Gotham Gazette https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/2068 Sun, 27 Sep 2020 17:40:52 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Hearing Shows Lack of Communication on Young Men’s Initiative https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6546-hearing-shows-lack-of-communication-on-young-men-s-initiative https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6546-hearing-shows-lack-of-communication-on-young-men-s-initiative Eugene bdb

Council Member Eugene (photo: CMMathieuEugene)


There was confusion and some angst at the City Council on Wednesday. At an oversight hearing held by the Council’s Youth Services Committee, several Council members said they were unaware of the programming of the city’s Young Men’s Initiative, which was the focus of the hearing.

Council Member Mathieu Eugene chairs the committee and led the hearing. Only one other committee member, Council Member Margaret Chin, was present when Cyrus Garrett, executive director of YMI, gave his opening remarks. Garrett, who has led YMI since being appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio in late 2014, briefed those in attendance on the history of YMI, which began under Mayor Michael Bloomberg and focuses on opportunities for young men of color; its work under the current mayor; and its most recent partnerships and programs.

As the morning progressed with a question-and-answer session between Council members and Garrett, all of the members of the Council committee, with the exception of Council Member Darlene Mealy, made an appearance, and most asked questions of Garrett.

Garrett outlined changes and progress at YMI since he took over at the start of 2015. “To deepen our impact,” he said, “YMI has sharpened its focus and over the last two years, has invested in the support and creation of data-informed strategies aimed at addressing inequities in education, justice, employment and health.” Many of these strategies were the focus of the hearing, which also served as an occasionally heated forum wherein Council members pushed Garrett about YMI’s lack of communication with them and the rest of the city.

After Garrett’s appointment, YMI acquired a new Executive Steering Committee, aligned programs with select goals set by President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, which was in part modeled after YMI, and released a "Disparity Report" in collaboration with the Center for Innovation through Data Intelligence, all under the banner of “YMI 2.0.”

The unifying feature of YMI 2.0 is a framework that goes beyond YMI’s original 16-24 age demographic, while still focusing on males of color. Aligned with My Brother’s Keeper, YMI has made it a priority to engage with younger New Yorkers. YMI 2.0 envisions all youth of color reading at grade level by 2nd grade; citywide completion of high-school, post-secondary education, or training; and safe from violent crime.

In different ways, under Garrett YMI has been both broadened and narrowed. While the goals of YMI 2.0 now target a much wider age group, the neighborhoods and populations it prioritizes have become more specific. The Executive Steering Committee supported YMI 2.0 as it transitioned from a city-wide initiative under Bloomberg to a neighborhood-specific initiative under de Blasio. It now targets the South Bronx, South Jamaica, Brownsville, East New York, East Harlem, and the North Shore of Staten Island.

Before his opening remarks ended and the questions began, Garrett was sure to outline a few programs YMI 2.0 is currently “testing.” Readmore Corps, a tutoring service for children in kindergarten through second grade, is one of them. In fiscal year 2016, Garrett said, “YMI’s support in 30 schools resulted in an additional 387 first and second graders receiving literacy support. We are well underway to serve 707 students in FY17, and with anticipated private funding, could potentially be in an additional 45 schools by the end of this school year.”

Garrett also spoke about a partnership with NYC Service and the Center for Youth Employment on a college and career mentoring strategy for high schoolers, and the Fatherhood Academy, a program that promotes responsible parenting and economic stability for unemployed and underemployed young fathers.

Council Member Eugene asked for more quantitative data on YMI, information which was supplied by the other YMI representative at the hearing, Carson Hicks, the deputy executive director at the city’s Center for Economic Opportunity, which does data analysis for YMI and other city programs. According to Hicks, 80,000 young people were served by YMI 2.0 in 2016, which is an increase from when the program started, though she didn’t say by how much.

Hicks also informed Council members that the current budget allocation for YMI is $30 million, including an increase in the amount of city funds devoted to the initiative from under Bloomberg, but a decrease in total funding from its early years. (In 2011 Bloomberg and George Soros donated $30 million each to the inaugural YMI programs over the course of three years.)

