may he rest in peace.
Folks, tickets for our benefit concert with the Klezmatics have been selling like latkes. But we still have a few left, and would love to celebrate with you on Thursday, May 8th, 6-8pm at the historic Cafe Wha.
I’ve been a fan of the Klezmatics since back in the day, and still can’t really describe them. Their music comes from the Jewish Klezmer tradition (check out their albums Jews with Horns and Rhythm & Jews), but that’s just their starting point. They mash it up with blues, rock, Balkan brass, Latin, folk, rock, and more. They won a Grammy for their amazing Woody Guthrie tribute album, Wonder Wheel. They are New York City personified – a raucous cultural mishmash that somehow manages to produce great harmony.
I’m still hoping we’ll get a hip hop album out of them entitled Challah at Yo Boy. (You’re welcome, Klezmatics.)
Oh, let’s not forget the venue — Cafe Wha, the West Village landmark that launched Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Richard Pryor, Jimi Hendrix and many more.
The Klezmatics and the Wha are donating their talent and space to help build peace in New York City. Every scheckel we bring in from this event will go directly toward helping thousands of New Yorkers resolve their differences peacefully creatively, and durably.
Folks, there’s still time to get tix to our amazing benefit concert on May 8th featuring the Grammy award-winning Klezmatics at the historic Café Wha?. Meanwhile, we just had a competition for best peace-related pun, in which the winner gets a free ticket.
And the winner is Jonathan Evan Goldberg (who quite frankly stuffed the ballot box) for:
“The free ticket should go to my friend David Accords: Comp David Accords.”
Honorable mentions and/or dishonorable groans go to the following runners-up:
If an electron and proton get into a dispute, will NYPI provide a neutral neutron? Ugh nevermind, law school doesn’t teach puns – Brian Farkas
Food brings people together: share a peace of cake. Also share some settle-mints, while you’re at it! –Jonathan Evan Goldberg
When approaching the New World half the Pilgrims wanted to sail the Mayflower south and the other half north, so they worked out a compromise and came to a settlement. –James P. Stanton
Got fat sharing food with the enemy, Time for some peace and diet. –Jonathan Evan Goldberg
More on food for peace: try some meatyation or carbitration as forms of alternative dispute resolution. Booya! –Jonathan Evan Goldberg
The mediator who mediated the dispute Helped two disputants to reboot Said the two to the mediator, “is it easier to dispute or to help two disputants to kahoot? –James P. Stanton
Show your peace at the door and get in free. –Mark Diamond
Thanks for playing along, punsters, and hope to see you on May 8th.
I’m super excited to announce this very special event — a benefit concert by the amazing, Grammy-award winning Klezmatics at the historic, West Village Cafe Wha?. All proceeds will go directly to building peace in New York City, through our provision of free mediation and other conflict resolution services to people from all walks of life. Read more about our work on our website, or in this recent Wall Street Journal article about us.
The Klezmatics are nearly impossible to describe — like New York City itself, they are a mash-up of styles ranging from klezmer, to folk, jazz, rock, latin, Balkan and more. They’ve appeared on Conan O’Brien and many other shows, and are the subject of an incredible documentary, On Holy Ground. Did I mention they won a Grammy? They generously offered to donate their awesome talents for the evening, and they’ll blow the roof off of the joint.
Speaking of the joint, the benefit will be held at the Cafe Wha? — a West Village landmark that helped launch the careers of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Jimi Hendrix, Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor and many, many more. Big thanks to our friends at Cafe Wha? for providing their space to us for the evening free of charge, so that all proceeds go to build peace in our city. And they’ll have drinks and eats a go-go (on your dime) to slake your thirsts and tantalize your palates.
This concert will not only be ridiculous fun — it will directly help hundreds of New Yorkers resolve their disputes peacefully, creatively, and durably.
So we hope to see you there — Thursday, May 8. Doors open at 6:00pm, and the Klezmatics will rock the house starting at 6:45pm. Tickets are are $40 for general admission, and we also have sponsor level tix for $100, which will get you special seats. Register here as soon as you can — space is very limited!
Best to all,
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
NEW YORK PEACE INSTITUTE
It’s nearly a cliché: In New York, city of overpriced everything, you can get the most amazing stuff free of charge. We’ve got free Fridays at MoMA, free kayaking at the Downtown Boathouse, free lunch with the Hare Krishnas—yada, yada, yada. But recently, I heard a new one: A pal got his family squabble resolved through free mediation at something called the New York Peace Institute.
Free mediation? The going rate for formal mediation is worse than therapy—$250 an hour or more. But when I called the Peace Institute, CEO Brad Heckman confirmed my buddy’s account: Whether you’re squabbling with a tenant, your ex-wife or the exterminator, you can stop by the institute’s Financial District office for a confidential session with your personal King Solomon.
There’s almost no case it won’t take. Roommates fighting over the dishes, bizarre love triangles, a co-worker stealing ideas—the institute’s mediators see it all. And the solutions are often surprising. Mr. Heckman fondly recalls two co-op owners who solved their noise problem by swapping apartments.
The program has a 70% success rate—meaning both parties agree to a solution. That sure beats the courtroom, where at least one party is guaranteed to leave mad while the lawyers go home rich.
Mr. Heckman connected me with one client, a Brooklyn gallery owner (the institute keeps identities of participants anonymous) who admits to ignoring complaints about his noisy events. He thought his new arts center was a huge plus for the community and couldn’t understand why the neighbors didn’t appreciate his wonderful contribution.
