Archive for the ‘New York City’ Category

CyberSettle & The NYC Government

December 24, 2009

– More than 3,000 claims settled via Cybersettle saving City millions –

I am not sure how many people know about CyberSettle, but it is an online based company whose software program allows two parties enter the amount they are interested in either trying to get the other party to pay or the amount they are willing to pay. The program lets them know when there is match and bam- a deal is made.

According to the NYC Comptroller’s officer, in about a four year period (February ’04 through June ’08) over 3,000 claimscases were settled using the CyberSettle site.

This service helps New York City expedite claims against the city. That’s the good new, however another way I see it is the process narrows the entire dispute to simply money. No interests, no feelings or emotions, no apologies, and empathy. Some would say who cares because it makes the process quicker and cheaper.

That all said, I think the service is a viable form of ADR and it does give people another option compared to the traditional ADR approach or litigation. There are some impressive statistics in the article.

For example, a case using CyberSettle takes between 6-12 months while those which do not take an average of 4 years. Yes, 6-12 months compared to 4 years!

CyberSettle’s joint venture with the NYC Comptroller’s offfice received an award in 2007 for Most innovative use of technology in New York City and Business Week selected it in 2005 as a “Top 50 Web Applications of the Year.”

Read the press release [here].

NYC-DR Roundtable Recap, August 2009

August 12, 2009

For those who miss the monthly NYC-DR Roundtable Breakfast meetings sponsored by ACRGNY and John Jay College due to schedules (yes, we are all very busy conflict resolvers) or due to locations (I guess everyone can not be in New York City), I plan to write a recap of each gathering I attend.

Note 1: this is not an official recap nor is it intended to be one but rather it is just a posting of my notes and recollection from the day.

Note #2: For this month I credit Maria Volpe for contributing to this recap as well as editing it… Thanks!

I hope you enjoy and feedback is always welcome!

The August 6, 2009 NYC-DR Roundtable sponsored by ACR GNY and John Jay College continued the trend of “BIG”. Just like the previous month, this meeting had to be switched to a larger room (which is a good thing). Over 60 people attended to hear Gerald P. Lepp, ADR Administrator of the Eastern District New York Courts.

Mr. Lepp spoke about how he started the program 17 years ago. He credited Maria Volpe with playing a significant role in assisting him with developing the program.

He believes mediators are entitled to be paid for their service and the Local Rule 83.11 recently amended by the Board of Judges (on July 7th, 2009) agreed with him. In passing the Rule, the judges also realized there were two key issues:

1) Mediators should be paid.
2) If parties were unable or unwilling to pay the fee, they could apply to the referring judge for a waiver of the fee, with a right of appeal to the district judge

Mr. Lepp stated by having the application go directly to the District Judge, the number of false applications being filed would be reduced.

* The fee will be paid by both parties. The mediators will be paid $600 for the first 4 hours; $250 for each additional hour. The mediators are not paid for any preparation work.

* The mediators are chosen by both parties. When they are not able to agree, Mr. Lepp sends out a notice to the roster of mediators and then forwards the names of those mediators who are interested to the parties. If a mediator is still not agreed on, then the board of Judges chooses one.

* The mediators also perform Pro Bono work which is decided by the discretion of the judge.

* The Eastern District is not currently accepting new applications for mediators. They have a roster of about 200 people and Mr. Lepp feels they deserve an opportunity to participate first. He believes they may be accepting new applications beginning 1/1/10.

* Most cases go for one day and 2/3’s are settled.

* Requirements for the mediators:
1) Must be a lawyer.
2) Must have 5 years of practice.
3) Must be a member of a State or the D.C. Bar.
4) Must have at least 16 hours of mediation training.
5) Must be interviewed by Mr. Lepp.
6) Must be approved by the Board of Judges.

Information from Mr. Lepp during the Q & A:

* The Eastern District also has arbitration which has a 2/3’s success rate.

* The mediation program averages 15 cases per month.

* His staff is small- it is only him and the two interns who are about to finish their internship. Those who are interested in interning should send a letter and resume to Mr. Lepp. He noted he is looking for people with computer skills as well as someone interested in interacting- not research.

* In regards to why just lawyers as the mediator: Mr. Lepp stated most programs require mediators to also be lawyers and he personally agrees with this.

* You can visit their website to see a bio of the mediators This is one way in which the parties can educate themselves when choosing their mediator.

* Only experienced mediators should apply (when they start accepting applications again). Mr. Lepp stressed this is not the place to get experience.

* Training is coordinated with outside companies and universities. Mr. Lepp feels a more formal structure needs to be in place to update members on issues and news.

