Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, Jr., today announced the ten community-based organizations selected to receive $20,000 each from the Manhattan D.A.’s Office for initiatives to prevent youth gun violence: Urban Youth Alliance/BronxConnect; The Children’s Village; The Community Initiatives; Emergent Works; Exodus Transitional Community; Grand Street Settlement; Henry Street Settlement; SCAN-Harbor; Street Corner Resources; and Uptown Grand Central.
The award recipients all presented thoughtful proposals to engage young, at-risk New Yorkers by paying them stipends either to participate in meaningful programming, or to enhance and beautify public spaces that are known locations for gun violence. The Manhattan D.A.’s Office is providing these awards through its Criminal Justice Investment Initiative (“CJII”), which was created using millions seized in the Office’s investigations against major banks and is administered by the CUNY Institute for State and Local Governance.
District Attorney Bragg said: “As Manhattan District Attorney, my top priority is driving down gun violence. That means taking action not only through enforcement – like last week’s takedown of a major violent criminal enterprise – but, critically, prevention. The ten community-based organizations receiving funding today are essential threads in the fabric of public safety. They have all demonstrated their capacity to reach young people at high risk of involvement in gun violence and steer them toward a better path. I’m deeply grateful to them for serving our youth and making our communities safer, and excited to work together in the coming months.”
Assemblymember Eddie Gibbs said: “The cycle of gun violence in Harlem starts with our young people. For generations, they have tragically fallen into the trap of our streets. By helping fund these organizations doing incredible work, District Attorney Bragg is ushering in a significant change in the cycle. My hope is that this will go a long way in ending gun violence across Manhattan, because when we invest in young people, we are investing in the future of our neighborhoods.”
Councilmember Chris Marte said: “The recent shootings on the Lower East Side have been devastating to our community, especially our young people. We have made so many strides towards ending gun violence in this neighborhood, but it’s clear that investment is still needed. I’m grateful that the District Attorney recognizes where to put the funds to get to the root of these issues, and appreciate the incredible work of our community partners.”
State Senator Cordell Cleare said: “I applaud D.A. Bragg and the Manhattan D.A.’s Office for investing in our youth. Proactive initiatives like these are key to preventing young people from picking up a gun, and ensuring they don’t become victims of gun violence themselves.”
Michael Jacobson, Executive Director of CUNY ISLG, said: “Strong grassroots organizations are key to safe communities, and CUNY ISLG is proud to work with the DA’s Criminal Justice Investment Initiative to support the frontline community groups working on the ground to stop crime, support survivors of violence, and create opportunities for people leaving incarceration. CJII has produced groundbreaking research and helped deliver real solutions that make Manhattan neighborhoods safer. We are excited and eager to intensify our work with the Manhattan DA and these wonderful organizations as they build stronger communities.”
Reverend Wendy Calderón-Payne, Executive Director of Urban Youth Alliance, said: “To effectively target gun and gang violence, we must provide young people with appealing alternatives that engage and challenge them. We are thrilled to receive funding from DANY to engage youth in creative outlets that will also enhance their community. Youth are looking forward to working with an artist to develop a beautiful mural in East Harlem near areas experiencing disproportionate gun violence.”
Deborah Giordano, LMSW, Vice President of the Inwood House Division at The Children’s Village, said: “We are thrilled to join the Manhattan District Attorney in this important effort. The evidence informed Restorative Circles and Art and Social Justice curriculums are designed to improve public safety by engaging youth in meaningful conversations, learning and community benefit activities that keep youth in school, off the streets and connected to those who love them – family!”
Janet Cohen, Program Director at The Community Initiatives, said: “It’s imperative that we continue to elevate the voices of our young ones, for it is easier to prepare them, than it is to repair them. That is what Teens Against Guns is all about. Preparing the young generation to stand at the forefront of critical issues such as gun violence.”
Army Amstead, Executive Director of Emergent Works said: “Emergent Works is a community of people that envisions a world where tech literacy, education, and skills-based training are freely available to individuals and communities impacted by gun violence and mass incarceration. We realize this vision through developing software and coordinating educational programs that provide dynamic mentorship, community support and a robust pathway to careers in tech. We are thrilled to support the Manhattan District Attorney’s office in their mission aligned Gun Violence Prevention Initiative by hosting therapeutic writing practices and healing circles to create space for safe growth and the power of voice via our digital music creation programming. Through this effort, we look forward to giving even more developing professionals an opportunity to use their talents to raise awareness and work towards stemming gun violence while further developing technical skills that will lead participants to their ongoing success as artists.”
Julio Medina, Executive Director of Exodus Transitional Community, said: “Exodus has been providing trauma informed care and wrap-around services to individuals impacted by violence born of the institutional racism, poverty and mass incarceration that have plagued the history of this country. We have been serving and healing the East Harlem Community for over 23 years, and have seen first-hand the difference a caring adult mentor can make along with transformative spaces such as the therapy provided at our Center for Trauma Innovation. We are grateful to the DA’s Office and ISLG for their support and partnership in helping bring healing and safety to our youth impacted by gun violence.”
