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Howard E. Liker, Chairman Emeritus
Dr. Arthur Lerman, Chairperson
Edward Heim, Vice Chair
Fernando Correa, Treasurer
Dr. Dorothy Balancio, Co-Secretary
Makiko Tagashira, Co-Secretary
Ms. Marlene Tapper, Member
|Dr. Stephen Slate||Executive Directorfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Titus Rich, Jr.||Director of Mediation||TRich@imcr.org|
|Yoerlin Jimenez||Community Resolve Coordinatoremail@example.com|
|Javier Seda||Community Outreach Coordinatorfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Emely Gonzalez||Intake Intervieweremail@example.com|
IMCR, the Institute for Mediation and Conflict Resolution, is one of the pioneers in the field of community dispute resolution. From it’s earliest beginnings IMCR was at the forefront of developing programs that sought to help communities find alternative methods for managing and resolving a wide range of conflicts, from interpersonal disputes to those involving the judicial system. When New York drafted and passed the New York State Community Dispute Resolution Bill they relied on IMCR’s for its expertise and technical assistance. Now there are Community Mediation Programs in each of the 62 counties of the State of New York. IMCR’s influence is not just local. Through the creation of unique and powerful training programs that have assisted communities and government agencies across the country and now the world, IMCR is one of the leading organizations in the field of community dispute resolution. Even while the organization continues to evolve it’s goal has remained consistent: to promote non-violent principles while empowering individuals to respond constructively to conflict.
IMCR’s ‘Conflict’ Magazine, 1973
In 1969 the Ford Foundation provided up to five million dollars in seed monies (known as demonstration grants) to organizations that were focusing on judicial reform and community dispute resolution. Part of those funds (1.1 million dollars) went to Theodore W. Kheel, one of the leading lawyers in the nation involved in labor mediation and arbitration, who worked at that time for the American Foundation for Automation and Employment.
The concept was to see if practices like negotiation, mediation and arbitration that were used to manage labor-management disputes could be applied to resolving community conflict and interpersonal disputes. In the beginning Kheel and his team occupied two floors at the Automation House at 49 East 68th Street, a building that had been the site of the former Russian Consulate. There was enough space at the Automation House to accommodate offices, conference rooms, special training classrooms and even a library.
On August 9, 1972, the organization was incorporated with a Board of Directors that included the Honorable Basil Paterson, George Nicolau, Lewis B. Kaden, Theodore W. Kheel and Arthur Barnes.
At the same time, The Ford Foundation continued to explore the benefits of providing mediation and community resolution services to urban America. Pursuant to that goal they funded the Board of Mediation for Community Disputes in New York City. This agency supplied mediators for disputes involving either landlords and tenants, merchants and consumers, or students and universities. In another grant the Ford Foundation provided funding for the Center for Mediation and Conflict Resolution, an agency that specialized in training ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) facilitators. It was the merger of these two organizations that created IMCR as we know it.
Three of the founders of IMCR
The late 60’s and 70’s was a period of unprecedented social upheaval in this country particularly in urban areas. Conflicts that arose in communities were often laced with undertones of racial and cultural bias. Groups stood in opposition to one another. The need for communication was particularly pressing because many groups felt that established institutions discriminated according to race or cultural heritage. From 1972 to 1975 IMCR worked to ease inter-group tensions by facilitating dialog between communities in conflict. In the aftermath of racial incidents between White, Black and Hispanic students at Lehman High School in Throgs Neck, IMCR pulled together parents and civic leaders under the auspices of the Bronx Borough President to work through how to head off future incidents. Similarly when disputes broke out between Puerto Ricans and Hasidic Jews in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, IMCR played a guiding role in opening communications between the different groups. Each case demonstrated the extraordinary benefits of community dialog. More information on IMCR’s involvement in resolving these disputes can be found in ‘Conflict’, IMCR’s quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 1 in September of 1973.
