Friday, January 29, 2016

Place Based Work: A Year In Review

In April 2014, The Brownsville Community Justice Center launched it's first place based project, The Belmont Revitalization Project. The Project launched with a service day in the Belmont corridor. Over 100 volunteers, who live, work or go to school in Brownsville (11212), were recruited for service. Youth under the age of 24 were the largest group represented at the service day launch event. Service tasks included: street and sidewalk clean-ups, the installation of public art, graffiti removal, greening a vacant lot and planning for a permanent street plaza. The Justice Center’s staff solicited permission from all businesses/property owners for clean-up and graffiti removal and supervised all engagement activities.

Since then, the Justice Center has completed multiple place based initiatives not only on Belmont Avenue but throughout the Brownsville community. 

Osborn Street Plaza:
In October 2015, The Osborn Street Plaza opened to the public. The Osborn Plaza is an public pedestrian space for the Brownsville community. The Plaza is open for public use and can be utilized by residents, businesses and community based organizations. The Plaza features a mural created by Brownsville youth. 

In December 2015, The Justice Center held it's first Annual Tree Lighting. The Ceremony brought out over 100 families that enjoyed cookies and hot coca, music, crafts and pictures with Santa. The event included a toy give-a-way, with presents donated by Brownsville Ascend Charter School, located on Pitkin Avenue. Brownsville’s youngest residents from Brightside Daycare colored and decorated ornaments that adorned the tree. The night was made possible with a generous donation from Home Depot, who provided the tree.

Santa and the Tree

Be On Belmont: 
Over the summer,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:

Marcus Garvey Village: 

The Marcus Garvey Project provides services that help residents, particularly the youth of Marcus Garvey Village, an opportunity to address issues that concern them and the community-at-large.  Discussing these issues gave the young people a chance to see that they can become positive agents of change in their community. Working alongside management, the Tenant’s Association and community residents--the young people learned the importance of being active community members and how their voice can be instrumental in making positive changes. One issue that the youth are currently tackling is the lack of recreational space for residents. The young people who are participating in the BCJC Marcus Garvey Project are in the process of activating a lot to accommodate this need.

The young people at Columbia U. Discussing the design of MGV

Large Community Benefit Projects:
Throughout the Brownsville Community, the Justice Center receives multiple requests from residents and business owners to complete community beautification projects, like graffiti removal and street clean ups.

Youth and Place Based Work: 
Designing Change
In Spring 2015, The Brownsville Youth Court and the Municipal Arts Society (MAS) partnered up to implement an exciting new initiative called Designing Change. Designing Change is an experiential program that uses design and art as a tool to engage youth in community-based planning and urban design projects in Brownsville, Brooklyn. The goals of the program is to develop the capacity of young people to lead projects that shape and support Brownsville and to empower them to participate in the revitalization of their neighborhood. The participants, who are high-school aged and reside in Brownsville, will collaborate with local elected officials, community residents and other professional designers, planners and developers.  

Marcus Garvey Apartments Resource Fair

While brainstorming solutions to some of the issues in their community, the young people of Marcus Garvey Apartments knew that holding a Resource Fair would allow residents to be well informed of opportunities and resources available to them. When planning the Resource Fair, the young people thought long and hard about ways to make a Resource Fair attractive for every age. With perfect timing, a holiday themed Resource Fair was well underway. 

In December, BCJC staff, Marcus Garvey Justice Community members along with a host of partner organizations filled the Betsy Head Gymnasium to throw the first ever Marcus Garvey Resource Fair with a holiday flair. Partner organizations in attendance were: Made in Brownsville, Brownsville Partnership, Legal Hand & the Melting Pot. Over 100 MGA adults and children were in attendance. Residents danced, took pictures with Santa Claus, decorated Christmas ornaments, enjoyed a community meal, and participated in a raffle.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Young Change Makers: Introducing the Brownsville Builders!!!

In November 2015, the Brownsville Community Justice Center launched an exciting new youth program aimed at empowering Brownsville's youth to effect positive change in their community. The Brownsville Builders is a service-learning program for young people age 14-18 living in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Over a school year, 10-12 young people are trained in community organizing, civic engagement, design and city planning principles in order to address issues of public safety and economic justice in their community. Funded by the State Farm's Youth Advisory Board, the Builder's have been off to amazing start. 

