About US

Reclaiming the lives of hundreds of young people a year


How a NYU student and a Lower East Side youth counselor launched a program that has provided “45 Years of Second Chances.”

”What started with a few committed neighbors helping young people in the Lower East Side, has since evolved into one of the country’s FIRST and most cost-effective Alternative to Incarceration (ATI) programs today. 

In 1974, Robert Siegal, an NYU student working out of his small apartment near Tompkins Square Park, had a vision to provide the youth on the Lower East Side with a safe space to do their homework, get meals, play basketball and socialize with their community and peers. 

At a time when the Alternative to Incarceration (ATI) model was relatively new, Robert began working across the criminal justice system to build relationships with the local precinct officers and advocate for court-involved youth to be offered services in the courtroom. Befriending a NYPD Police Officer from Harlem, Andrew Glover, who patrolled the LES and provided after school activities for the local youth, Robert and Officer Glover teamed up to help bring Robert’s initial vision to life. 

With the mission growing, Robert was able to hire his first assistant through the generous donation of the newly created New York Urban Coalition, and friend David Smith. The assistant he hired was none other than current Executive Director Angel Rodriguez, who at the time was a youth counselor at the local Boy’s Club. With Angel at his side, the duo began the hard work in and outside of the courtrooms, advocating for disadvantaged youth. 

In September 1975, just one block from what is now our LES community center at 100 Avenue B, Robert’s longtime friend and champion, Officer Glover, was tragically killed in the line of duty. As Robert began to consider launching a non-profit organization, he asked Officer Glover's family for permission to name it the Andrew Glover Youth Program (AGYP) in honor of the impact Glover had on the neighborhood youth. Sadly, in 1978 Robert’s own life was also cut short due to illness at the age of 28.

The mission and the non-profit were left to Angel to continue the work that Robert and Officer Glover had started. In 1979, Angel incorporated the Andrew Glover Youth Program (renamed in 2016 as Avenues for Justice), and a year later went on to secure headquarters inside the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse. Advocating before the judges that youths aged 13-24 receive holistic wraparound services, our headquarters gave us access to rapidly respond to youth entering for court dates. After working within the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse for a couple of years, the organization eventually purchased their flagship Robert Siegal Center on Avenue B by Tompkins Square Park.

During the 1980's, Angel was joined by several neighbors and volunteers who still continue a relationship with AFJ today, including (ret.) Honorable Judge Michael Corriero, who helped launch the Youth Part model in Manhattan that prosecutes young people separately from adults and promotes ATI services. This model is now used nationwide.

Over the last 45 years, Avenues for Justice’s work has proved to be an enormous success, with a 94% success rate of avoiding reconviction within three years of enrolling in our program, and serving over 500 of NYC’s youths each year. 

In tandem with Robert’s initial vision, AFJ assists our Participants with their legal matters along with providing services for job training, educational and academic assistance, mental health wellness services, and much more, through our HIRE UP program. Our work today is possible thanks to our Co-founder, Robert Siegal, who planted the roots of our ATI model in the Lower East Side all those years ago. 

1. Giving participants a second chance
2. Our program is based in the communities we serve.
3. The relationship between our court advocates and our participants is the key to our programs.
4. Our programs are structured around individual action plans which address the participant not the crime.
5. Participants must be accountable.
6. The duration & intensity of our program depends on the needs & development of our participants.
7. We focus on our core competency while working with our partners.
8. We measure impact with data and success stories.
Court Advocacy
For most of our participants, their starting point with AFJ is to have our Court Advocates assess their needs prior to trial and advocate to a judge that they should be mandated to our services instead of detention or prison. Youth are then assigned to one of our centers for services;
Court Advocates are on call 24/7
HIRE UP Job training and personal advancement
AFJ offers job training with certification, weekly job readiness classes led by corporate partners and mentors, and multiple additional workshops for employment and personal development including legal workshops, on-going mental health sessions for in-depth group therapy or to learn basic coping skills, and communications training to give Participants a voice on justice issues as well as job skills.
Many Participants need help in school and with their school subjects. AFJ assists in reconnecting youth to schools or providing alternatives such as HSE programming. In addition, AFJ recruits volunteers to help tutor Participants and assist with SAT and college preparation;
Healthy socialization
At our community centers, and now online, AFJ provides workshops for creative writing, art therapy, teen empowerment and other forms of healthy expression;
AFJ refers Participants to specialized providers to address healthcare, mental health and substance issues when needed.

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