Eugene was also curious about how YMI advertises its programming, to which Garrett said that YMI programming largely is promoted through YMI itself, partner community-based organizations, and through word of mouth. Garrett listed organizations like Make the Road, the YMCA, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Goodwill, and the University Settlement Society of New York, and clarified that the YMI has 300 to 400 CBO partners in the city, located in every borough.  

“A French philosopher, I think Rousseau” Eugene mused at one point, “spoke about the importance of family when raising children.” Eugene asked Garrett if YMI 2.0 was positioning itself as an intergenerational resource that could help parents reinforce the work that YMI does with its own programming. He said his own Brooklyn district has parents who would benefit from this kind of two-pronged programming, and also said that he would have gladly partnered with YMI, if the city had tried.

This was a common theme throughout the hearing. In fact, all Council members who spoke either chided Garrett for YMI’s lack of communication with their offices, or expressed surprise that they hadn’t heard more extensively about YMI and its work. “We have 51 Council members,“ Eugene said. “And you’ve only partnered with six of them? You could have allies with all 51 members.” (None of the six partner Council members are on the Youth Services Committee, which has seven members including Eugene, the chair.)

When Council Member Chin spoke, she expressed shock that this was the first time her committee was getting a report about the initiative. She said the Council “should have been a partner.”

Council Member Laurie Cumbo asked about how YMI approaches the problem of neighborhood gang violence. She said that before the annual Labor Day parade, J’ouvert, in her Crown Heights district, over 20 different gangs were identified, and asked if YMI had any anti-gun initiatives. Garrett replied that YMI looks at gangs as a part of the community, though he did give an anecdote about “Chuckie,” a member of the Crips gang who brought members of the gang to ARCHES, a group-mentoring YMI program designed to help men on probation get out of the criminal justice system. He recalled that the sessions were therapeutic.

Cumbo suggested that some of her own initiatives, like Art as a Catalyst For Change, were also good models, and that YMI might want to think about introducing more arts programming.

Council Member Andy King, seizing on an excerpt from the City Council briefing paper that was distributed before the hearing, also asked Garrett about what YMI was doing to help relationships between young men of color and the NYPD. King pointed out that “you never have to tell white boys how to act around the police. But you do have to teach black boys.” While the briefing paper, which is prepared by the committee staff, pointed out that “stop and frisk has been greatly reduced, from 700,000 stops in 2011 to 47,000 stops in 2015,” it also said that “the legacy of distrust continues to endure and many stakeholders have called for a continued engagement between the community and the NYPD.”

Garrett said that as a former advisor in the Department of Homeland Security, law enforcement is an area he is particularly attuned to. He said YMI is working with the NYPD on speaking with frontline officers, to see if there are systems officers can follow for crime and arrest deterrence. The NYPD is in the middle of implementing a new neighborhood policing model is that focused on building community relationships.

Another theme throughout the hearing was how YMI measures successes and phases out programs that appear to be ineffective.

Garrett gave the example of the Justice Corps, a job-coaching program for young men involved in the criminal justice system. The program was launched in 2008 and was re-tooled for expansion this year, after evaluation from the current YMI. However, an education program for former inmates, the Justice Scholars, is being phased out because it was found that people’s levels of education varied too widely to have a consistent positive impact.

Many of Garrett’s talking points from the hearing are laid out in more detail through the YMI section of the Mayor’s Management Report for Fiscal Year 2016, which was released earlier this week.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Council Member Eugene asked Garrett to estimate the success of YMI 2.0. “Would you say you’re at 90%? 70%? 50%?” Eugene asked. After a second of hesitation, Garrett said that he’d estimate YMI was 55% of the way to success. Earlier in the hearing, Garrett conceded that YMI is in a place that it wanted to be three years ago, but after discontinuing unsuccessful programming, he thought that YMI is heading in a better direction. The hearing closed with Garrett agreeing to send all Council members updates on the progress of YMI, and pledges from all there that there would be more collaboration between YMI and the City Council going forward.