The Brownsville Builders consists of young people who live or attend in Brownsville, Brooklyn. The builders work with residents, businesses, and stakeholders to help create safer, cleaner, family friendly spaces through neighborhood planning. The Builders are focusing on Belmont Avenue (between Rockaway Ave. and Mother Gaston Blvd.). Belmont Avenue is an important part of Brownsville that has been in rapid decline. The Builders hope to reduce criminal activity and improve physical conditions by re-imagining physical spaces and providing positive activity for young people. 

Since November, the Builders have spoken with Community Board 16 District Manager, Viola Green-Walker; the Youth Services Committee (CB16); Transportation Alternative and Assemblywoman Latrice Walker. Additionally, the Builders have been actively engaging the community by completing 250 resident surveys to gain resident perspectives about the current conditions and services on Belmont Avenue; presenting at the Monthly Community Board 16 meeting;volunteering at community events and providing a list of recommendations to improve resources for disconnected youth in Brownsville to Assemblywoman Latrice Walker.  

To learn more information about the Brownsville Builders, please contact Ionna Jimenez at

Check out some of our highlights below: 

Some of the builders in uniform

Team Building Exercises

Discussing possible solutions for some of the area's most dangerous intersections

After meeting with Transportation Alternatives

Sharing their recommendations with Assemblywoman Walker

Team Building Part 2

Monday, January 25, 2016

#TBGE: “The Biggest Graduation Ever”

December 18th, 2015 we held our 1st ever combined graduation of Justice Community (JC) Brownsville, JC+ Brownsville, JC+ Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy dubbed #TBGE: “The Biggest Graduation Ever”!! With over 120 people in attendance (our largest graduation ceremony in BCJC history), current participants, alumni, staff, community partners, friends, and family commenced at the Bed-Stuy Restoration Plaza for the culminating event. Each Justice Community track presented their performances, presentations, and speeches as they received their certificates. The two hour ceremony also included food, music, films from Justice Community/Reel Works participants, and guest speakers from participants’ internship placement supervisors. It was truly an amazing ceremony. The purpose of this event is to acknowledge the growth and achievement of each participant. Making them aware of such accomplishment will only result in more successful and positive outcomes.

Justice Community PLUS for Crown Heights and Bed Stuy graduated 16 participants on December 18th. There were a number of great moments and "small tangible wins" over the course of six months with these cohorts but, there were two young people who went especially above and beyond that we would like to recognize.

Charisma Daly has demonstrated her ability to carry the torch as a leader since she joined the JCP Program. She helped to establish a sense of community in and outside the classroom. Charisma was diligent about attending community board meetings, community benefit projects and job readiness workshops. She is a single mother who is working full-time while pursuing her GED.  We look forward to supporting you and your dreams Charisma!

Benaiah Foster is a quiet power, he has accomplished a great deal during the course of his JCP experience.  He is very inquisitive and always looking to broaden his knowledge base in everything from STEM to the world of construction.  Benaiah earned two certifications, an OSHA 10 certification that will afford him with an opportunity to work in construction and a  G4 NFPA 70E Electrician Certification while enrolled in the Justice Community PLUS program adding to his overall proficiency in electrical.  He is on the path to accomplishing so much more! Great Job Ben! Keep up the Outstanding work!

JC & JC+ graduates, their family and friends

Alan Waxman, teaching artist with Mark Morris Dance Group shows off participants work.

JC+ Bed-Stuy participant, Andre Tucker and Teaching Artist Carl Belizaire showing off their Flexing skills.

As graduation is viewed as the end of a journey full of experiences and challenges, it is also the beginning of a new journey that awaits our participants. We wish our graduates good luck on their future endeavors.  


Justice Community Brownsville, Justice Community Plus Crown Heights & Bed-Stuy is currently recruiting young people between the ages of 16 – 24 years old. Stop in our main office 444 Thomas Boyland Street, Suite 207, Brooklyn NY 11212 or call Deron Johnston, Associate Director at 347-404-9588 for more info.