In recognition of IMCR’s leadership and expertise, in the field of community conflict mediation, the organization was invited to provide technical assistance to lawmakers crafting what later became the New York State Community Dispute Resolution Bill which formally established the network of community dispute resolution centers that exist in every county of New York (now referred to as the Neighborhood Mediation Programs).
While situations involving racial or cultural differences may have been higher profile for IMCR, throughout its history the agency worked to address an extremely wide range of issues that can effect a community whether that included housing issues, the location of service facilities or environmental concerns. IMCR provided mediation services in disputes pertaining to labor, college and police relations. By encouraging and empowering dialog, IMCR helped communities craft their own resolutions to their problems, solutions that reflected the needs of the community as opposed to decisions that impact the community, but are made by others. The early seventies was a period of dynamic growth for IMCR and it’s success with encouraging community dialog derived from its insistence that decisions that are self determined are far more likely to be accepted and therefore to endure.
In the New York City area IMCR was instrumental in resolving conflicts at Community School Board District 3, at Direction Services Project (Los Padres Unidos/Sinergia, Inc. and between the New York City Housing Authority and its Resident Advisory Council. IMCR helped Staten Island develop its own Staten Island Mediation Council. And once again, after racial violence in Howard Beach, IMCR was called in to facilitate over 50 dialog groups around the city to help people address and understand racial and inter-group tensions.
In response to the needs of the New York State Division of Human Rights, IMCR developed Crisis Prevention Units that could be deployed around New York City, in areas like Yonkers and Wappinger Falls. At the same time IMCR designed and implemented conflict management training for all New York state conciliation specialists.
Over its four decades of existence IMCR has distinguished itself as one of preeminent sources for developing dispute resolution methodologies for communities and leaders. For instance, because of its long experience in mediating community conflicts and disputes IMCR was asked to train over 400 government officials and civic leaders from the New York City Personnel and City Planning Departments to prepare them for service as Community Board Liaisons.
IMCR has repeatedly demonstrated the proven community benefits when groups in conflict are brought together in a non-adversarial atmosphere by neutral third party mediators.
From ‘Conflict’ Magazine, 1973
In the years following 1975, the focus of IMCR expanded. Whereas it had been previously concerned only with mediating community disputes, it now broadened its efforts to assist with judicial reform. After a period of explosive growth in the number of both civil and criminal cases, the judiciary was overburdened, there was a backlog of cases and the systems in place were unequal to the demand for services.
In 1968 the Federal Law Enforcement Assistance Administration LEAA) had been created to help State and local courts deal with criminal cases. The LEAA (abolished in 1982) was less interested in community involvement and more focused on funding programs that were cost effective while alleviating the root causes of disputes.
Despite the extensive media coverage of IMCR and its political connections and reputation the genesis for the creation of IMCR’s Neighborhood Justice Center came from Ann Weisbord and Sandi Freinberg Tamid. They had become frustrated trying to reform the NYC Department of Corrections. Learning about citizen dispute resolution practices from the American Services Committee, they quit their jobs, developed a proposal and searched for an agency to sponsor it. They found IMCR, which as a private non-profit agency had “a sound reputation for adapting labor mediation to deal with a variety of community conflicts.” Although they ultimately intended to create a “community-involved” program, they began by gaining the cooperation of the police.
In 1975 under Police Operations Order 44 Section 75, a pilot project was devised to educate police officers in dispute resolution. Police from two neighborhood precincts began to divert cases to the new IMCR Center in Harlem. With initial funding from LEAA and supplemental funding from the NYC Criminal Justice Coordinator’s Office, IMCR had opened a Community Center program to mediate minor incidents of a criminal nature.
The mission of the Dispute Resolution Center was:
“To provide a simple, accessible mechanism for the resolution of interpersonal criminal complaints; provide working people with an ADR (Alternate Dispute Resolution) process that did not interfere with their employment; attempt to reduce recidivism rates in these types of cases by providing a more lasting resolution of disputes: and to provide the police with an alternative to criminal court.”