* Diversity of the roster: Mr. Lepp believes that with respect to gender, the roster is balanced. However, he does not think that it is balanced regarding race and ethnicity. He has tried in the past to correct this by reaching out to various ethnic Bar Association groups but has had little success. The Program does not maintain personal data on its mediators.

* No mediator has ever been called to testify in court from his program.

Quote of the Day:
“We really have come a long way.”

For more information on the United States District Court of the Eastern District of New York Mediation Program, go to

ACRG-NY July Recap

July 6, 2009

For those who miss the monthly NYC-DR Roundtable Breakfast meetings sponsored by ACRGNY and John Jay College due to schedules (yes, we are all very busy conflict resolvers) or due to locations (I guess everyone can not be in New York City), I plan to write a recap of each gathering I attend. I hope you enjoy, and feedback is always welcome!

July 2nd’s meeting featured Camilo Azcarate, manager of the World Bank’s Office of Mediation Services. I was fortunate enough to hear Camilo speak at the ABA Spring Conference on Dispute Resolution in April.

At the DRC-NY Roundtable, he spoke on Cultural Expectations in Mediation which included an overview of the role of his office and future plans.

The World Bank’s internal justice system is split in two parts- formal and informal methods. The informal side includes the Ombuds Office, the Office of Mediation Services and Peer Review Services.

The formal side has the ethics section, tribunal with judges and similar to court), and INT or internal investigations. INT handles complaints in regards to such issues as corruption.

To try and keep things simple, I will do the rest of the recap as bullet points (I hope you do not mind!)

* The World Bank can not be sued (in labor disputes, tax complaints, etc.) so it is vital to have a working internal justice system.

His office receives approx. 70-120 cases per year

* It takes 3-5 weeks from intake to the completion of a mediation session

* Most sessions are 4hrs and/or 2 session in total

* 65% of staff works in HQ, 35% in country offices while 85% of cases come from HQ and 15% from the country offices

* 95% find mediation to be useful (from post mediation evaluations)

* Mediations are done with internal and external mediators

New Initiatives
* Conflict Competencies- working with HR in a “big project’ to create a conflict competent organization.

* Outreach & Training- Training is the most effective way to reach out to employees.

* Expand Access to Country Offices. Currently mediation is offered via video conferencing or teleconference.

* Biggest liability of mediation programs is not getting enough cases. At the same time, remember to not change the mediation process to fix it.

* Culture was a main part of the presentation

* There are more similarities than differences across cultures.

* Individuals belong to several cultures simultaneously.

* Individual behaviors are not necessarily determined by culture.

* An example given- in Columbia for most, their version of saying no to someone is by not saying yes which could create confusion in Americans who would then think, “Hey, I think there is a chance.”

* Diplomacy styles, like mentioned above are valued more in country offices compared to HQ (as per their research).

* Lots of references to Hofstedes Dimensions- Indivudualism, Power Distance, Masculinity, Uncertainty Avoidance and Time. The first two were gone into detail.

* Individualism– High assertiveness compared to low. Countries like USA & Australia are high, while China and West Africa are low.

* High– opinions, self interest and conflict are good (low is the opposite).
Power Distance- Degree in which less powerful members of the group expect unequal distribution of power. Confused? Read more on it [here]

Comments During Q&A
* We adapt regardless our personal beliefs.

* Confidentiality- don’t offer more than you can promise!

* In mediation, there is confidentiality NOT amnesia!

* His office no longer does conflict coaching as 1) that is more for the ombuds office and 2) it was seen as undermining actual mediations.

* As the administrator of the office, he has to keep certain standards, mainly ensuring mediators stick to the model of empowering the parties in used in all locations regardless of the cultural expectations- for example, parties stating, “we want evaluation!”

* To add to the above point, it was stated the model of empowering the parties must also be done while somehow also adopting to the cultures of the country office.

Quote of the Day
Camilo compared hybrid processes such as Med-Arb to having a nice, lovely salad with delicious dressing on it….then adding ketchup on top! Brilliant Camilo, brilliant!

Someone in the audience remarked this gem in regards to engagement/dialogue, “Connection before content.”

From my not-scientific-at-all count, there were approximately 70 people at today’s gathering which was fantastic. As usual, a consistent, positive result to attending the monthly gathering is to see people I know as well as meeting new people. With such a large group showing up today, it was wonderful to see the ADR community in New York City thriving.