Thanh Bui, Managing Director of Youth and Community Development at Grand Street Settlement, said: “Gun violence is an issue of great concern at Grand Street. We must do all we can to prevent it. We’re eager to take part in this initiative and give our young people skills that will help them in their day-to-day life and in their future careers.”
David Garza, President and CEO of Henry Street Settlement, said: “Henry Street Settlement is deeply honored to have been selected to receive a Gun Violence Prevention Initiative award from the Manhattan D.A.’s Office. With a 130-year history on the Lower East Side, Henry Street understands that the way to make neighborhoods safe is by providing meaningful and responsive human services, including a spectrum of high-quality, versatile programming. Because there is no single answer to violence prevention, resources like those from the Criminal Justice Investment Initiative allow us the agility and flexibility to reach more young people with options that speak to a wide variety of needs. Whether through credible messaging; athletics, arts, and other recreational programming; trips; onsite social work; and extended hours in our community spaces, these offerings are the glue that connects young people to their community and provide them with hope. Thanks to our partnership with the D.A.’s office, local law enforcement, DYCD, and other community stakeholders, we can sustain these programs and help keep our community safe and help those we serve reach their full potential.”
Lew Zuchman, Executive Director of SCAN-Harbor, said: “The answer to the challenge of youth violence lies in positive youth development. SCAN-Harbor is grateful to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office for their gracious support of our ‘Healing Circles’ programmatic response to nihilistic gun violence. The response to such violence must be to support and listen to the voices of our young people.”
Iesha Sekou, CEO and Founder of Street Corner Resources, said: “Thank you to the Manhattan DA’s office for this crucial funding, which Street Corner Resources will use to pay our young people in engage in powerful peace building programming. This type of investment is key for the young people of Manhattan, and I applaud DA Bragg for his leadership.”
Carey King, Director of Uptown Grand Central, said: “We’re thrilled to be a part of this initiative that is strengthening neighborhoods in so many ways. Here in East Harlem, this support will go toward keeping our streets clean as well as provide employment for community members. It’s a win-win.”
The Award Recipients
BronxConnect was created by Urban Youth Alliance as a community-based program that offers alternatives to incarceration and violence prevention. With two decades of operating successful programs for system-involved youth and youth experiencing high-risk conditions (violence, trauma, poverty and failing schools), BronxConnect will work offer stipends to youth to develop a mural in the Wagner, Jefferson, or Johnson Houses in East Harlem. The organization’s Credible Messenger team will connect with young people and build relationships to support their personal growth.
The Children’s Village
The Children’s Village (“CV”) works in partnership with families to support and offer resources to society’s most vulnerable children as they become educationally proficient, economically productive, and socially responsible members of their communities. Their initiative will serve a total of 16 youth and/or young adults ages 15-26 over the 3-month contract period, and participants will be able to choose between two curriculum pathways: Restorative Circles or Art and Social Justice. The Children’s Village will leverage Inwood House, a long-standing agency which merged with CV in 2016, to offer intervention, curriculum, and broad community connectivity. The Children’s Village imagines an outcome for participants which includes changes in awareness, behavior, and decision-making processes to support healthier expression of emotions, cultural pride, and strength, through nonviolent means.
The Community Initiatives
The Community Initiatives (“TCIONY”) stands on the frontlines in the fight for equity and justice for Black and Brown communities. TCIONY offers youth and community residents educational opportunities, addresses food insecurity, and seeks employment opportunities for its participants. With an already-existing credible Street Outreach Team, TCIONY proposes to expand their approach to engage high-risk young people through mentoring. Young people will receive stipends to participate in TCIONY’s group mentoring model.
Emergent Works is a community of people impacted by mass incarceration that envision a world where tech literacy, education, and skills-based training are freely available to the individuals and communities of color, disproportionately impacted by gun violence. Emergent Works aims to bridge the gap between the tech industry and underserved communities impacted by gun violence by offering free access to the technology, education, and resources necessary to eventually enter careers in tech. As one of few black-led tech nonprofits, Emergent Works offers hands-on training and education services, while also fostering a safe environment, enriched with healthy relationships and livable wages. Emergent Works will be focusing on the Washington Heights and Inwood communities. They will run a 1:1 Technical Mentorship Program, a digital literacy training designed to expose young people to technology. The young people will be paired with mentors who are professional software engineers. Mentors will teach the fundamentals of software development, and the young people will undertake a software development project culminating in a showcase event. The mentorship program, which also affords young people access to a professional network and educational resources, is intended as a gateway to careers in software engineering. Emergent Works also offers Technology, Rhythm and Passion (T.RAP), a program that introduces young artists to technology through therapeutic writing practices, music and video production, and audio engineering. T.RAP teaches participants web development skills, and participants build a web page to showcase their work.
