Thanks to New York State Assembly Member (AM) Harvey Epstein’s District 74 Office, Men’s Wearhouse made a generous donation to Avenues for Justice (AFJ) of professional attire, including suits and outerwear, to distribute to our Participants and their families. AM Epstein and his staff dropped by AFJ’s Robert Siegal Center on March 16th to help distribute the clothing.
While Participants tried on their suits, three of them also had the opportunity to interview AM Epstein as part of AFJ's Youth Activism and Communication (YAC) training program, funded by the New York Community Trust. Participants interviewed AM Epstein about prison reform, youth justice, and affordable housing policies.
John, one of the three Participants who interviewed AM Epstein, said he asked about affordable housing because that’s been a personal issue for him. AM Epstein, who chairs the subcommittee on Retention of Homeownership and Stabilization of Affordable Housing, explained New York State’s law that grants everyone a legal right to shelter. He also discussed his goals to expand the income level eligibility for receiving vouchers for apartments and to overhaul the 421a tax exemption. 421a was originally intended to reward developers with long-term tax breaks if they included affordable units in their buildings. Instead, many units remain overpriced for lower-income New Yorkers.
Michael, who traveled from AFJ’s Harlem Community Center for his first visit to our Lower East Side location, asked AM Epstein about the length of prison sentences. Michael wanted to know since “everyone gets treated unfairly, I wanted to know what he could do about prisons.” AM Epstein discussed the laws that determine sentencing and added, “we need to move away from a system of punishment to a system of correction.” Michael stated after the interview, “AM Epstein gave me a good explanation on how things are run. I liked talking to someone in the government – I wish he could do more in the world. I get where he’s coming from.”
Anastacia, who is studying nursing, asked AM Epstein about the New York Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act, passed in 2021, and what its consequences mean for teens. AM Epstein highlighted his work to empower those with past marijuana-related convictions to channel their business experience into leading the now-legalized marijuana business sector. His office is actively prioritizing this population for legal permits.
AFJ's Executive Director, Angel Rodriguez, commented on how “It’s been very helpful to get suits to help our kids in the immediate future for job interviews, graduations and family events. For some, it’s the first suit they’ve ever owned. I appreciate what Assembly Member Epstein is doing, not only for our youth at AFJ, but also for our neighborhood. I am so thrilled that he met with our kids and was able to have a very frank conversation with them.”
All three Participants who interviewed AM Epstein have actively been attending different HIRE UP Communications workshops for digital literacy (2 have earned multiple certifications already), job readiness, Legal Rights and Responsibilities and mental wellness support. Thanks to the generosity of Men’s Wearhouse, the clothing donation will help our Participants suit up for court, job interviews and to use for various professional engagements.
For our May 21st Street Naming Celebration, AM Epstein’s District 74 office on our block will join the celebration, along with District 2 Council Member, Carlina Rivera. We hope that all of you will be able to join us for the celebrations, along with AFJ’s Spring Run for Justice. Please look out for more information about AFJ’s upcoming events on our social media!