meet the smirkers.

Folks, we’re gearing up for our big comedy benefit, We Can Smirk it Out, on May 5th at the famous Gotham Comedy Club. If you haven’t bought your tix, just click here toute suite. Your laughter will help us continue to provide free mediation services to thousands of New Yorkers. Here’s the amazing lineup of comics:

negin farsadNegin Farsad was named one of the 50 Funniest Women by the Huffington Post and is a TED Fellow. She developed the MTV series Detox, the PBS animated series 1001 Nights and the Nickelodeon series Class Parents. She created and directed the films The Muslims Are Coming and Nerdcore Rising. Check this out: Queen Rania of Jordan commissioned a video from Negin to combat Middle Eastern stereotypes.

marinaHarlem’s own Marina Franklin is one of Louis CK’s seven favorite comics!  She’s appeared on Wanda Syke’s Herlarious, Showtime’s Women Who Kill, Craig Ferguson’s Late Late Show, the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Chappelle’s Show, Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn, and Showtime at The Apollo. To boot, Marina roams the earth, performing at the most prestigious comedy festivals across the world.

mark normandMark Normand has done a Comedy Central Half Hour Special, and he’s appeared on such shows as Conan (twice!), John Oliver’s New York Standup Show, Showtime’s Live at SXSW, Inside Amy Schumer, and @Midnight. He released an album with Comedy Central Records entitled Still Got It. And! He was voted the Village Voice’s “Best Comedian of 2013.”

bill-santiagoBill Santiago appears every Saturday morning on CNN, delivering comic commentary in the Weekly Pop Wrap. He’s been on Craig Ferguson, Comedy Central’s Premium Blend, Chelsea Lately, Good Morning America, ABC News, BBC World, CNN en Español, and NPR’s Latino USA. His book Pardon My Spanglish is taught at schools nationwide to stimulate convos about identity, language and multiculturalism.


“meet the people who keep new yorkers from ripping each others heads off”


Folks, below is an article about us which recently appeared on the edgy website, reprinted here for your reading pleasure. 

By Christian Brazil Bautista | April 10, 2015

Harmonious co-existence is a lofty aspiration for a city as cramped as New York. To help establish peace, and to keep New Yorkers from strangling each other, mediators are scattered across the five boroughs, solving conflicts between families, neighbors and community members.

Mediation is not like most legal proceedings. For one, it won’t cause your life savings to evaporate as you appear in front of a judge. In fact, the whole point is to shield people from $200 attorney hourly rates. “The idea is to give people an alternative to going to court, to save people money so that they don’t have to spend their precious resource on lawyering up,” said Brad Heckman, the CEO of free mediation service New York Peace Institute.

Mediation is similar to marriage counseling, only compressed into a two-hour session and possibly with strangers. The matter at hand can be as simple as deciding who picks up the kids during certain days or as complex as bringing together two people on opposite sides of an assault charge. “Mediation is particularly useful when family members, neighbors or business parties have a dispute. It may be inappropriate if one party has a significant advantage in power or control over another, or where safety is an issue, such as in domestic violence cases,” the New York State Unified Court System, which funds mediation services like NYPI, said in a statement sent to ANIMAL.

If someone calls 311 often enough, for say, noise or school-related complaints, they may be redirected to mediation. This means that the service sources most of its clients from the courts. “Cases are referred by the judge or court referee but either party may request that the judge refer the case to mediation,” the court system statement read. While mediation has an established route for the court system, it is still mostly unknown with the general squabbling populace. NYPI hopes to change that. Heckman expressed a desire to increase their current workload of 10,000 cases per year.

While mediation may seem very official, for the most part, it is not. Everything that is revealed during a mediation session, except when there is the possibility of child abuse, is inadmissible in court. Also, unlike in traditional courts where a winning side usually emerges, the goal of mediation is to broker a settlement between the parties involved. In most cases, the agreements made during the proceedings are legally non-binding and are as informal as an apology.

“Many of the things that are mediated fall outside the four corners of a contract,” Heckman said. “For example, if you go to court and one of your issues with your neighbor or your family member is that you don’t feel like you’re being treated respectfully… There’s not a judge who can say ‘I hereby order you to be nice to this person.’ So we pick up where the law leaves off. It’s really on the human relation side where mediation comes in.”

