Price spoke to an audience of 100 people at Medgar Evers College. The event was hosted by the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center and State Senator Eric Adams in an effort to increase public awareness about the effectiveness of the ComAlert program. ComALERT was designed by the Kings Count District Attorney to support the reduction of recidivism as well as to enhance community safety for Brooklyn residents. ComALERT connects parolees to onsite substance abuse and anger management services, on site services for job placements and referrals to job training and educational services.

WAAB response to attacks

Amy Ellenbogen, the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center Project Director is on the Steering Committee for We Are All Brooklyn (WAAB). WAAB wrote this statement in reaction to the attacks on the Sucuzhanay brothers:

In the early morning of Sunday, December 8, the city of New York and the borough of Brooklyn were the victims of a malicious bias attack. Two Ecuadorian immigrant brothers, Jose and Romel SucuzhaƱay, were viciously attacked by four individuals yelling anti-gay and racist slogans. Jose was beaten so severely that he barely clings to life. The two brothers were walking the streets of Bushwick Brooklyn, arm and arm, celebrating the recent arrival of Romel. As of now, the police are still looking for the perpetrators. We applaud the patrol officers for their timely response as well as the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force, which has categorized the incident as a hate crime and is investigating further. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire SucuzhaƱay family and the Bushwick community. They are not alone.

Our borough, one made rich by its diversity, must not fall prey to the blindness of such hate. An attack in words or deeds directed against any person due to their race, religion, sexual preference, ethnicity or any other characteristic, is an attack on the fundamental freedoms that are the hallmark of American democracy. When any one group is assailed, the very fabric of our society is torn. Hatred in any form can not and will not be tolerated by the citizens of Brooklyn.

We, the undersigned, the membership of We Are All Brooklyn, a coalition of community based organizations representing the diversity of the borough that have come together over the past five years to address issues and concerns that cut across ethnic and racial lines, stand together as a beacon of hope and a voice of defiance to this unbridled hate in the borough. We celebrate and honor the diversity of Brooklyn’s residents, and will not stand idly by and permit prejudice to shatter the harmony in Brooklyn’s neighborhoods. A crime against one is a crime against us all.

We will act together to educate our leadership and constituencies about the tensions and stresses experienced by all people. We will continue to promote the message of how our diversity does and will bring about a more just and inclusive society for all. Finally, we will continue to dedicate ourselves to fostering the values of cooperation, understanding, and respect as we rise to confront this challenge and others that may lie ahead.

We Are All Brooklyn continues to work with all groups throughout the city to respect others' backgrounds and their contributions and to prevent such incidents from occurring.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

In Loving Memory

Michael David Willoughby, a former participant in the Mediation Center's Youth Court programming at Paul Robeson High School passed away in a car accident on November 30th. His obituary is below.

In loving Memory

Michael David Willoughby

Sunrise: June 27, 1989
Sunset: November 30, 2008

Michael David Willoughby was born on June 27th, 1989 at Interfaith Hospital in Brooklyn. After his birth, Michael was placed in foster care for thirteen months before his grandmother was awarded custody of him.

At eighteen months, Michael began attending the Special Sprouts School, where his infectious personality began to form. He would run up and hug everyone he was introduced to and often had to be told to ask for a hug just before embracing someone.

At the age of four, Michael began attending St. Mark's Day School in Brooklyn. While in the second grade, at the age of seven, Michael began taking Judo classes. At this time, it was just meant to be used as an outlet for him outside of school, but it blossomed into something that helped shape Michael's life and instill morals into him that he would continuously live by. The biggest reason for this was because Michael was introduced to his mentor and the closest person to a father figure in his life, Duane Frankson. By him being sucha positive influence in Michael's life, Michael was able to be a positive influence on everyone else's life.

Michael graduated from St. Mark's Day School in 2002 and began attending high school at the Paul Robeson School of Business. While attending high school, Michael was actively involved in a Crown Heights Mediation Program as well as the Upward Bound Program at Pace University. In 2006, Michael graduated from Paul Robeson School of Business and began pursuing his degree in Business Administration at St. Francis College in Brooklyn.

