ayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration is busy laying plans to implement the city’s new $127 million Young Men’s Initiative, preparing requests for proposals and seeking contractors who can help execute the plan. But the foundations for two of the four components of the plan have already been laid down and, yesterday, the mayor’s office provided Dominion of New York with new details about when and how they will work.
The fatherhood component of the new initiative is scheduled to launch in January 2012. The CUNY-run program, Project REDRESS, will aim to boost fathers’ parenting skills while connecting them to employment and education. The program will serve about 200 fathers. It aims to leverage the achievements of NYC DADS, a program the city launched in June 2010 to gender neutralize city services, making them more friendly to fathers.
NYC DADS offered free opportunities for fathers to bond with their children through outdoor recreation. It also launched a father-child reading program for incarcerated men on Riker’s Island.
The employment component of the new initiative is also scheduled to launch in 2012 and consists primarily of an expansion of two city programs — Jobs-Plus and the city’s summer internship program.
Jobs-Plus is an employment program designed to raise and sustain the level of employment and earnings among residents of public housing developments. It targets all working-age residents in a participating development, rather than a subset of eligible individuals, providing them with workforce services and work incentives.
The city currently has one Jobs-Plus site, in Jefferson Houses in East Harlem. The site, run by the Bloomberg Administration’s Center for Economic Opportunities (CEO), serves 800 New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents.
With money from foundations and federal funds, a second CEO Jobs-Plus site will open by the fall of this year in the South Bronx to serve residents of Betances, Moore and Cortlandt Houses. Under the Young Men’s Initiative, the city will also open up to eight new Jobs-Plus sites in NYCHA developments, after selecting one or more contractors to run the programs.
Also slated for expansion under the Young Men’s Initiative is the city’s 14-week summer internship program, which helps train disconnected youth between the ages of 16 and 24 for work and provides them with a paid internship. The program currently serves 1,350 people each year. Under the Young Men’s Initiative, the program will serve an additional 500 participants. To find a program, visit the website of the Department of Youth & Community Development.
The mayor’s three-year initiative aims to improve the lives of young black and Latino men and will address four issues that young men in our communities grapple with disproportionately — 1) education; 2) fatherhood; 3) employment; and 4) criminal justice.
The city expects to provide more details about these programs as they become available. One question that is still on the table is one that is being asked repeatedly around the city: why does the criminal justice component of the initiative overlook policing tactics that many argue contribute to racial disparities in arrest and incarceration?
The city’s black and Latino communities are much more likely to be arrested for crimes that go largely unpunished in other communities. Eighty-seven percent of the 50,000 people NYPD arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession in 2010 were black or Latino, according to a fact sheet produced by the Police Reform Organizing Project, while research shows that non-Hispanic whites use marijuana as much as or more than either group. Eight-seven percent of the NYPD’s nearly 614,000 stops in 2010 involved black or Latino individuals, the fact sheet says.
People active in the city’s drug policy reform community hope that the mayor and his advisors at least discussed the issue and will explain their rationale for rejecting it. “Our hope was that there must have been some kind of internal dialogue where the issue of stop-and-frisk and marijuana arrest came up,” says Gabriel Sayegh, the New York director of Drug Policy Alliance.