On December 15, 2021, City Council approved a motion by 2nd District Council Member, Carlina Rivera, which had previously been voted for approval by the Lower East Side’s Community Board 3, to rename the block on Avenue B just south of Tompkins Square, “Avenues for Justice Way”.
In the 1970s, Robert Siegal, a New York University law student, opened his Lower East Side apartment to local teens to use as a safe haven where he could help them with schoolwork and provide them meal tickets to the NYU cafeteria. After going to court and convincing a judge to keep one teenager out of jail, Siegal realized there was a more important service he could provide. In 1977, Siegal launched a court advocacy program to keep young people out of jail, collaborating with Angel Rodriguez, a long-time Lower East Side resident and youthworker at the local Boys Club. They named the program for Andrew Glover, a New York City police officer. PO Glover patrolled the Lower East Side and had steered young neighborhood residents away from crime by providing after school activities, until he was fatally shot in the line of duty in 1975.
Rodriguez and Siegal acquired space in a run-down, city-owned building at 100 Avenue B to meet with and engage teens. Sadly, in 1979, Robert Siegal fell ill and passed away at the age of 28. Rodriguez continued and expanded the program Siegal started. In the early 1980s, Avenues for Justice (AFJ) opened its headquarters in the Manhattan Criminal Court and in 1999, AFJ established a second community center in Harlem.
Since our modest start, Avenues for Justice has successfully diverted thousands of young New Yorkers from prison and crime remaining faithful to Siegal’s initial vision. We have always been a community-based program with a staff of court advocates and administrators that come from the communities that we serve.
Our model that youth and young adults should receive services for court advocacy, educational support, job training, life skills training and mental health wellness helps keep New York City streets safe. Just 5% of Avenues for Justice’s participants are re-convicted of a new crime within three years of enrollment in the program, in contrast to 75% of parolees who recommit three years post-release.
Angel, who has lived and worked his entire life on the Lower East Side, is especially moved by this show of appreciation from neighbors who signed the petition to rename the block, to members of Community Board 3, to Council Member Rivera, to Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and all those serving in City Council. “For as long as I have been doing this work, our doors have always been open to any youth in need of help maneuvering the criminal justice system and a safe place. I am so moved by the way the community has acknowledged our work with the street renaming.”
The next step in this exciting process will be to install a NEW street sign, “Avenues for Justice Way” at Sixth Street and Avenue B, a few steps away from our Lower East Side Robert Siegal Community Center. The AFJ Board of Directors and Staff plan on celebrating the street naming in 2022 with you, our supporters, our participants and our LES neighborhood by throwing a block party—the AFJ way! And as always, our doors will be open to any young person needing help.