Michael leaves behind: "Grandma," his two sisters, Norrell and Lorraine; his "twin," Carla; his two closest friends, Pablo and Justyn; numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, extended relatives and all the Judo trophies. Michael also leaves behind all the people from his schools, palces of work and his church who were so positively affected by him.

He will be dearly missed, but honestly, who could forget him?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Praise for TIP

The Mediation Center's Truancy Intervention Program (TIP) at Ebbets Field MS 352 provides a system of support and accountability for students who are chronically late or absent from school. Staff members check in with students on a daily basis, conduct family conferences, write and distribute letters home and operate an in-school Youth Court addressing attendance and related issues.

Stacey Antoine, a 6th grade math teacher at MS 352 had the following to say about TIP:

"The Truancy Program has been an essential tool for my students. This program has helped turn around many rebellious students I have taught in the past. I have seen a tremendous “turn around” for these students, behavioral wise and academically. Ms. Barker and her team has and continues to do a wonderful job reaching out to truant students.

Many of our students come to school with various problems. Many children deal with peer pressure, abuse, problems at home and so forth. Many times these problems affect the attitude, motivation and most importantly their performance level at school. Many truant children tend to be absent, excessively late, fail out of school and tend to involve themselves in deviant behavior. Furthermore, this program aims to improve attendance among students as well as decrease the amount of deviant behavior present in schools.

I love the fact that parents are contacted when their child is excessively absent, late for school or taking part in deviant behavior. This allows parents to take responsibility for their children and help make an effort to make sure that children take responsibility for their education.

Overall, I hope that this program continues to support the truant child in every way possible. I have seen change in many of my students and change will continue as long as everyone takes responsibility for their actions."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Reentry Resource Fair a Success

The Reentry Resource Fair held by Councilwoman Letitia James in collaboration with the Mediation Center on Saturday, November 22nd was a success!

17 different organizations serving formerly incarcerated people and their families were present and took the opportunity to network and build partnerships in addition to providing information and services to the community members present.

The fair was even featured on Brooklyn Channel 12 News!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Reentry Town Hall Forum

The Mediation Center is collaborating with District Attorney Charles J. Hines, State Senator Eric Adams, ComAlert and Medgar Evers College to present an Ex-Offender Reentry Town Hall Forum. The event will be held at Medgar Evers college on Tuesday evening, December 9th at 7pm.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

December Food Stamp Program

Another Food Stamp Program has been scheduled for December 9th, from 10am-3pm at the Mediation Center office.

This will be an opportunity to get eligibility information and help filling out food stamp applications. To submit applications, participants will be referred to their nearest HRA or food stamp office.

Appointments are available now!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Navigating the Fiscal Crisis

Project CARE and the Mediation Center are partnering with We Are All Brooklyn, JCRC and a number of other organizations to present a forum on Navigating the Fiscal Crisis for Brooklyn non-profits.

Wednesday, December 17th
Office of the Brooklyn Borough President
209 Joralemon, Courtroom

RSVP to:
Hoi Chan
212-983-4800 x136

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Reentry Resource Fair

The Mediation Center is sponsoring a Resource Fair for formerly incarcerated men and women and their families.

This is the place to find information about housing, getting a job, health care, education and more.

The fair will be Saturday, November 22, at the Calvary Community Church at 1575 St. John's Place from 1-3pm.

All are welcome.

AVODAH training

AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps, is an Americorps-like program for Jewish college graduates, who live communally for a year, volunteering in service organizations across the city and the country. This is the Mediation Center's second year partnering with AVODAH.

Last Friday, November 14th, our current AVODAH fellow and another staff member met with all of the New York AVODAH fellows to conduct a training in conflict resolution.

One of the participants had this to say:

"I loved learning about conflict styles. I feel that often in a conflict, I feel the other party doesn't care or isn't taking it seriously, but that exercise helps me plan to consider simply different approaches . . . The training definitely exceeded my expectations. I felt it was very real and very application-oriented, rather than theory-oriented. And that's great because the theory of conflict resolution doesn't get you very far. Eleanor and Mollie worked very well as a team. And I thought it was so great that the training made us feel great about ourselves as a community, while also opening our eyes to way we can improve."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Food Stamp Program a Success!

Two staff members from the Human Resource Administration spent the day at the Mediation Center last Thursday, providing information on Food Stamp eligibility to over 25 community residents.