His angry neighbors were also a bit unreasonable, insisting that their commercially zoned block maintain a state of paradisal tranquility. “I was acting like a 12-year-old,” says the gallery owner, “and they were acting like 13-year-olds.”
After months of complaints, drama and police visits, the whole gang was referred to the institute by a community affairs officer. Both parties say tensions ran high at the start of the four-hour meeting. But the mediators gave everyone uninterrupted talking time and repeated their statements, allowing each side to hear the information from a neutral party.
The atmosphere softened. The neighbors learned about the gallery’s mission—it wasn’t just a party space. The gallery owner agreed to install sound-proof windows and hire security. Two years later, they’re swapping holiday gifts.
Not every case is a winner. I spoke with two residents in a Harlem co-op who are fighting over a barking dog. The upstairs resident, a sales rep, admits that her 30-pound mutt has his lively moments, especially when a friend’s pooch comes over to play at night. But he certainly doesn’t bark in the morning—that’s when she meditates! “What my neighbor is complaining about is picayune crap,” she says.
Her downstairs neighbor, an actor, says the situation is constant and unbearable: “I have two dogs overhead, freaking out, banging the furniture and howling like wolves.”
The co-op board sent them to mediation, but to no avail. The sales rep says the session merely convinced her that her neighbor is impossible to please. The actor says he may have to move.
But here’s the odd part: They’re both pleased with their experience at the institute, if only because they both believe the session gave them the opportunity to prove that their neighbor is crazy. This reaction isn’t uncommon, says Mr. Heckman. In fact, he says there’s little correlation between client satisfaction and case outcome: “This is the only place where someone is just going to listen and not judge you. It’s almost magical.”
So who are these magical mediators? Volunteers. The nonprofit Peace Institute, with its staff of 15, is largely funded by the courts—it’s designed to relieve a clogged legal system. But the joint couldn’t operate without its army of 450 pro bono mediators who pay for their own training.
And what a crew. Yes, there’s the expected moonlighting social workers and “recovering attorneys,” along with teachers, cabbies and artists. But this is New York, so you might get your case mediated by a professional hostage negotiator, U.N. ombudsman or retired peacekeeper.
It’s a tough job—especially for mediators accepting criminal cases referred by the courts. Mediator Claudia Maffettone says she’s been presented with cases and stories “beyond anything you can imagine.” But she finds even the most outrageous acts can be understood, if not justified.
If this sounds like a fun chance to play Judge Judy, think again. Mediators don’t issue orders, or even offer solutions. The job is to extract a broader understanding of the situation that helps participants generate their own fix. “If you’re thinking of a solution, you’re not mediating,” goes the saying.
What mediators do enjoy is a front-row seat at the theater of human experience. “People get angry, they cry, they go through the whole gamut of emotions, and you are living through it with them,” says Ms. Maffettone.
Despite the technique’s success rate, Mr. Heckman says mediation hasn’t caught on. The institute takes 5,000 cases a year but has room for plenty more. The problem? Litigious Americans love their courtroom fantasies: “People imagine a scenario where you give this impassioned statement and the jury is reduced to tears and the judge bangs the gavel and victory is had,” he says.
The 33-year-old program recently rebranded in hopes of raising its profile. It avoided Zen colors and cliché logos like doves and bridges. The new brand is “passionate and fearless,” he says. “We want to offer a safe space where people can have a confrontation.”
Visiting the empty conference rooms, with their tissue boxes, candy bowls and water carafes, I almost wished I had some nasty personal dispute to drag in for some free mediation. Of course, this being New York, it shouldn’t be too hard to get something going….
We’re fully operational in our fabulous new Manhattan Center, and we’re also in the midst of renovating our Brooklyn Center. Big thanks to our individual donors, pro-bono helpers, and the sweat equity of our team in getting our new (and old) digs shipshape. Here are a few pics, which I hope illustrate the vibrant oasis of peace we’re striving to build.
Look at our big fat logo in our waiting/training area in Brooklyn, and all the beautiful people doing a Tai Chi exercise during our recent masterclass with Doug Noll.
We’re so excited that our Centers visually reflect our values of creativity and optimism, empathy and empowerment. And I’m so proud that our team was able to get us up and running without missing a beat.
This is really cool: In our old Manhattan office, due to building regs, we had to close our doors at 4:30pm, and during a 90 minute lunch break. We’re now mediating in the evenings….and are piloting a weekend mediation project. (We had three cases last Saturday.)
Our Manhattan move cost us a big chunk of change, now that we’re paying rent after decades of free municipal space. But it’ll pay off, for our clients, communities, and city. So now would be an awesome time to contribute any amount, so we can continue to honor our commitment to keep mediation free and accessible in NYC.
So, pick a date that works for you, and come on by promptly at 6pm for the grand tour:
January 24, 6-8pm
February 7, 6-8pm
February 11, 6-8pm
Our address is 111 John Street, Suite 600, New York, NY 10038. It’s ever so conveniently located near the Fulton Street 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, J & Z lines. The closest cross street is Pearl, for those of you in the know about downtown Manhattan.
We hope to see lots and lots of you in our new space. Please RSVP to our wonderful Administrative Assistant Christina Dizon, email@example.com. Y’all come by now, y’hear?