About thehecklist

CEO of the New York Peace Institute, Adjunct Professor at New York University's Center for Global Affairs. On twitter @hecksign and @NewYorkPeace.

we got your PeaceTalks right here.

Godzilla-vs-Megalon-handshakeFolks, we’re plenty busy helping more than 10,000 people build peace each year, providing crucial skills to organizations such as the NYPD, NASA, and the UN, and generally keeping it real.

As if that weren’t enough, we’re committed to being a place where we can exchange ideas and learn new approaches to peacebuilding. This is what our PeaceTalks are all about.  Just about every month, we have exciting (and free!) 2-hour gatherings, usually in our fabulous Brooklyn Mediation Center, on all kinds of topics.  We’ve done film screenings, book signings, mediator storytelling nights, presentations by prestigious diplomats, spiels on how to market your mediation practice, improv comedy for mediators, and more.

Our PeaceTalks (again — free!) are also opportunities to schmooze and re-connect with peacebuilders of all stripes.

Our next one, which is this Thursday, December 11, 6-8:00pm, is all about the connection between dance, movement, and mediation, by our friend Jill Sarah Moscowitz.  I’m hoping to learn how to incorporate my own personal forbidden dance of love (i.e. the chicken dance) into my practice. RSVP & learn more here for Thursday’s, and follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and our website for upcoming PeaceTalks.



closingHere’s my infographic on how to close a mediation session. Take our awesome bootcamp-meets-bandcamp mediation training and you’ll be able to decode my doodles.

But I’ll happily explain the turkey, and you can use your imaginations on the underwear, astro-goat, blimp and Wonderbread.

When we close a mediation session, regardless of the outcome, it’s important that we give thanks to our clients — for their willingness to speak their minds, have the conversations they need to have, and perhaps engage in courageous acts of reconciliation, forgiveness, and healing.

So, to the thousands of folks out there who take the leap of faith to bring your conflicts to mediation — buckled Pilgrim hats off to you. And big thanks to our mediators, staff, board, supporters, partners, and families, for doing your part to build peace in NYC and beyond.

Happy Thanksgiving all, and enjoy your can-shaped cranberry sauce, be-marshmallowed sweet potatoes, or whatever other delicacies tantalize your palates chez vous.



get to know a new york peace instituter: jeff!

jeffFolks, here’s the next installment in our Get-to-Know-a-New-York-Peace-Instituter series:  Meet Jeff Sybertz, Case Manager Extraordinaire. From time to time I have the pleasure of seeing Jeff in action with our clients, and I’ve learned a lot from him. He truly embodies our values of empathy, creativity, and optimism. Let’s see what he has to say for himself.

So, what do you do around here?

I am a Case Manager working in both Brooklyn and Manhattan. I am responsible for a variety of community mediations. The topics of these mediations include: noise disputes, landlord tenant disputes, parenting issues, issues between youths, and many, many, many more. I am responsible for the life cycle of the case, from determining its appropriateness for mediation, presenting the process to all involved parties, scheduling qualified mediators, debriefing said mediators, to following up with the clients after the mediation.

What was your first paying job?

Snowboard instructor at Okemo Mountain Resort in Ludlow, Vermont. Probably one of the coolest first jobs ever, in my humble opinion.

What animal would you be and why?

I think if I had the choice and if I were to be described as any animal, I would like to think a Beagle. They are loyal, smart, never give up on something once they find the scent, and they never shut the hell up.

What inspires you about your work?

Luckily, I have never been involved in the legal system (knock on wood). However, after dealing with people who have been involved in that system day in and day out, I’ve realized how it can consume nearly every aspect of someone’s life. I’m often speaking with these people on one of the worst days of their lives. What inspires me about this work is that we are the ones who these people will call when their situation seems so grim. They are looking to us for help. It is our responsibility to do whatever we can as mediators to work with these people to resolve their disputes. Also, the fact that people are willing to open up and share the most personal details of their lives to us (who are complete strangers to them) inspires me to be accountable to them and prove to them that putting their trust in me was worth it.

Who would play you in a movie of your life and why?