DRC-NY Listserv Proposal

June 15, 2009

NYC-DR Listserv Proposal

The original blog posting on this issue is [here] with many comments posted within the posting

[Here] is an update on this “Web 2.Oh!?! issue

As my follow up to the recent NYC-DR listserv cavalcade of comments, I thought I would post a separate posting on Maria Volpe’s (the listserv administrator) comments as well as mine. As mentioned [here], there are two issues. The first is the people’s opinions to the original post. I will not go into this issue but rather issue two is what seems to be rocking the foundation of the listserv that has been around since 2001. Some people like the numerous replies to a topic while others feel the listserv is not the place to be inundated with dozens of emails. They signed up to get information, not people’s opinions.
Maria’s method to handle this is as follows:
Proposed strategy: Between now and the next monthly NYC-DR Roundtable Breakfast on July 2nd,
[1] Solicitation of feedback: please send me your thoughts about facilitating information exchange and discussion among those interested in dispute and conflict resolution, peacemaking, facilitation, dialogue, restorative justice, violence prevention, social justice and related fields in the New York City metropolitan area. Send your emails to me at not the listserv
[2] Feedback analysis: all responses that are sent by July 1st will be collected and analyzed;
[3] Informal discussion: after the NYC-DR Roundtable Breakfast on July 2nd at 10am, everyone who is interested in participating in an informal brainstorming discussion about options is invited to join in [by the way, the July speaker will be Camilo Azcarate, Manager of Mediation Services at the World Bank];
[4] Listserv Update: relevant information will be posted on the listserv shortly after the July 2nd meeting.
In sum, between now and July 2nd, please send me your thoughts about managing the communication process. Your feedback will be shared with the group on July 2nd. The easiest way to respond to me is to press reply or write to

My humble opinion is there is a benefit in moving the listserv to another platform. Moving the listserv to a web based platform like how a blog (but not an actual blog!) is set up I think might get everyone to a win-win resolution. Using the platform similar to a blog, everyone can sign up and receive comments the same exact way they currently do. Here is the big change. The new platform will allow people to post their comments directly to the topic. Anyone else can then post their comments to the original topic OR the already listed comments.
Still with me? (Drum roll please) and here comes my version of the win-win resolution.

Part I- you can sign up to the new format of the listserv and get only emails of new topics. This is the same as you were doing it always nothing changes.
Part II- You can visit the new format by going to a website address. You no longer have to be a subscriber.
Part III- Options of subscribing. You can subscribe to the new version of the listserv the following ways:
1) Just receive topic posts
2) Sign up to individual topics to receive notification each time someone comments.
To go further in point 2- it allows many more options. How? Here are some examples:

Logan visits the web address occasionally to see what has been posted. He gets to see news and trainings and also he gets to read some comments. He receives no emails.
Kara subscribed to the new format to be notified of every new topic posted. She likes getting up to date information on what’s going on and subscribing to the news, training and articles posted by a reliable source is important to her.
Ignatius is not signed up like Logan and during a random visit, has a really strong opinion on a topic posted. He posts his comment and moves on.

Danielle is signed up like Kara and also like Ignatius, has a really strong opinion on a topic posted. She posts her comment and moves on.
Franco is signed up to receive emails of each topic posting. One topic in particular he found interesting and posted a comment. He signed up to be notified of future comments and now is engaged in a beneficial conversation with his peers.
Veronica is not a listserv subscriber but loves the back and forth comments on a certain topic so she subscribes to that particular topic AND comments. Anytime anyone responds to the topic she will now receive an email.
Tenzin is not on the listserv found a topic of interest, found the comments interesting and now has moved on.
I have attempted to post each possible point of view, and how the new system can meet each of those view points. I believe that each reader fits into the role of Logan, Kara, Ignatius, Danielle, Franco, Veronica or Tenzin. The new proposed format even allows you to change in between those options. Real life or the old Web 1.0 does not allow that!
If this did not make sense, check this link for a chart version of the proposal.

Everything changes. Nothing stays the same. Let’s look at this issue together and try to move forward together. The listserv in its current format I think might be part of the old way of doing things. There are many interests in such a large group. The current format is not accommodating everyone and with new technology presenting itself since the listserv’s founding almost eight years ago, why not embrace this new technology to advance our great group?
If any of this is confusing, I will happily answer any questions. Of course another option, which I think is reasonable as well, is to just leave it as is!

Web 2.Oh!

June 14, 2009

Web 2.Oh!

Wow, what a couple of weeks it has been in the ADR World-Wide-Web! Over at the NYC-DR listserv someone two weeks ago posted a request for facilitators between a certain age range. This created a firestorm of response. Some were very well written and opinions from both sides were in depth. Trying to keep my opinion aside (for as long as I can), there was a noticeable amount of people on the listserv that objected to all the opinions being raised. To keep things in perspective, there are approximately 1,500 people on the list.