The involvement of IMCR in resolving community criminal complaints represented a significant departure from its earlier concentration on community disputes. To function in collaboration with the NYC justice systems required IMCR to change direction. It adapted its functions and operating systems to accommodate these changes and to help it operate a community-based center.
From the period of 1975 to 1980, IMCR continued to offer a 60 hour comprehensive ADR training to citizens from diverse New York communities and to thereby create an important resource pool of volunteers.
After an initial trial period the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, the primary funding body for the Harlem Center, decided that the intake of cases at the two precincts wasn’t sufficient to justify the cost. IMCR was lured into accepting help from the justice system and thereby expanded its domain and caseload by accepting the invitation of the court to establish a presence in the Criminal Court Building at 346 Broadway in Manhattan.
New York City Administrative Judge E. Leo Milones worked closely with IMCR’s Chief Executive Officer to introduce changes that would allow the Office of Court Administration to phase out the Summons Part of the Court by referring cases to the appropriate administrative agencies and criminal courts in each borough. The exception was citizen complaints. Since IMCR had been mediating some Summons Part cases since 1976, the new plan called for all cases involving citizen complaints to be transferred at the “option of the individual parties” from the docket of the Summons Part to IMCR’s Dispute Resolution Center for attempted mediation. This arrangement lasted from 1978 to 1979.
A subsequent plan was adopted in 1980 called the Office of Court Administration/Institute for Mediation and Conflict Resolution Plan whereby procedures where put in place so that IMCR would intake cases from all five boroughs. Parties who lived in Manhattan could have an opportunity to appear for mediation at IMCR’s north Manhattan Center in Harlem and parties from the Bronx could visit the satellite Center in the Bronx.
IMCR’s involvement in judicial reform was not limited to the Summons Part or the police mediation program under LEAA. Concurrently beginning in 1977 IMCR operated the Brooklyn Dispute Center through a contract with the Victim/Witness Assistance project, which was a Vera program. Shortly thereafter Vera helped the Victim Services Agency (VSA) incorporate by switching the contract over to the agency. While the VSA subcontracted IMCR for their training and mediation expertise, it continued to function under its original Vera grant until 1980.
IMCR had a substantial influence on the development of judicial reform in and around New York City. In 1982 the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council Task Force Report which targeted the impact of mediation services and centers said: The most significant event in the Center’s history during this period was the takeover of the Summons Court operations in May of 1980 “which culminated with the solidification of relations with the NYC Police Department, the District Attorney’s office, the NYC Courts and various criminal justice agencies.”
The extraordinary success of IMCR contributed to legislative developments in Albany that institutionalized ADR in the New York State Unified Court system and ushered in the widespread use of the mediation centers throughout the state. The Community Dispute Resolution Centers Program soon followed with a pilot project under Chapter 847 of the New York State Laws of 1981, Article 21- A.
The impact of the development of community dispute resolution and judicial reform influenced events not only in New York City and State but nationally as well. The vitality of IMCR and its influence, which more recently has become international, was due in large measure to its continual development of unique and powerful training programs.
The promise of mediation stems from the way that mediation constantly integrates feedback. A mediator in a session will listen to one of the parties and reframe what they thought they heard, soliciting the party’s response as a tool to strengthen the quality of the exchange. IMCR as a Community Dispute Resolution Center has always balanced the practice of mediation with a strong commitment to training mediators. One reinforces the other. Ideas generated in the field are used to train mediators who then, often through their volunteer work, bring those practices to helping resolve conflicts in their communities. The relationship is symbiotic and on going.
What makes the story of IMCR distinctive is the breadth and scale of training programs that have originated under the agency’s auspices. Even beyond the 14,000 individuals trained in mediation and conflict resolution since 1969, IMCR has long been one of the pioneers in developing dispute resolution methodologies tailored for the needs of organizations and institutions. In the field of education, IMCR helped design the conflict resolution curriculum for John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Long Island University’s Graduate Program in Political Science, City College, Columbia Law School, St. John’s University of Massachusetts and the Institute of Politics at Harvard. A list of institutional clients would include the Residential Tenancy Commission in Toronto, Canada, the Renewal Program in London, England, the Iowa State Judicial Planning Commission, the Houston Bar Association and the Neighborhood Justice Center Committee also in Houston, Texas. During the years in which IMCR was on the forefront of judicial reform, as a result of IMCR’s development and implementation of a grievance systems to facilitate the management of internal conflicts in New York State’s correctional institutes, the agency helped California, Colorado, Ohio, South Carolina and Virginia create similar systems for their correctional facilities.