The program was so successful, we have tentatively scheduled two more Food Stamp information programs for December!

Unexpected Connection

Last week, several Mediation Center staff members experienced a wonderful little moment:

The Crown Heights Community Mediation Center is working on establishing a new youth court in the Greenpoint/Williamsburg precinct. Several of our staff members traveled to the Red Hook Community Justice Center to observe Red Hook's youth court in action. After much concern about the cost of a car service, because we were running late and because there were four of us, we decided to call a car.

After a bit of wrangling, our director, Amy, talked the driver down to $17 for the fare. On the way there, she sat in the front seat and explained to the staff what we were about to see.

In four police precincts that neighbor the Red Hook Community Justice Center, if a young person commits a minor offense and is given a YD card, she or he has the option of going before a jury of her or his peers. The youth court members are made up of young people who live in the community and are interested in pursuing careers in law and criminal justice. Jury members question the young person who has committed the offense to find out more about what happened on the day of the offense and also more broadly what's going on in the young person's life and what she or he aspires to. With this information in hand, the youth court members work to craft a fair and beneficial sanction, composed of some combination of essays, workshops, community service, and social service referrals. Upon completion of this sanction, the young person's YD card is neutralized.

When we arrived at our destination, our driver said that he really supported the work that we do. He explained that when he was a young person he got himself into trouble and that there were lots of people around who supported him and helped him. He wanted our program to "spread and spread all over the city and all over the country." He said he wanted to help in any way he could and he would start by reducing our fare to $12! It is a great way to start our new program!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Train the Trainer Training

The Crown Heights Community Mediation Center is offering a full day “Train-the-Trainer” Conflict Resolution workshop. Teachers, school counselors, after-school program staff and other adults who work with young people are invited to attend this fun, interactive, and practical training. Spend the day with us, enjoying vibrant Crown Heights, and learning additional tools to support our young people.

This training will include & explore:
  • A strength-based approach to youth and conflict
  • Identifying personal conflict response styles
  • Facilitation techniques
  • Practicing cultural competence
  • Concrete activities to implement in the classroom
  • Practice teaching new conflict resolution tools

Plus: games, discussion, question & answer and the opportunity to meet and network with other educators and community members

Friday, November 21st 2008

The Crown Heights Community Mediation Center
256 Kingston Avenue, Brooklyn NY
(We’re located on Kingston between Lincoln Place and St. John’s Place. Take the 3 train to Kingston Avenue; walk 1½ blocks north and look for us across from the Fine Fare.)

Sliding scale $125-$175 (see below)
A check made out to "Fund for the City of New York" is due on or before November 21st.

Individual (i.e. on personal time): $125
Professional (i.e. on work time) at organization with annual budget <$300,000: $125
Professional (i.e. on work time) at organization with annual budget >$300,000: $175

Please register by providing the following information to or 718-773-6886.

First Name:
Last Name:
Organization Address:
Work Phone:
Work Email:
Home Address:
Home Phone:
Home Email:

How did you find out about this training?

Non-Profit Breakfast

The Mediation Center was host to a wonderful breakfast for local non-profit organizations sponsored by Assemblyman Karim Camara on Thursday, October 23rd. In addition to the Assemblyman himself, staff from a wide range of organizations attended. Participants enjoyed a healthy breakfast spread and participated in a collective strength-based assessment of Crown Heights.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Peer Mediation Training @ Global

A select group of 9th grade students at the Brooklyn School for Global studies received a full-day follow up training in Peer Mediation yesterday. These students had already completed a three-day full mediation training over the summer, and, after yesterday's session are now ready to begin hearing cases!

(Above, students participated in a Human Knot challenge).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Another Training Bite!

The Crown Heights Community Mediation Center is offering another free Mediation Skills mini-workshops on Wednesday, October 22nd. Join educators, human service professionals and other community members for a light snack and a savory sample of our customized trainings in conflict resolution, mediation, and more.

What: Free Mediation Skills Mini Training "Bite"

When: Wednesday, October 22nd, 4pm-5:30pm

The Crown Heights Community Mediation Center
256 Kingston Ave., (btw Lincoln Pl. & St. Johns Pl.) Brooklyn, NY

RSVP: (718) 773-6886 OR

Food Stamp Program in November

In collaboration with the Office of Food Programs and Policy Coordination, the Mediation Center is hosting a free information session November 13th. From 1pm-3pm on that day, community members can come learn about food stamp benefits, find out if they're eligible and get help filling out the application.

