Nearly half of New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) households are behind on rent, to the tune of $454 million, yet there is still no policy or funding solution in sight. Federal and state government-provided funding to help tenants pay rent during the pandemic placed people in subsidized housing, including NYCHA residents, last in line. In this Gotham Gazette op-ed, Center Executive Director Courtney Bryant calls for government relief, saying "We cannot abandon NYCHA tenants or the buildings they call home. In the short-term, we must provide immediate relief to the nearly 50% of households who have fallen behind on rent."
People living in New York City public housing who have requested to transfer apartments—typically due to severe repair needs, domestic violence, or other imminent safety issues—are currently left waiting upwards of years. Yet, there has been a 640% increase in vacant public housing units within the past year, pointing to a system-wide slowdown, says Ross Joy, director of housing and civil justice at our Red Hook Community Justice Center. Decades of underfunding has caused challenges throughout NYCHA (New York City Housing Authority), including unfilled staff positions that would help maintain and turnover units between tenants.
Since its founding in 1993, our community court in Midtown has been responding to lower-level, quality-of-life offenses with a community service and treatment-oriented approach. After reduced hours because of the pandemic, Midtown Community Court will again be expanding its capacity by mid-March. The expansion comes after a number of local elected officials called for a plan to enhance the program’s capacity, citing its demonstrated effectiveness at improving public safety and connecting individuals to needed services and support.
Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy of service, the Staten Island Justice Center hosted a community event centered around improving the quality of life for residents. This fun, impactful day included giveaways, activities, plenty of food, and partner organizations joining to share community enrichment resources, such as assistance with SNAP applications, legal and business services, career building support, and more.
In this opinion piece, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg shares his plan for providing voluntary services that will help New Yorkers live with dignity and make all of us safer. Bragg advocates for providing treatment, services, and a path to a better life to help folks safely manage substance and mental health struggles, sharing that arrests and incarceration alone will not address their needs. Citing Center expertise on supportive solutions, Bragg's plan is to utilize neighborhood and court-based navigators who will meet people where they are, build trust, and provide needed services.
After over 25 years at the cutting edge of efforts to reform the justice system and cultivate safe and vibrant communities, the Center for Court Innovation has changed its name to the Center for Justice Innovation. This new name is intended to better reflect the entirety of the Center's work, which has for long been carried out not only within the court system but also well beyond it. This article from the New York Law Journal draws attention to the name change and discusses the Center's growth—both quantitative and qualitative—since its founding. As executive director Courtney Bryan told the Journal, "Our new name reflects our belief that true justice is a continuum that starts in the community long before anyone ends up in court."
Most people who come to New York City housing court are low-income tenants facing eviction. With the largest public housing complex in Brooklyn falling in Red Hook Community Justice Center’s jurisdiction, one of its top priorities is to keep tenants in their homes. The court's model—addressing the root causes of what drives people to court and responding to local concerns, rather than simply enforcing the law—has proven its success and is an example of what justice could look like in housing courts throughout the city.
"For too long, we have relied upon law enforcement and jail to be our primary response to those in mental distress."
In this opinion piece, Courtney Bryan and Times Square Alliance president Tom Harris share better solutions for supporting people with mental health needs. When the legal system, law enforcement, and social service providers work together, we can address health, psychiatric, and housing needs on an individualized basis, and ensure safety for all New Yorkers.
Center executive director Courtney Bryan joined CBS News to talk about the growing backlog of court cases since the onset of COVID-19 is slowing the progress of hundreds of thousands of cases and people across the country.
"These are not just cases or case files. These are people. Most who are sitting in jails around the country haven't yet been convicted of a crime. Because of this crisis, [they’re waiting] for much longer than they were prior to COVID. And in New York City, that means folks are sitting in Rikers Island, a place renowned for violence and horrible conditions."
She also shared outcomes from a 2019 pilot program by the Center and New York Office of Court Administration that succeeded in reducing felony case backlogs in Brooklyn Superior Court.
In a groundbreaking study on gun possession among youth in New York City, the Center for Court Innovation found that young people's decisions to carry a firearm overwhelmingly stemmed from concerns for their physical safety. The report surveyed up to 330 young people, ages 16 to 24, who expressed fears of being harmed both by violent crime and by interactions with law enforcement. The researchers concluded that strategies to reduce gun violence at the community level must be informed by the perspectives of affected young people themselves.
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