Survivalist Bear Grylls because he always seems to be able to get out of a sticky situation. We sometimes have to deal with a lot of sticky situations around here and I feel like he would be a natural. Also, I imagine that the movie version of working in a mediation center would be great if it were filmed on the side of a cliff or in white water rapids.

Tell us about a time you felt you really helped make a difference for our clients or mission.

Without breaking confidentiality, we recently had a mediation between two sisters who were trying to work out a number of different family issues surrounding their ailing grandfather and his assets. Both of the sisters were having a really difficult time communicating while they were trying to grieve the loss of their grandfather and tackle the complicated task of dividing up the assets. They were very thankful for the mediation process and the space that we provided because it enabled them to slow things down and figure out how to move forward collaboratively.

If you could have any 3 people, living or dead, for dinner, who would it be? OK, now you can only have 2 — who would you kick out?

New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick, Former US president Bill Clinton, Survivalist Bear Grylls would be a great meal. Sorry, President Clinton, no dessert for you.

 What else should we know about you?

I am a Massachusetts transplant who is extremely proud of his New England roots. When I am not working on making the world a more peaceful place, I am generally outside in the woods of New Jersey or the mountains of Utah.

iron and velvet memories.

solidarnoscIt’s the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Velvet Revolutions in Eastern Europe. Those events got me into this whole mediation thing. Here are some drawings and reflections for you.

In 1989, I graduated from college and hightailed it to Poland. It was still a Soviet puppet state and the Cold War was still on, so I endured some Kafkaesque shenanigans to get there (including an interrogation at the Polish consulate with chain-smoking, perplexed apparatchiks). I got a job pretending to be a university English instructor, and my students pretended to learn. I went there because 1) I had no idea what to do with my life and 2) I was fascinated with the Solidarity movement of the early ’80s — in which people from all walks of life united to promote democracy, through peaceful protest and creative civil disobedience. Alas, the movement was violently squashed by martial law. When I arrived, things had “normalized” — no outward oppression or tanks in the streets, but no public gatherings, and plenty of Soviet soldiers with big hats. And breadlines straight out of a Yakov Smirnoff bit.

solidarnosc 2And then — something amazing happened. Through round-table negotiations that included the Soviet-sponsored regime, the opposition, intellectuals, representatives of the church, and a whole bunch of others, the government agreed to elections, and in effect ceded its power. And this spilled over into other countries. Throughout the region, prisoners, factory workers, and avant-garde playwrights became presidents. Frank Zappa became an advisor to the Czech government. In Lithuania, a statue of Lenin came down, and one of Jimi Hendrix went up.  The domino effect/zeitgeist/synchronicity made it all the way to South Africa, where Nelson Mandela was sprung after 27 years in the Gray Bar Hotel.

One night I was having dinner at a Polish friend’s home. (Note: when visiting friends in Poland, always bring flowers. And an uneven number of them.  And never lilies, because they represent death. You’re welcome.) The TV was on and the dude from Knight Rider was astride the Berlin Wall singing in a bedazzled suit as happy Germans took sledgehammers to concrete and I assumed it was a vodka and borscht induced hallucination.  But it was indeed Hasselhoff heralding the fall of the wall.

Anyway, the notion of societal change through a combo of civil disobedience and roundtable dialogue was as like getting a hairdryer stuck in my ear, in that it blew my mind.

off the wallI more or less figured out how to be a teacher. To showcase students’ writing, I started a little  English-language ‘zine. (Here it is above — I found it after a quarter century!) This entailed all kinds of hijinks, because things like mass photocopying and buying paper in bulk were still kind of not exactly legal.

rayAfter 2 years in Poland and grad school in Italy and Washington, DC, I got hired by Partners for Democratic Change, founded by Ray Shonholtz, depicted above, doing one of his favorite things: negotiating room rates in hotels. Ray was a pioneer of community mediation, and I had the honor of working with him and other incredible folks to help set up the first community mediation centers in the former Soviet Bloc and the Balkans and other amazing places.