Because of the prominence of its Board of Directors and its ground breaking work fostering community dialog in the wake of racial and cultural confrontations in and around New York City, IMCR earned a national reputation early in its history. The agency responded to the explosive interest in alternate forms of dispute resolution by sponsoring conferences with organizations like the National Center for Dispute Settlement; by presenting seminars and creating fellowship programs (with City College); and by embarking on ambitious training programs for the New York State Public Employment Relations Board and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Relations Board. Since IMCR evolved in response to the needs of urban communities, it was only natural that the applicability of its techniques and methodologies resonated in the public sector, where organizations were struggling to improve internal and external communication in the face of increased diversity. In New York State alone, IMCR provided technical assistance and training in conflict resolution to the Board of Education, the Board of Higher Education, the Commission on Human Rights, the Human Resources Administration, the Housing Authority, the Health and Hospital Corporation, New York State Mental Health and Affirmative Officers from a variety of state agencies. IMCR was asked to provide training seminars on managing culturally diverse work forces to New York City’s top 40 managers and when NYC decided to create Community Board Liaisons, they had IMCR train over 400 government officials and civic leaders from the NYC Personnel and City Planning departments.
IMCR is one of the very few Community Dispute Resolutions Centers with international stature. In 1989 the Institute President led a 35 person delegation of lawyers, judges, mediators and arbitrators to the People’s Republic of China for a three week professional and cultural exchange. The Institute has responded to training and technical assistance requests in countries from Malaysia to England, from Kenya and South Africa to Nicaragua. This year we are looking forward to training mediators in Ecuador. IMCR has always stressed the importance of multi-cultural diversity and is extremely proud that it is a bilingual community dispute resolution center.
Those familiar with IMCR’s history know that beginning in the mid-70’s, the Institute moved from being solely focused on community relations to an expanding role in judicial reform. This change allowed the agency to develop training programs to benefit organizations involved in the administration of justice, from the policemen and women on the street to the procedures of summons Court and on through to the management of correctional facilities. In addition to the development of grievance systems cited above, IMCR implemented conflict resolution training programs for precinct commanders, officers of the Community Affairs Division and academy staff of the New York City Police Department. From 1977 to 1981 IMCR trained personnel with the Victim Services Agency (VSA) as part of the first effort to involve mediation in the handling of felony cases. Outside of New York State, IMCR provided training to the California Youth Authority, the US Department of Justice, the Boston Urban Court Program and the Family Violence Programs in Cleveland, Dorchester, Kansas City, Honolulu and the city of Bromley in England.
Regardless of the venue or the association, for 32 years IMCR has consistently offered individuals and organizations state of the art training in an effort to promote peaceful human relations through mediation and conflict resolution services that empower individuals to respond constructively to conflict.
At present, the tradition continues with IMCR conducting mediation training sessions at its main office in the Bronx; Mercy College, and international sessions in Central and South America.
Mr. & Mrs. Blackburne
and Sidney Poitier.
Until 1993 IMCR had been deeply involved in supplying a mediation/arbitration process to the courts that was instrumental in helping close thousands of cases. By discontinuing the process, the focus of IMCR returned to community relations and the premise that “People have what it takes to make a difference in their own lives and in their community.”
While IMCR continues to provide leadership through its vibrant and influential training programs, December 1994 is remembered as a sad month in the history of the Institute when IMCR lost the bid to continue providing ADR services in Manhattan. Many staff members were laid off at the time. Those remaining re-located in the South Bronx, where the agency continues to supply quality ADR services and above all, to keep the dream of the founding practitioners alive.