Near Westside Peacemaking Project

Peacemaking is a traditional Native American approach to justice that focuses on healing and restoration. Peacemaking brings together people who are in conflict, along with family members and other members of the community who have been affected by the dispute.

All participants in a peacemaking circle are treated equally and are allowed to speak about how the event, crime, or crisis affected them personally. The purpose of peacemaking is to reach a consensus to resolve the dispute and, hopefully, to heal relationships among those involved.

The Center implemented its first peacemaking program in Red Hook, Brooklyn in January 2013. For more information, read about the Red Hook program or download a fact sheet about our peacemaking programs.

How It Works

The Peacemaking Center is located at 601 Tully Street in Syracuse, NY. The Project has two main purposes: (1) free, community-based conflict resolution, and (2) resident-informed community projects to reclaim the neighborhood.  

The Near Westside Peacemaking Project recruits and trains local volunteers to act as Peacemakers for criminal, civil, and family matters referred from the court system, police, probation, and other justice agencies, and from neighborhood organizations, local schools, and members of the community.

Peacemaking Cases
: During the first year, the Project accepted peacemaking cases diverted from the police, probation, neighborhood schools and community members. Twenty cases entered peacemaking, involving 45 individuals in conflict, 30 community support people, and 15 trained community volunteer peacemakers. 43 peacemaking circles were held. The Project also assisted three classroom teachers from neighborhood schools with relationship-building circles that reached 64 middle-school students.

Community Benefits Projects: Community projects focus on education, dialogue, art, cultural events, and neighborhood beautification. The Project hosted 16 community projects last year, involving over 500 community members. Projects included:

  • mapping broken streetlights in the neighborhood for repair
  • holding a community dialogue around race and violence
  • bringing firefighters and a fire truck to the neighborhood for kids to explore and learn about fire safety
  • hosting two free family movie nights in a neglected outdoor grassy area

Take Back the Streets: The Project, in collaboration with other neighborhood agencies, launched a new anti-violence, crime-prevention initiative in the Near Westside called Take Back the Streets.  The initiative will plan and implement 50 community-based projects in 2016 to address violence, blight and social disorder.

The Peacemaking Center

 The Center contracted with FOURM design studio out of Oakland, California with an architect, Deanna Van Buren, who specializes in peacemaking spaces. Ms. Van Buren led an architectural design process that included forty community residents, justice stakeholders, architects, and students who participated in three workshops. Participants were invited to sit in circles and discuss how building design influences feelings of harmony and dispels anxiety. Participants then worked in groups to design the inside of a peacemaking space, including the types of rooms that would be important for a peacemaking center, the importance of natural design elements, and the location of the building.

For more information about FOURM design studio and Deanna Van Buren, click here.

The Peacemakers

Peacemakers are community volunteers who have completed an extensive training program.  The training program includes topics such as the principals of peacemaking, the art of storytelling, mock circles, and workshops with Native American expert consultants.  Being a peacemaker requires commitment to completing the training program, participating in peacemaking circles, and believing in a community’s ability to resolve conflict.

If you are interested in the project or becoming a peacemaker, please contact Lisa Vavonese at (315) 266-4349 or

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  • New York
  • 520 8th Avenue
  • 18th Floor
  • New York, NY 10018
  • phone: 646.386.3100
  • Syracuse
  • 601 Tully Street
  • Syracuse, NY 13204
  • phone: 315.266.4330
  • London
  • Canterbury Court
    1-3 Brixton Road
  • London, SW9 6DE
  • phone: +44 2076.329.060