Much of what we do at New York Peace Institute is profoundly influenced by what I learned from the first generation of mediators in the new democracies.

hairdreser polandMy Slavic colleagues had some great ways of getting the word out on mediation — like telling hairdressers all about it, because they hear people complaining about their families, coworkers and neighbors all day long. We’re also a bit unconventional and quirky in our outreach approach at New York Peace Institute.

yodaCommunity mediation’s been around for a while in the US, so we have all kinds of quality assurance mechanisms. Incredible Yoda-like mentors we have,  Looking back, I’m astounded at how we managed to get mediation centers up and running in a flash in the former Soviet Bloc, and at how creative my colleagues were. (And are — most of them are still around, mediating the good fight.)

Those were some good times.

And some heart wrenching ones. The Balkan Wars felt like an equal and opposite reaction to the peaceful transitions in Central and Eastern Europe. And minority groups, like the Roma, were getting shafted right left and center as social safety nets eroded. I was honored to be a teensy part of some big acts of reconciliation and peacebuilding.

And this one time, I hung out in a hotel in Bulgaria with Led Zeppelin.

Happy Berlin Wall Fall Anniversary,






scenes from our PeaceRaiser!

staff and boardHere’s our fabulous staff and board at our 2nd Annual PeaceRaiser. Big thanks to all who came out to support us building peace in New York City and beyond. We had a fabulous time, what with the art project, the button making, the auction, the food, the drink, the trivia game….and most of all, the good company in support of a great cause.  All these pics are from ace photographer Sachyn Mital, who volunteered his talent to capture the event.

christina marquitaChristina and Marquita discussing the fine points of checking in, and ultimately agreeing to forgo the TSA-style pat-down.

steve peace wallSteve writing on our Draw Your Peace wall, curated by our wonderful board member Youssef Mahmoud.

lenscrafter adBest LensCrafter ad ever, featuring Danita, Jason and Carrie.

carol harriet hugAt New York Peace Institute, you’re family, demonstrated by Harriet and Carol. No disrespect to Olive Garden.

make your own button brettBrett making buttons at the Make Yer Own Button Booth.

buttonMission accomplished.

draw your peaceMore sanctioned graffiti.

triva gameWe played New York Peace Institute Trivia with fabulous prizes.

ally asha anneAll A’s! Ally. Asha. Anne.

michele will parents Michele, Will, and Will’s folks.

orange solo cupsWe used ORANGE Solo cups, because classy. And on-brand.

good people good lighting No foreheads were burned or coiffures set aflame by the beautiful Edisonian lightbulbs at WeWork’s gorgeous space. (Thanks, WeWork people!)

marquita brad jenniferMarquita announcing the close of our silent auction, under the silent scrutiny of yours truly and our super board member Jennifer Glueck-Bezoza.

brads artBig thanks to the folks who bid on items such as these etchings by yours truly…

african art….and this exquisite piece of African art…which is also a little piece of diplomatic history. And may more cool things. Thanks to all participated in our peaceful bidding wars.

what could possibly go wrongMe: “What could possibly go wrong?”  Michael Williams (our Board Chair) “What have you got?”

koren auctionKoren doing the math to figure out our silent auction winners. She is clearly pleased.

cranesThese guys crashed the party, but we were all “the more the merrier” and whatnot.

So. Huge thanks to our Board, staff, volunteers, new and old friends and partners for putting this event together. Who’d have thunk that such a fun evening would help thousands of folks heal in the wake of conflict, engage in heroic acts of forgiveness, and find peacefully ways forward in their lives.

Yours in peace,


PS  If you could’t make it, and still want to contribute to keeping community mediation free to New Yorkers in need, just click here.



LAST CALLFolks, tomorrow night — Wednesday, November 5, 6-9pm — is our 2nd Annual PeaceRaiser, at which there will be much food, drink, the auctioning of cool stuff, great people, a trivia game with ridiculous prizes, an interactive art installment, and all kinds of fun. All in support of building peace in NYC, so we can continue to creatively help thousands of people from all walks of life resolve their conflicts.

Read all about it and get your tix!

Fist-bumps of peace to y’all,