Sunday, October 25, 2015


When individuals mention Brownsville, their first thoughts might race towards violent crime and poverty. But, Brownsville is more than that. Brownsville is a growing community that is banning together to make their vibrant voices, ideas, and aspirations heard. 

Vacant lot before the construction of MGB Pops 
One way that Brownsville Justice Community is helping residents of Brownsville in uplifting the community is through the construction of innovative businesses, such as pop-up marketplaces. Brownsville Justice Community worked in collaboration with Community Solutions’ Brownsville Partnership, Ocean Hill Brownsville Neighborhood Improvement Association, and New York City’s Economic Development Corporation in the creation of MBG POPS, a seasonal pop-up marketplace that is located at 425 Mother Gaston Blvd.

The Grand Opening of the MGB Pops Lot
Placing contemporary vendors in the center of one of the most prominent streets in Brownsville goes far beyond improving local business attraction and profit making. MGB POPS is a pivotal example of what can be generated when investment and hope is combined with inspiration and community. This marketplace, holds as a positive example for all community members by showing that everyone has the potential to create their own business. MGB POPS is a place where they can share their talents, artistry, and passion.

Participants of the Brownsville Justice Community have assisted in the construction of MGB POPS while learning new hand-ons on skills. They are also further enhancing their entrepreneurship and employment skills by working with the Made In Brownsville vending booth that sells the t-shirts they inspired and helped to designed. 

Participants and with Quardean Lewis, Founder and Principle Designer, Made In Brownsville.

Made in Brownsville (MiB) Vending Booth

Participants also create positive influences by being visible and interacting with local community members, especially other local youth. Participants can recruit local youth to obtain employment and assist them in learning similar management and business skills. Increasing employment skills will then allow individuals to become more competitive in the workforce as they continue on their path towards their desired career.

The MGB Pops mural Justice Community Participants helped to paint.

Having a venue where a wide range of individuals can get together in one place allows for a great opportunity to network, and create connections that might be useful in the future. Since it is a seasonal marketplace, this also allows for a variety of new vendors and shoppers each year. The presence of new vendors will enhance the diversity of connections that can be established. Vendors and shoppers will be more likely to expand their presence into the community and gather in other positive spaces, such as in parks or plazas after becoming more connected through the marketplace. MBG POPS is also a great location where adults and youth can come together in a positive environment to share their ideas and skills. Getting adults to support youth and vice versa makes an even greater impact in uplifting the community by getting more individuals engaged and involved with change.

MGB POPS seeks to be an inspiration to create future marketplaces and lively venues where community residents can come together to have fun and create long lasting memories. Preserving the collaboration between community members and local agencies will help ensure that such projects and the value of Brownsville continues to prosper.

Be On Belmont

The Belmont Revitalization Project (The Project) is encouraging all Brownsville residents to Be On Belmont. 

Since its launch in 2014, the Belmont Revitalization Project has pushed forward revitalization on the corridor. Through consistent clean-up efforts, beautification projects and place-making activities, Belmont is beginning to regain the nostalgia it once had long ago. The Project has been working with city agencies, like the Department of Transportation and Small Business Services to improve and promote positive pedestrian activity and small business resources.

In collaboration with Department of Transportation and Small Business Services, The Justice Center hosted a series of street festivals once a month over 3 months. The "Be On Belmont" street festivals ran along Belmont Avenue between Rockaway Avenue and Watkins Street. The goals of the "Be On Belmont" street festivals were to help community residents re-imagine safe and pro-social activities possible along the corridor while simultaneously driving foot traffic to the businesses. 

The street festivals featured live performances, food, interactive cooking demonstrations, face painting, inflatable obstacle courses, resource information and much more and all free to the community. 

The Street Festivals engaged over 700 community residents over throughout the summer and fall months (Aug-Oct). Check out some highlights:

Giant Chess Set drew interest. 

Cooking Demonstration the Melting Pot. The chef made some delicious chili. 

Community Partner, The Brownsville Partnership, building tree pits and side walk seating.

3 Black Cats Cafe provided cupcake decorating demonstrations. 

Row of tents filled with different resources and activities.

Face and Body Art by Watoto Entertainment

DJ Fauzi kept the community dancing. 

Street Art

Brownsville Youth dancing on stage. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Justice Community PLUS Participants Become Agents of Change for Crown Heights and Bedford Stuyvesant

Justice Community PLUS’ 2nd cohort is in full swing right now!! After graduating twenty two participants last season, Justice Community Plus has continued to engage young adults from both Crown Heights & Bedford Stuyvesant in programming to assist them with essential tools to identify and secure permanent employment. 

Justice Community participants from Crown Heights, Bedford Stuyvesant, and Brownsville engage in mock interviews to prepare them for internships and future employment with Employment Specialist Jon Smith

Justice Community Plus members work closely with Brownsville Community Justice Center staff members Kayin Latson, Tarisse Iriarte and Jonathan Smith on work readiness topics such as workplace etiquette, dressing for success, “30 second” elevator pitches, resume writing, and team building. The group, who at times had reservations about meeting new people and “trying something new” have now gelled as a team and tend to encouraging each other through their development.  With workshops being facilitated twice a week at The College of New Rochelle Campus at Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Plaza and a third day of one on one individualized support, participants attain soft and hard vocational skills during their career exploration.

Justice Community Plus participants learn about “Go Green” energy employment opportunities with Green City

While working on basics skill sets that promote their viability as candidates for employment, participants have also volunteered with community partners on a host of events. The Chris Owens Foundation’s Back to School Event was a huge success as well as S.O.S. Crown Heights Safe Play Street & Book Bag giveaway.  

JCP members stocking bags with school supplies at the Chris Owens Foundation Back to School Event at Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Plaza
Justice Community Plus members engaging community residents at S.O.S. Safe Play Street & back to school event

Justice Community Plus participants have attended a number of events hosted by local elected officials. From Anti-Violence to Gun & Gang Violence Awareness, members have heard valuable messaging from community leaders.

The Justice Community Plus participants from Crown Heights and Bedford Stuyvesant will look to surpass their efforts in the coming months ahead as they land internships, continue exploring new careers, and continue to gain valuable information and lessons learned along their pathways to personal growth and success!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Legal Resource Center coming to Brownsville! Volunteers Needed!

The Brownsville Community Justice Center will be opening its doors to a new Storefront Community Legal Resource Center. Residing at 519 Rockaway Ave., the Legal Resource Center will serve as an aid to the community to receive legal assistance in areas of child support, public benefits, work benefits, immigration, and much more! Despite the gains in the funding for civil legal services in recent years, the reality is that many New Yorkers have no one to turn to for help with civil justice problems. Requiring those in need to come to courthouses or downtown office complexes is an enormous barrier to receiving help with a range of legal problems. The Legal Resource Center will offer immediate assistance to low-income New Yorkers in the neighborhood in which they reside.

The Legal Resource Center is currently looking for volunteers to help assist residence with receiving the information or referrals needed for the issues they may be facing. Volunteers will be trained on a variety of topics they may come in contact with and be supervised by a Volunteer Coordinator and attorney. All volunteers will receive compensation for their time. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, please contact Jonathan Smith ( at 646-416-3661 or Erika McSwain ( at 347-404-9940.