This puts mediators in the middle of personal conflicts that have festered for years. Glen Parker, the Manhattan civil court coordinator for NYPI, recalled a small claims court case where a monetary demand turned out to be something more complex. The lawsuit involved a woman who wanted $5,000 from her mother-in-law. “It was unclear what that $5,000 represented… It wasn’t clear what her legal claim was,” he said.

Instead of ruling on the case, a small claims court judge recommended mediation to both sides. During the first three-hour session, the underlying conflict was revealed. The plaintiff lost custody of her teenage son and the boy moved in with his grandmother. Her whole reason for bringing up the case was so she can spend time with her son.

“She just wanted a relationship with her son, but she didn’t have any other way to get it,” Parker said. “At the mediation, it was the first time she had spoken to her son in five years… She was so grateful to be in the presence of her son.”

In spite of several angry outbursts, the two sides came to an agreement. No amount of money changed hands and no contracts were drawn up. Instead, the matter was resolved for the courts when the boy agreed to call his mother on her birthday, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

This kind of hidden complexity is constant in the cases that mediators handle. “We’ve had cases in which there were neighbor issues that started around things like noise and ended up being cultural clashes,” Heckman said.

“We had a few cases in which people in the building might be practicing Santeria or Voodoo as their religion and their neighbors were freaked out by it because it’s different from their own upbringing or their own cultural context. Through having a mediation session they realized, ’Okay, this is not my cup of tea but it’s not Satanic ritual slaughter.’”

Culture clashes and racial tensions adorn the favorite war stories of mediators. Heckman recalled a juvenile case where two teenagers were caught setting fire to a community garden. The perpetrators, white kids from privileged backgrounds, burned down a beloved structure in a poor African-American community. On the surface, the incident appeared to be a hate crime. However, mediation revealed a very different story.

“In this particular case, the young men who perpetrated the crime had to listen, in a circle, to everyone in the community talk about the impact this had on their lives. How their act of vandalism destroyed a sacred community space and how children are afraid to go out now for fear of some violent acts,” he said.

“The kids had no idea. From their perspective, they thought It was a cool place to have a bonfire, to hang out, chill out a little bit. It caught fire and they freaked out and they left. And they thought, ‘Alright, no big deal. We’ll pay the fine and that’s it.’”

Eventually, it became clear that the perpetrators were not racist, they were just dumb teenagers who made a dumb decision. To make amends, they offered to help rebuild the garden and speak at local schools about fire safety. The session ended with a group hug.

A kumbaya moment is the desired outcome, however, some cases end with people just agreeing to hate other from a distance. In a place like New York, that’s as good an outcome as any.



new york peace institute news roundup!


 Folks, we’re always eager to get the word out on mediation. Here’s a little compendium of New York Peace Institute in the news for your reading, viewing, and listening pleausre.

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.

Our very own Restorative Justice Coordinator, Carrie McCann, was featured 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 writes “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.

Elle Magazine’s September fashion issue features a great article about our mediation training.

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.


we can smirk it out: our benefit comedy show on may 5th!

We can smirk it out v4-7


Dear Friends,

Join us on May 5th at 7pm for We Can Smirk It Out — a night of laughter benefitting New York Peace Institute at the famous Gotham Comedy Club, featuring comics Negin Farsad, Marina Franklin, Mark Normand and Bill Santiago. You’ve seen them on Conan, Comedy Central, Chelsea Lately, and HBO – now see them make with the funny in support of New York Peace Institute.

Tickets are $50, with a $100 sponsor level option, and a 2 drink minimum.

With your help, we will continue to be New York City’s largest civilian peacebuilding force – helping thousands of people reach agreement, build peace, and heal relationships. For free. Learn more about us here.

Get your tix here ASAP, as we’re fixing to sell out the joint.

Join us and find out what’s so funny about peace, love and understanding.​

CALL TO ACTION to support community mediation in new york state!


Our friends at the New York State Dispute Resolution (NYSDRA) are leading the charge to encourage our state legislature to increase the statewide budget for community mediation centers by one…wait for it….million dollars. Our network of 23 non-profit mediation centers, which offer free and low-cost services have weathered all kinds of budgetary setbacks over the years — whilst continuing to build peace and heal relationship for thousands upon thousands of New Yorkers.

Click this link right here to join our call to action by writing to your friendly neighborhood Assembly Member and Senator.  This campaign is a one-week only deal, so please send out your letters by 5pm this Friday, March 6th.

Thanks in advance for taking a few moments of your time to keep community mediation alive and thriving.