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by Elena Burger, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Note: this story has been updated to remove question about the estimate from Hicks, which was verified by the mayor's office.

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Hearing Shows Lack of Communication on Young Men’s Initiative Fri, 23 Sep 2016 04:00:00 +0000
Council to Examine Young Men’s Initiative, a Bloomberg Program & National Model https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6537-council-to-examine-young-men-s-initiative-a-bloomberg-program-national-model https://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6537-council-to-examine-young-men-s-initiative-a-bloomberg-program-national-model YMI Cyrus Garrett

YMI's Cyrus Garrett (photo: @NYCyoungmen)


In August of 2011, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg addressed a group of nonprofit and community leaders as he announced the launch of a landmark approach to tackling persistent problems facing young black and Latino men. The Young Men’s Initiative, Bloomberg said, would address “four areas where the disparities are greatest and the consequences most harmful: education, health, employment, and the justice system.”

Upon its 2011 launch, Bloomberg put together a steering committee that included major players from the administration, including then-Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs; then-schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott; Veronica White, Director of the Center for Economic Opportunity at the time; and Andrea Batista Schlesinger, Gibb’s Director of Strategic Initiatives, who Bloomberg said was the driving force behind the initiative.

The program was initially funded by a combination of one-time $30 million contributions from Bloomberg Philanthropies and The Open Society Foundation and ongoing support from New York City tax dollars (up to $67.5 million over three years, Bloomberg said at the time). In his speech, Bloomberg said the purpose was that “‘equal opportunity’ is not an abstract notion – but an everyday reality, for all New Yorkers.”

That goal is, generally, the operating motivation for all of the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio, Bloomberg’s successor. However, while de Blasio has supported the Young Men’s Initiative, the program is not exactly a central piece of de Blasio’s fight against inequality. On Wednesday, about five years after the launch of the Young Men’s Initiative, the City Council will hold an oversight hearing to examine the status of YMI and its effectiveness nearly three years into the de Blasio administration.

The Council’s Youth Services Committee, chaired by Council Member Mathieu Eugene of Brooklyn, will hear from Cyrus Garrett, the current executive director, and other YMI stakeholders, including those who have gone through its programming.

According to a status report conducted by the Urban Institute in January of this year, most stakeholders agreed that under Bloomberg, YMI’s approach to New York’s disparity in justice for young men of color was most successful. YMI 1.0, as the Urban Institute called its Bloomberg era form, ushered in policies like Close to Home, an initiative allowing juvenile offenders to stay close to their families while spending time in non-secure and limited-secure city facilities and ARCHES, a group mentoring program to help remove men aged 16-24 from the criminal justice system.

In 2013, when Bloomberg left office, YMI 1.0 had already presided over (or, at least, coincided with) several successes, according to the 2013 YMI annual report: juvenile crime was 30% lower in 2013 compared to 2012, and had dropped 18% since 2006; 40 high schools for black and Latino boys had received investments from the Expanded Success Initiative (a YMI offshoot that has since transitioned to the NYC Department of Education); after the introduction of Cure Violence, a program designed to treat violence as a public health issue by putting outreach workers on the ground, there was a 28% decrease in gun violence in the target neighborhoods of the South Bronx, South Jamaica, Crown Heights, East New York, and Central Harlem.

Interestingly, the 2013 report was co-authored by Richard Buery, who was then leading Children’s Aid Society, but would soon be named a deputy mayor under de Blasio and now oversees YMI.

Along with apparent progress, YMI 1.0 also had some structural problems. According to the Urban Institute, “there was widespread belief that YMI needed continuous input and consultancy with actors outside city government” and “community-based organizations, both large and small, did not have sufficient input into YMI processes and decisionmaking.”

