Our Communities

In East Harlem and the Lower East Side, African-American and Hispanic youth triumph over challenges with help from AFJ.
On The Lower East Side, gentrification has not eradicated the poverty and crime that hurt African-American and Hispanic youth.

Avenues for Justice’s primary objective is to halt the revolving-door cycle of incarceration and poverty for youthful offenders in New York City.

Blacks and Hispanics: Fighting the Trends

  • Over 50% of poor black and Hispanic New Yorkers lived in high or extreme poverty versus 30% of white New Yorkers.[1]
  • High poverty neighborhoods experience almost 4 times as much serious violent crime as low-poverty neighborhoods.[2]
  • 80% of NYC foster care children are Black or Hispanic[3] and 30% of all of NYC’s children live in poverty compared to the national average of 22%[4].
  • New York State’s Black youth are six times more likely than white youth to be incarcerated.[5]

17% of NYC’s neighborhoods between 2006-2015 saw an increase of poverty rate by 10 percentage or more[6]. The fleeting opportunity for economic growth and improvement in these neighborhoods has effects on schooling, family dynamics, financial decision-making, and more. All of which increases the likelihood of incarceration.

Avenues of Challenge

Teenagers in poorer neighborhoods often see crime as a distraction for boredom, violence in the home, absence in school, financial insecurity, and other factors. Poverty, family instability, low education outcomes and expectations, and the economy of drugs all contribute to many of the challenges AFJ’s population faces.

  • Concentrated Poverty: Statistically, poverty adversely affects the young. The neighborhoods where the majority of our youth are from: the Lower East Side, East and Central Harlem, and the Bronx, have higher rates of concentrated poverty than the rest of the city. The Lower East Side and the Bronx have poverty rates that is 1.5 times the city’s average and in East Harlem, people live in poverty at almost twice the rate that of the rest of New York City.[7]
  • Family Instability: Youth in low-income communities are more likely to experience families that are financially stretched to make ends meet. These households often have increased rate of domestic violence, criminal behavior among parents, competing parental roles, friction between the child and the parent, and more.[8]
  • Failing Education: White students in NYC public schools are more than 20% more likely to graduate than Black and Hispanic students[9] and Black students in middle and high school were almost three times as likely to be suspended as white students.[10]
  • Drugs: Drug trafficking tends to be higher in neighborhoods with lower accessibility to alternative financially viable jobs. In order to fill the economic gap, many kids turn to drug-dealing. If an alternative were available to them, many would make a different choice.[11]

Together, these daunting factors create an endless cycle of crime and incarceration, as U.S. prison rates continues to be higher than any other country in the world. However, as AFJ has proven for over 40 years, if you identify the root cause of crime—on an individualized basis—you can work with most youth to improve their lives and get them on a track to make better decisions in the future. All while setting them on a better path educationally and for financial security.



[1]“Focus on Poverty in New York City.” NYU Furman Center, 7 June 2017, furmancenter.org/thestoop/entry/focus-on-poverty.

[2]“Focus on Poverty in New York City.” NYU Furman Center, 7 June 2017, furmancenter.org/thestoop/entry/focus-on-poverty.

[3] New York City, Foster Care, Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Development. “2018 Monitoring and Analysis Profiles With Selected Trend Data: 2014-2018.” 2018 Monitoring and Analysis Profiles With Selected Trend Data: 2014-2018, 2019.


[4] Focus on Poverty in New York City.” NYU Furman Center, 7 June 2017, furmancenter.org/thestoop/entry/focus-on-poverty.

[5] “Youth First - End Youth Incarceration.” Youth First - End Youth Incarceration, www.nokidsinprison.org/explore/new-york/?section=cost-interactive.

[6]“Focus on Poverty in New York City.” NYU Furman Center, 7 June 2017, furmancenter.org/thestoop/entry/focus-on-poverty.

[7] “State of New York City's Housing & Neighborhoods – 2018 Report.” NYU Furman Center, 2018, furmancenter.org/research/sonychan.

[8]Banovcinova, Andrea & Levicka, Jana & Veres, Martin. (2014). The Impact of Poverty on the Family System Functioning. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences. 132. 148-153. 10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.04.291.

[9] “Mayor De Blasio and Chancellor Carranza Announce Record High Graduation Rate.” The Official Website of the City of New York, 30 Jan. 2019, www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/064-19/mayor-de-blasio-chancellor-carranza-record-high-graduation-rate#/0.

[10] “Data Collaborative for Justice: New Study Shows NYC School Suspension Rate for Black Students Was 2.8 the Rate for White Students in 2016-17.” Arnold Foundation, 2019, www.arnoldventures.org/newsroom/john-jay-college-new-study-shows-nyc-sch....

[11] Ihlanfeldt, Keith R. “Neighborhood Drug Crime and Young Males’ Job Accessibility.” DeVoe Moore Center and Department of Economics, 2003.