The web, in this case a listserv, is a valuable resource that allows many different people, from many different places to express many different opinions. When is ‘many’ too many though?

If you want to read the original message and some of the featured responses, read my posting [here].

So how do you properly run a listserv that meets the needs of everyone? I’ll answer that very quickly by saying it is impossible to make everyone happy all the time. The listserv statement does clearly say the following:

Before going into the changes suggested by members, I wanted to look deeper into the issue. There are actually two issues the way I see it. First, the issue is the original post and if people thought it was fair to put such a limit on a request (it was age restrictions in case you old people forgot!). The second issue is I think is the massive amount of replies it received resulting in issue two- should such discussions remain on a listserv?

Perhaps the ‘Word of the Day’ is autonomy. “The Greater the autonomy we exercise, the greater the risk that our actions will be perceived by another person as impinging on their autonomy.”
[1] Roger Fisher’s passage here is spot on. One side was suggesting it continue as they enjoyed the conversation. The other side, not enjoying it (to put it mildly in some cases), wanted it moved away.

Those who liked it suggested people for those who did not to simply delete the messages or subscribe to a weekly digest.

In a ‘Web 2.Oh?’ moment, I found it shocking that in this day and age one’s email inbox could reach capacity from the back and forth responses. A certain subscriber gave the real example stating AAA tried contacting her for a case but could not as her AOL inbox was full. Just an aside, I do not suggest using AOL for work email, make the change to a service like Gmail where the storage capacity is much larger.

I wonder if any of these suggestions are done with empathy? Were people looking to continue their interests while meeting the others as well? This seems like an obvious example of a dispute with a partial basis on varying interests. Initially, I think a false consensus bias might have played a part as well.

The above comments I think applies to the other side as well. Suggesting it be moved over to a blog to continue the in depth discussion rightly solves their own inbox flooding problem. However, is there the chance the other can view this as fixing a problem that does not exist? I met the wishes of this request by posting the original posting and some responses (see it here) and as I said privately to one member via email something along the lines of, “I honestly do not think anyone will post their comments here [at the blog] as the suggestion was made not by the people commenting but rather those who do not want to read the comments. They did not ask for this and because of potentially being viewed as them being pushed here (without choice) I think they will shun it.”

That is exactly what will happen. I did receive many emails privately thanking me for posting it and there was a peak in visits to the blog (not hard to do when it is just dad and mom reading this usually) but zero public comments or discussion. Perhaps chalk a line on the ‘no one likes being told what to do’ column.

So what is the next step? Maria has made some suggestions. I suggest before reading them, ask yourself the questions I ask below and compare it to what she suggests.

Of course I cannot end this without mentioning my opinion. I am not really choosing sides but what I do want to add is this discussion I believe allows us to interact on a peer level that usually is only found, if you are lucky enough, after spending a couple of hundred bucks to attend a training or conference. This engagement is accessible to all. There is no fee charged by Maria to be a member.

There are many topics I would think would be ripe for such powerful, thought provoking responses. Caucusing, certification and hybrid models are three off the top of my head that I think are interests that would appeal to the majority of members. Is the preliminary question where should it be held though?

We are all knee deep in what we are supposed to do as professionals- stopping the cycle of verbal pushing, name calling (arguably happened) and self serving suggestions to search for a solution where everyone’s interests are met. I am the first to admit it is much easier to be a neutral than a party involved in these types of situations as there is for the most part a void of emotions compared to being involved.

Additionally I am not poking at autonomy- theirs or mine. I hope that for all those involved (bystanders too) this will allow you to reflect on what would you do if this issue was brought to you as a third party neutral? How will you handle all the emotions? What could you do to get each side to empathize? What is each side’s BATNA? Are the relationships, on the many different levels, important?

[1] Fisher, Shapiro (Penguin, 2005 Beyond Reason) page 74

ABA ’09 NYC Spring Conference: Places to visit

April 10, 2009

For those attending the American Bar Association’s Spring Conference in Dispute Resolution, I figure as a New Yorker, I would put out there a list of places I recommend. Enjoy!

Mud Cafe
307 E 9th St, New York, NY 10003
Map it between 2nd & 1st Avenues
For those coffee lovers- This is the BEST coffee in the world. I have travel (much) of the world and this place by far has the best coffee… trust me. Add to that the ‘bohemian’ atmosphere of the cafe and you will see why I call this this place well, Bohemia!