Exodus Transitional Community
With a firm belief in human resilience, Exodus Transitional Community delivers innovative programming tailored to adults and youth affected by the justice system, and advocates for a society in which all can achieve social, economic, and spiritual well-being. Exodus offers a myriad of programming for people affected by – or at risk of – justice involvement, including Youth Engagement, Empowerment and Diversion, and Workforce Development & Vocational Training, and more. Exodus also engages in robust advocacy, focusing on criminal justice reform to end a racially discriminatory era of mass incarceration that has become a defining feature of American life for too many communities of color. With these tools and resources readily available, Exodus plans to connect, and stay connected, with young people impacted by gun violence.
Grand Street Settlement
Grand Street Settlement expands opportunities for low-income families and individuals by providing culturally relevant services that support community-building, advocacy, self-determination, and an enriched quality of life. Grand Street’s community-based strategy offers a continuum of services for each stage of life, including early care and education, youth development and afterschool, and supports for adults and seniors. Grand Street primarily serves communities living in resource-scarce neighborhoods, people of color, and immigrants, with an eye towards building strong and resilient families and vibrant communities. Grand Street, as one of the progenitors of New York City’s positive youth development framework, is uniquely positioned to serve youth across Lower Manhattan. At these sites, Grand Street plans to strengthen relationships with youth who reside in public housing and in Title 1 schools, many of whom have direct exposure to gun violence in their community, as well as expand programming across the Grand Street Beacon Community Center and Violence Prevention Programs. Grand St. Settlement will prevent gun violence by leveraging local partnerships and unique resources in the community to provide wraparound services and job training opportunities.
Henry Street Settlement
Henry Street Settlement offers resources and opportunities to enrich lives and enhance human progress through social services, arts, and health care programs. Henry Street offers high-impact, integrated services through four core divisions: Employment & Education, Transitional & Supportive Housing, Health & Wellness, and Visual & Performing Arts. Henry Street’s catchment area encompasses the Lower East Side, East Village, and Chinatown, each of which are vibrant, yet underserved communities of immigrants and diverse neighbors beset by intergenerational poverty, unemployment, youth violence, overcrowded housing, and limited access to resources and opportunity. Through the proposed Gun Violence Prevention Initiative, Henry Street will implement an evidence-based credible messenger program to engage local young people who are at risk for gun violence, justice system-involvement and/or are disengaged from school, work, and community programming. Henry Street will target older youth and young adults living in or nearby local NYCHA developments–Lillian Wald Houses, Jacob Riis I & II, and Baruch (all located north of Delancey Street; colloquially “the Ave”) as well as Vladeck, Smith, and Rutgers Houses (all located south of Delancey Street; colloquially “the Hill”).
SCAN-Harbor annually serves over 7,600 children and teens, and 1,000 families across 21 program sites. Their mission is to provide the highest risk families and children in the community with integrated, family-focused programming that uses a positive approach, harnesses individual strengths and fosters responsibility, self-esteem, initiative and the development of life skills. With programs as diverse as street organization/crew outreach, early childhood education, and substance abuse treatment, to name a few, SCAN-Harbor’s positive approach builds on individual, family, and group strengths. For the Gun Violence Prevention Initiative, SCAN-Harbor plans to address the immediate and growing need to support youth in East Harlem via a Youth Ambassadors “peer model” aimed at helping young people to discuss and surmount their personal challenges related to youth violence. These Youth Ambassadors will be trained to help facilitate group-meeting sessions known as Healing Circles.
Street Corner Resources – Speak Peace Forward utilizes the programmatic components of the Crisis Management Systems Cure Violence Initiative to provide a network of supportive services that collectively address the negative impact of gun violence on individuals and communities. All service components are uniquely designed to address a variety of community needs while also building community awareness and momentum to actively mitigate cyclical patterns of violence. Street Corner Resources intends to use the Cure Violence Model to support the Gun Violence Prevention Initiative. Each program participants will get a work assignment at SCR or another community organization setting. Additionally, they will participate in enrichment activities such as anti-violence, empowerment, decision making, self-development, and community focused workshops. Participants will also engage in weekly peer group session. Participants will receive services and referrals according to need. Guest speakers and professionals from the community with be invited to share their experiences with program participants. The goal of this effort will be to connect participants with possible mentors and meaningful role models.
Uptown Grand Central
The mission of Uptown Grand Central is to transform East 125th Street into a thriving corridor by delivering programs that put advocacy into action through collaborations with small businesses, residents and neighborhood organizations across East Harlem. Uptown Grand Central actively advocates for the neighborhood and brings the community together in an effort to showcase all that is “grand” about Uptown and put East Harlem on the map. Participants will get paid to work 40 hours per week in cleaning and greening the neighborhood. They will report daily to our headquarters at 125th Street and Park Avenue, then under the guidance of Positive Workforce supervisors, sweep the streets on a daily route. Several times per week, the participants will be working in greening/planting/watering. On an approximately monthly basis, they will engage in graffiti cleanup/mural repair for the murals of the Grandscale Mural Project. Partner organization Positive Workforce offers Clean Team members the opportunity to complete trainings in OSHA, HVAC and other construction-related programs that can provide a ladder to get them into even better-paying jobs. Once a team member completes these free trainings, Positive Workforce then actively searches to place them on construction job sites. They also have the opportunity to join the Positive Workforce network, which offers a lifetime of guidance and support.