PRESS RELEASE on our work with NYPD, supported by the JAMS Foundation!

newsiesThis just in from our friends at the JAMS Foundation!

JAMS Foundation Awards $180,000 to New York Peace Institute

August 31, 2015

Irvine, Calif. – The nonprofit JAMS Foundation approved a $180,000 grant to the New York Peace Institute to work with the New York Police Department to expand a neighborhood-based policing training program. The funding will enable the NY Peace Institute and the NYPD to work together to promote positive police-community relations through productive problem-solving. The proposal represents an unprecedented endorsement of mediation as a useful tool for police officers.

The two organizations will build a critical mass of Neighborhood Coordination Officers who can use mediation skills in engaging with community members. With this funding, nearly 300 NYPD officers will develop and use a range of new skills for peacefully de-escalating conflict and constructively engaging the public. While patrolling their assigned neighborhoods, the NCOs will spend nearly all of their time interacting with the public and building relations and trust with the communities they serve. The NCOs will use conflict resolution skills to address a wide range of public safety problems.

“We believe the partnership between the New York Peace Institute and NYPD can produce significant and lasting change, and provide a model for cities and communities across the country,” said David Brandon, managing director of the JAMS Foundation. “The Foundation is pleased to support NYPI’s work in raising awareness about the use of conflict resolution methods to address tensions between the police and the communities they serve.”

“It is more important than ever to build trust between our neighborhoods and police,” said Brad Heckman, CEO of the New York Peace Institute. “We are excited about the opportunity to embed mediation in the NYPD on a significant scale.”

“In order to work more effectively with communities, our NCOs need to listen well, and engage in collaborative problem-solving,” said Police Commissioner William J. Bratton. “This training will help them do that.”

The New York Peace Institute is one of the nation’s largest community mediation programs, giving more than 10,000 people the resources they need to manage conflict, heal relationships and build community cohesion each year. The organization began in 1981 as a program of Safe Horizon, a leading victims’ services organization, and became an independent organization in 2011. As New York’s largest civilian peaceforce, its mission is to build peace and prevent violence in the city and beyond.

About the JAMS Foundation ( The non-profit JAMS Foundation is the largest private provider of ADR-related grants in the world. The Foundation was established in 2002 by JAMS, the largest private provider of alternative dispute resolution services worldwide, and is funded by JAMS mediators, arbitrators and employee associates who contribute a percentage of their income. The JAMS Foundation has provided more than $5 million in grant funding since its inception. Founded in 1979, JAMS and its nearly 300 fulltime mediators and arbitrators are responsible for resolving thousands of the world’s most important cases.

s just in from our friends at the JAMS Foundation…


a round-up of our media adventures.

ted baxterMediation is still not the household word it ought to be, and we’re doing our best to get the word out. Here’s a round-up of our appearances on the TV, radio, print media, and information superhighway.

Check us out on Univision TV, featuring our Case Manager Jeff and cameos by a bunch of us.

…and here’s a short segment on News 12, briefly featuring one of our heroic clients.

Our very own Case Manager, Aura Sotomayor and Mediator Olga Perez were featured on Telemundo. Watch here!

The edgy website ANIMALnewyork wrote about us: “Meet the People Who Keep New Yorkers from Ripping Each Others Heads Off.” 

Listen to an interview with CEO Brad Heckman on the Earbud University Podcast.

Brad was also interviewed on NASH Radio (a country music station…in NYC!)

Read “The Art of Mediation: Local Lessons for International Peacemakers,” an article in the Global Observatory.

Here’s our very own Carol Lieb Himes Special Education mediation, here and hereWith animation!

We talked about our Restorative Justice work on the Rebbe Radical Rev Show. Listen here.

We were featured in the Wall Street Journal!  Read the article here.

The New York Times interviewed us in their Real Estate section about neighbor problems. And then they did it again!

Brad wrote “On Bob Dylan and Reverse International Development” for the Nebraska Mediation Association.

The Conflict Specialists Show podcast interviewed Brad, as did Voice America Radio .

Watch Brad’s TEDx Talk, “Mediation and Mindfully Getting in the Middle”

Dickinson Magazine profiled Brad, who went to college there.

Elle Magazine’s September fashion issue features a great article about our mediation training, and how it helped the writer’s marriage.

The New York Daily News published a piece on landlord-tenant issues, featuring a link to our blog on communication tips.

TimeOut New York’s roommate issue featured an interview with Brad and our friend Sheila Sproule about coping with cohabitation conflicts.

The Cooperator, the largest online publication about coop and condo living, published a short piece about mediation, featuring us alongside the wonderful National Association for Community Mediation (NAFCM).

Brick Underground, a popular NYC housing blog, includes us in their panel of experts. Read about how to deal with noisy, nude, smoking neighbors.

Texas conflict guru Pattie Porter interviewed Brad for her podcast, in a segment called “Fugghetaboutit….and move forward: Mediation, New York-Style.”

We’re profiled in the online publication Peace Is Sexy (which is actually quite G-rated, so you can click on whilst at work).

We’ve even been featured it the astrology blog of the fabulous Kiki T – Tyra Banks’ on-air stargazer, among other things.


Freud not.

freudWhen I lived in Poland in 1989, I took a trip to Prague — now a major tourist destination, then a hauntingly desolate (yet beautiful) place. I got chicken pox there, which the doctor mistranslated as smallpox. And then we figured it out and we laughed and laughed because I wasn’t going to take the dirt nap.

Speaking of mistranslations. Polish and Czech and other Slavic languages are pretty similar, so while exploring Prague, I figured I’d get around by speaking my middling Polish and just Czeching it up a bit.  For the most part it worked. Except for this: the Polish word for “to look for” is szukać. This is an important word when you’re a tourist looking for stuff.  But the Czech version — šukat — means the f word (the one that autocorrects to duck.) 