Rubin Museum
150 W 17th St, New York, NY 10011
Map it between 6th & 7th Avenues
Yes there are all the other more well-known museums uptown but this place is truly a gem. It houses Himalayan Art that is well worth the time to check out. (near Union Sq. Park)

Rainbow Falafel & Shawarma
26 East 17th Street, New York, NY 10003 (b/n Fifth Avenue and Broadway; map); 212-691-8641; Cost: $3.50 for a falafel sandwich
The best falafel in town but if you do not look carefully, you might miss this tiny place. It is a tiny storefront that on nice days, has a (well worth the wait) 20-30 person line up outside. Outside I say because you can literally only fit about 4 people inside. get your falafel, then go eat it in Union Square Park.
If you can’t find it, try Maoz across the street on the other side of the park.

Union Square Park & Central Park
Union Sq is a tiny park that usually has vendors selling different types of knick-knacks (stuff that is cool that you don’t really need). Central Park is huge, so make some sort of plan of what spots to hit, otherwise heaps of time will be lost trying to navigate it.

Brooklyn Bridge
Take subway 4/5/6 (and others) to Brooklyn Bridge stop. Then, look for a big bridge.
This icon of NYC is worth the visit. Get out your walking shoes (or high heels, hey it’s New York, wear whatever you want!) and take the approximately 25 minute walk across. Great views and pictures.

J and R
15 Park Row, New York, NY 10038 Map it Park Row and Beekman Steet
Diagonally across from City Hall and just south of the Brooklyn Bridge, this electronic store is a must visit if you are interested in purchasing any sort of gadget while here. Note: the store takes up the whole block and has different entrances for each department.

Religous Places
St. Patricks Cathedral
460 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10022 Map it

Cathedral of Saint John The Divine
1047 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10025 Map it
All I can say is although this is a bit of trip uptown, the place is amazingly huge. A beautiful, humbling experience to see its massive presence from the inside.

Mahayana Buddhist Temple
133 Canal St (between Chrystie St & Forsyth St)
Yes, you can go to Tao or Buddhakan to see a big Buddha statue but this temple in Chinatown is amazing. Don’t be discouraged but the ordinary entrance.

Buddha Bodhi
5 Mott St, New York, NY 10013 Map it
Not only does this place have the best vegetarian food in Chinatown, but the menu is named after different meats, poultry and fish. For example, although it is not really chicken, the ‘chicken’ and broccoli is fantastic.

Statue of Liberty
Feeling cheap? Take the Staten Island Ferry for free to get a decent view of Ms. Liberty and hop right back on the next ferry to get back into Manhattan.

Times Square
Yes, be the typical tourist and go there and take pictures.

133 W 33rd St, New York, NY 10001 Map it Between 6th and 7th Avenue
This place in midtown has your typical bar food menu with massive size TV screens everywhere. What is not typical is the beer menu- if you like beer, this is your place. Note: it is around the block from Macy’s- yes THE Macy’s shopping department store that takes up an entire block.

NYC Subway
Better than any amusement park ride, taking the subway is a must for an authentic trip to NYC. be careful, and if you are really looking for an adventure, try taking it during rush hour!

Restaurant Row
West 46th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues
The single block contains over a dozen different ethnic restaurants. What ties them all together? they all have price-fixed menus ranging from $30-45. The price includes choice of app, main course and dessert.

No Mediator… No Peace

February 20, 2009

The NYU ‘Siege” is Now Over

The student takeover of the Kimmel Student Center Cafeteria has ended with:

1) no demands met
2) no negotiations
3) an injured security guard
4) 1 arrest for disorderly conduct
5) multiple suspensions of NYU students involved

The overall media coverage and editorials have really sided against the protesters. An example is the NY Post [here]

“With the kids’ human rights indulged, they unfurled a dizzying list of 13 demands, which ran the gamut from lower tuition, to NYU pulling out investments in Israel, to giving freebies to Palestinian students. But their No. 1 demand was this: “Full legal and disciplinary amnesty for all parties involved in the occupation.”

A recap of the event is [here] and local channel WCBS has a heap of videos (right side of the page) is [here].
No mediation or outside negotiators were brought in. The way the communication was handled (it seems) was the protesters submitted their demands via paper and through lower level school staff; The higher-level administration then met and discussed the situation and ultimately the only real offer from the school was for the ‘siege’ to end immediately and then the leaders could meet with school officials. That was quickly turned down.

From some reports, it all ended when the school asked to speak with the leaders of the group outside of the occupied area. Once out, they were then told there was going to be no negotiating but rather they were told they were now suspended. Security, whom I believe have peace officer status, then removed the remaining protesters.

Local school web-paper NYU Local cover the event (very nicely too) [here]

Finally, and oddly enough, it seems they passed time by dancing the night away. This picture seems to prove it [here]

Finally, [here] were the demands of the occupiers.