Fast forward to the present and YMI is led by Garrett, who assumed the role of YMI executive director in December 2014. YMI 2.0 -- as the Urban Institute refers to it -- includes a number of changes, some that seem to speak to the Urban Institute’s findings, and some that seem to adapt the initiative to de Blasio’s own policies outside of YMI.

At an event in 2015 inaugurating the launch of YMI 2.0 and Garrett's appointment, de Blasio outlined the trajectory going forward: “New York City is answering President Obama’s call and doubling down on its commitments to expanding literacy in our youngest children, ensuring our high school graduates are ready for college and career, and forging a deeper partnership between police and community to prevent crime.”

While YMI 2.0 remains committed to many of the successful programs under Bloomberg, it has since been reconfigured to focus on neighborhoods in the South Bronx, East Harlem, Southwest and Southeast Queens, the North Shore of Staten Island, Brownsville, and East New York. This likely reflects budgetary constraints: the seed money from Bloomberg and Soros has all been spent, as their $60 million was only allocated for the three years after the 2011 launch of YMI.

YMI has also begun to align itself with goals set forth in Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, a nationwide program launched in 2014 that de Blasio referred to at the 2015 event and which the city officially partners with. According to Obama, his initiative focuses on “providing the support [young men of color] need to think more broadly about their future.” While My Brother’s Keeper has a much larger focus (and a corresponding $600 million budget), it’s genesis can be traced to the Young Men’s Initiative.

Alignment with My Brother’s Keeper has led to some adjustment in YMI’s vision. Under Bloomberg, YMI targeted men of color aged 16-24, but under de Blasio, programs are offered to different age groups. The “Talk to Your Baby” campaign and reading programs for children enrolled in kindergarten through third grade are both My Brother’s Keeper-united programs that clearly target a younger audience. While there are several goals of My Brother’s Keeper that also correspond with Bloomberg’s original 16-24 demographic, the Urban Institute recommended that the de Blasio administration define “what constitutes YMI-aligned programming and clearly communicating which programs count as YMI aligned.”

Other important new highlights of YMI 2.0 include improved relationships between the NYPD and young men of color -- a goal that was outlined in de Blasio’s 2015 launch with Garrett -- but one that lacks any evident policy behind it, though the city is rolling out its expanded neighborhood policing program.

In April, YMI released “The Disparity Report,” which “provides a snapshot of where young people of color stand in relation to their peers in the areas of Education, Economic Security and Mobility, Health and Wellbeing, and Community and Personal Safety.” Generally, the report shows that there have been “decreases in several disparities for young men and women of color,” but that “disparities persist, warranting an in-depth exploration of the underlying factors that account for these continued discrepancies.”

And on Monday, the de Blasio administration released the Mayor’s Management Report (MMR) for fiscal year 2016, which ended June 30. The Young Men’s Initiative section of the report shows that it is partnering with about 20 city agencies and offices, mentions its increasing alignment with My Brother’s Keeper, and says that “In Fiscal 2016, YMI implemented new programs and refined existing ones; developed trackable indicators and metrics; and launched a policy committee to further advance New York City’s capacity to promote the advancement of [boys and young men of color].”

Specifically, “YMI implemented major initiatives on mentoring, early childhood literacy and teacher recruitment and retention” in fiscal 2016, the MMR section states.

Council Member Eugene’s office confirmed that at Wednesday’s hearing his committee will be looking for new information from YMI about its programs and their effectiveness, what its budgetary needs might be, and more.

When the City Council examines the Young Men’s Initiative Wednesday, a project spearheaded by the Council Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, could also come up. The Young Women’s Initiative, launched by Mark-Viverito in October 2015, targets gaps in services for young women aged 12-24. Similar to YMI, YWI focuses on structural inequality facing women of color, with a spotlight on health, education, economic and workforce development, criminal justice, and self-sufficiency and mobility.

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by Elena Burger, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

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Council to Examine Young Men’s Initiative, a Bloomberg Program & National Model Tue, 20 Sep 2016 04:00:00 +0000