Spread the word!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ife in the news

Ife Charles, Deputy Director of the Mediation Center was profiled in the New York Daily News today!

Read the full text on the Daily News Website, or below.

'We are not going to sing Kumbaya'

Monday, October 13th 2008, 10:13 PM

Sharon Ife Charles sees Crown Heights as a spicy serving of rice and pigeon peas with chicken or meat.

"It's this cookup," she says, in the storefront offices of the Crown Heights Mediation Center, where she is the deputy program director.

"Trini people call it pilau," says Charles, 42, a Trinidadian who has lived in Brooklyn since 1977. "It's well-seasoned and well-flavored."

But that's not the only local ethnic delicacy that tempts Charles.

"I got hooked on matzo ball soup," says the community leader, who found the traditional Jewish dish to be surprisingly flavorful. "Bland food is just not in our culture."

Charles has called Crown Heights home since she was 11, but it took her a few decades before she came in contact with the Passover appetizer.

"I always wanted to find out what matzo ball soup was," she says. "What is this thing floating in water?"

After two unremarkable first tries, she ordered it at Mendy's on Kingston Ave. off Eastern Parkway. The waitress was friendly. Charles started with falafel and worked her way to the soup, which she deemed well-seasoned.

It wasn't the first time she had challenged her own preconceived notions, with positive results.

A decade ago, at the suggestion of her son's karate teacher, Charles considered joining a three-day training session at the newly opened Crown Heights Center for Mediation, founded in 1998 - seven years after riots broke out after a Guyanese boy was struck and killed by a Hasidic driver. Today the center operates under the auspices of the Center for Court Innovation.

Charles had an administrative job at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and was reluctant to use vacation days for mediation training. Plus, she was skeptical about changes in the neighborhood.

"I was like, seriously, who are these white people moving in the neighborhood with all this mediation?"

Cheryl Goldstein, the center's founding director, says the course was fully enrolled when she received Charles' application.

"She had written this beautiful story about how she had to intervene in an act of violence in the neighborhood," Goldstein says, explaining why she invited Charles to join the training, despite space limitations.

Charles reasoned that the workshop might be a good way to build on grass-roots work she was already doing.

"She gave it a shot, and it became such a big part of her future," says Goldstein, now director of the Mayor's Office on Criminal Justice in Baltimore. "She became the future of the center."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Register to Vote

In anticipation of the October 10th deadline, the Mediation Center stocked up on registration forms and put up a big sign in the window encouraging community members to register to vote! In the week between October 6th and 10th, we provided information, filled out registration forms and confirmed voter registration for over 15 residents.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Senior Tax Workshop

Thousands of seniors in Crown Heights have not yet filed for their Economic Stimulus checks of up to $300.

The Crown Heights Community Mediation Center will be hosting a free Tax Filing Workshop where seniors and other community members can get help filling out the necessary paperwork. IRS staff will be on site to provide assistance.

Economic Stimulus Package Tax Preparation Workshop
October 14th, 2008
Crown Heights Community Mediation Center
256 Kingston Avenue

Anyone interested in participating should bring:
- Your social security number
- The annual amount of your Social Security, Railroad Retirement, or Veterans Benefits
- A W-2, if you work

This event is sponsored and organized by Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Leadership Training Institute Applications Available

The Mediation Center is now recruiting for the Leadership Training Institute!

Participants can strengthen their leadership skills while working with a diverse group of activists in Crown Heights. The Institute consists of six skill-oriented trainings on such topics as coalition building, community organizing, fundraising and grantwriting, media strategies, networking, and event planning. Participants will also plan a community-wide event addressing a challenge of the neighborhood. The Institute will run over a 6-month period from the middle of January until June.

Applications are due December 5th, 2008. Contact the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center at 718-773-6886 or for an application or more information.

Applications are also available online here:

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Health Fair Update

The Family Fun Health Fair was a big success!