This is known as a linguistic faux amis (French for “false friend”!) — two words in different languages that sound that same and really ought to mean the same thing, but don’t. My favorite one is the Spanish word embarazada which means pregnant instead of embarrassed, which I reckon has resulted in a lot of embarrassing pregnant pauses.

So I basically went around Prague saying things like “Excuse me sir, I am f***ing the Cathedral.” and “How might I f*** your Town Hall?” and “I’m f**ing your famous Clock Tower”.  You get the picture. I guess I had that chicken pox coming to me.

Just like languages from similar groups overlap, mediation and other fields have a lot in common….and some things that can trip us up. Some mediation trainees express discomfort going toward the emotional heat and focusing on emotions, because “it feels like therapy.” Meanwhile, therapeutic professionals who take our trainings sometimes think that our techniques are old hat — and indeed, much of what we do (validating feelings, asking open-ended questions, inquiring about parties’ ideal vision, etc.) are therapists’ stock in trade. So, we talk about some of the differences between therapeutic interventions and mediation, to avoid mediation-therapy faux amis (and faux pas). Mediation can certainly be therapeutic, but it’s not therapy, and here area few reasons why:

–Mediators don’t diagnose. In the same way that we don’t judge, we don’t our label our clients with this or that mental or cognitive issue. This can be really tricky for counseling professionals who do that for a living.

— Mediation is a largely forward looking process. Sure, we gather information on what happened in the past, but our real focus is on where do we go from here. Of course, therapists look at the past, present and future. But mediators don’t get into the analyzing the childhood origins of clients’ behavior and Oedipal Complexes and such.

— Mediators, in our model, don’t give advice. A lot of therapists do. We also don’t prescribe drugs, though we usually have some hard candy setting around.

— Mediation is typically more time-bound than therapy. Some mediations may have multiple sessions, but often a few hours and a couple of meetings does the trick. Therapy can go on for months, years, or be a life-long journey. On the other hand, an individual mediation session may last several hours or a whole day or more, vs. the standard 50-minutes therapy sesh.

Okay, our time is up.

(Oh, my drawing above is supposed to be Sigmund Freud, and my own mnemonic reminder to not therapize while mediating. I can’t quite put my finger on what the cigar means.)

i am NOT endorsing soviet-style communism in this post but…


Following the brutal ouster of Russian Tsar Nicholas in 1917, a bunch of revolutionaries debated about what Russia needed most in the wake of the revolution. Various intellectuals gave long-winded spiels with many fancy words. As legend has it, Vladimir Lenin, soon to be the first leader of the Soviet Union, got up and gave this 3-word speech (which I illustrated above):

Land. Bread. Peace.

(In my mind this was followed by “Lenin out” and a mic drop).

Again, I’m not endorsing Leninism, or any other -ism here. But there is a useful take-away from this story for mediators. In the din of confusion, chaos, and conflict, it’s not so easy for parties to understand what really matters. Mediators aren’t there to impose their ideas, interpretations, or assumptions about parties’ needs. But what we can do is frame what we’ve heard in broad, balanced, and neutral language that resonates with the disputants, in order to help frame a constructive conversation.

Like unto the myriad issues facing post-revolutionary Russia (don’t get me started on the whole Bolshevik vs. Menshevik thing), even the most complex conflicts can be distilled into a few key issues — things like respect, communication, the kids, the financial situation, etc.  This is interest-based negotiation in a nutshell.

Once a mediator helps parties excavate the key issues — and checks in with them to ensure that they got it right– parties are more likely to hear each other and perhaps work toward a common understanding.  And even if they don’t agree on how to move forward, they’ve at least agreed on what’s really important.

Da zvedanya, comrades.



last call to build some peace with us this fiscal year.

pigeonsdrawing by brad

Dear friends,

We’re two days away from beginning our fifth year as New York Peace Institute!  We’ve done so much — and there’s so much left to do, and we need your help. Our free services help thousands of New Yorkers prevent violence, heal relationships, build community, and create peace. Our work is needed now more than ever. Here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to:

— We’re working to dismantle the school to prison pipeline, facilitating conversations in schools to help kids on the verge of expulsion stay in school and become the leaders they deserve to be.

— We’re putting restorative justice on the map in NYC — helping individuals, groups, families and communities find ways to heal, undo the harm, make amends and move forward in the wake of crime and disruptions.

— We’re turning cops into mediators! At a challenging time for civilian-police relationships, we’re intensively training NYPD officers from various precincts to use mediation skills on the beat, and to refer disputes to mediation citywide.

— We’ve been providing vital communication skills to neighborhood groups, community-based organizations, city agencies — and even NASA!

— We’re raising the profile of mediation and peacebuiding in the media — from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal to News 12 to NASH Radio to Telemundo.

Most importantly, we’ve touched the lives of thousands of people over the past year, through the heroic work of our 400-plus mediators, amazing staff, stellar board, and wonderful partners.

As we wind up our fiscal year at the end of June, please consider donating what you can to New York Peace Institute. And we have a very specific need for your help.  We strive to build our mediator pool to be reflective of the communities we serve.  We want to offer more mediation scholarships to New Yorkers who represent the diversity of our city. A full scholarship that will help a community member become come a New York Peace Institute mediator costs $2000.

We also want to continue to offer mediation to New Yorkers in need regardless of their language. The cost of an interpreter for a typical mediation session is $140.

Any amount you can spare toward these goals will be a huge help. We’re wrapping up our fiscal year on June 30 — and of course we will be honored to accept your generosity next fiscal year as well. You can make your tax-deductible gift here.

With deepest gratitude,