Thousands of people came to Hamilton Metz park and participated in dozens of health screenings, bouncy rides, face painting, a basketball contest, Darryl Dawkins celebrity signing, the music of Shem's Disciple, Y-Love and Chaim Fogelman as well as young people from C.H.A.O.S. "getting light!" The event was exactly what it was planned to be--a fun event that was enjoyed by people of all different backgrounds who live together in Crown Heights.

The event was MC'ed by Rabbi Shea Hecht and Richard Green. State Senator Eric Adams, State Assemblyman Karim Camara, and Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasney all spoke. Dozens of prizes were raffled away, and many people commented on how fun and how positive the day was.

This event would not have happened without the energy, commitment and vision of Project C.A.R.E. member and staff member at Assemblyman Karim Camara's office, Mrs. Arna Lipkind.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Project CARE at ALIYA

Project CARE board members met with a group of Jewish young men at the ALIYA drop in center to better understand their perspective on interracial community dynamics.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Training Bites

The Crown Heights Community Mediation Center is offering two more free Mediation Skills mini-workshops, September 23rd and 24th. Join educators, human service professionals and other community members for a light snack and a savory sample of our customized trainings in conflict resolution, mediation, and more. Founded in 1998, the Mediation Center is a store-front walk-in, facilitation and training center, with a mission to foster leadership and peaceful conflict resolution in Crown Heights and elsewhere.

What: Free Mediation Skills Mini Training "Bites"

Tuesday, September 23rd, 8am-9:30am OR
Wednesday, September 24th, 4pm-5:30pm

The Crown Heights Community Mediation Center
256 Kingston Ave., (btw Lincoln Pl. & St. Johns Pl.) Brooklyn, NY

RSVP: (718) 773-6886 OR

Mediation Monitor, September 2008

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Family Fun Health Fair

We are sponsoring a health fair!

Sunday September 21
Lefferts Park


There'll be free health screenings, lots of information, and recreational activities for all ages. The fair will include face painting, balloons, bouncy rides, an FDNY Smoke House, a NYC Parks and Recreation Play Mobile, musical entertainment, raffles, and more.

This event is being organized and sponsored by a number of collaborating community partners.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Mural Project

On September 10th, from 3 pm to 5 pm, Project Care will join City Arts in a mural painting event at the St. John's Recreation Center at 1251 Prospect Place (between Troy Avenue and Schenectady).

The mural painting project is a community wide event, open to members of all ages from Crown Heights and the New York City area. Project Care is a coalition of diverse community partners. Members represent all facets of Crown Heights, including those of African-American, Caribbean-American, and Lubavitch Hasidic Jewish backgrounds.

This event gives different segments the community of Crown Heights a chance to collaborate on a creative project in order to better and beautify the shared environment. During the event, diverse members of the neighborhood will work side by side to paint a mural designed by world-renowned artist Duda Penteado in collaboration with the youth at the St. John's Recreation Center. The image in the mural represents the goal of raising awareness of climate change and ultimately celebrates nature. The shared issue of environmentalism unites the community, despite tensions and differences, and shows that people can come together over a shared planet.

During the event, there will also be time to for participants to reflect together about September 11th, as the project will take place a day prior the anniversary of the tragedy. It is fitting that the community will assemble at a time when the nation takes time to recognize that all humans are vulnerable, and remember those who lost their lives.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Mediation Monitor, August 2008

CHCMC Photos

Check out our Picasa site to see more photos from our recent events including Training Bites, National Night Out Against Crime and Project C.A.R.E. If you're having trouble accessing the link, paste this into your URL:

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Who are we?

The Crown Heights Community Mediation Center is a unique neighborhood institution that works to improve community problem-solving, collaboration, and inter-group relations in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Operation out of our storefront offices since 1998, the Mediation Center seeks innovative ways to promote communiy cohesion in our neighborhood, known for fragmentation. This includes providing residents with links to resources on issues like education, jobs, housing, immigration; provding support to young people navigating the challenges of a community tainted by violence, drugs, and poverty; and galvanizing neighborhood, borough, and city stakeholders in order to improve the quality of life for all residents.

We'll be posting information about our services and upcoming events on this blog. For more information, please call us at (718) 773-6886 or stop by our office! We're located at 256 Kingston Avenue in Brooklyn, NY.