Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Out and About in the East Village

In this weekly feature, East Village-based photographer James Maher provides us with a quick snapshot of someone who lives and/or works in the East Village. James is traveling this week. East Village photographer Stacie Joy compiled today's post.

By Stacie Joy
Name: Elsie Flores
Occupation: Court Advocate at Andrew Glover Youth Program and Manhattan Criminal Court at 100 Centre Street
Location: Andrew Glover Youth Program, 100 Avenue B
Time: 3:24 pm, Monday, Oct. 5

I was born in Guayama, Puerto Rico, and came over to the East Village/Lower East Side when I was 6 months old with my mother. I grew up in the Lower East Side, and still live there today.

I got involved with Andrew Glover Youth Program (AGYP) after they helped me with my legal matters. I was arrested three times when I was younger — once for a direct sale of narcotics, once for an observed sale and once for grand larceny. I walked into the program center to visit a friend, and [executive director] Angel Rodriguez took an interest in my case. I used to hang out here with a friend of mine.

AGYP helped me when I needed help, with support, guidance and showing me the right way. Unfortunately, my mom was too caught up in alcohol and drugs, I have no father and my sisters and brothers were all adopted. So I had nobody. There was no support system. I had some neighbors that were lovely, but I was too caught up in the streets and making that easy money to stop. Money was so easy as a child — I wasn’t even 13 and I sold and dealt and did what I had to survive until I found out I was pregnant.

That turned my life around. I wanted to give my daughter a better life than I had. I wanted to show her the right way, not the wrong way. My mother never had a job, so I had to learn what it meant to go to school, to go to college, to provide for my daughter. I then decided I wanted to give back. I know how it is to have nobody, to have nothing. I know how it feels to be misguided and how easy it is to get into negative activities. But you know that money, as fast as it comes, is as fast as it goes.

The neighborhood has changed a lot since I was a kid! I don’t know if I can say it’s changed for the better, I feel like now it’s targeting a certain race or class of people. Everything is so expensive now between the bars, restaurants, rent and stores. Some things are just nicer but unaffordable. I feel like they are pushing out the minorities, those who grew up here. I feel pressure, pressure to step up my game.

So I won’t become a statistic, which they would love to see. I will continue to do what I do, which is work hard, stay away from illegal activities and negativity. I try to talk to people in the community in a positive way, show support and give advice, any way possible to help youth in trouble. I assist young people who have been through what I have been through. And since I was once where they are, I know their tricks and can spot their untruths.

The majority of the kids come here with legal problems. Being arrested and needing help with the court system. We work with legally appointed attorneys to help these kids (ages 13 to 21) with tickets, court dates, drug issues, etc. A lot of kids don’t know their rights. No one is teaching them or educating them about their rights. These kids don’t know how the system works, and we are here to assist them, teach them, and help them get on the correct path. We tell them what they can and cannot do, what might happen. We help them by maintaining an 8 p.m. curfew for them, making sure they are at school every day, and that they pass their drug screens and tests.

When a young person is unable to make bail, he or she stays in jail, which is not the answer. AGYP does not provide bail money for these defendants, and so we are working to change this law as well. AGYP won’t help kids who have been charged with murder or rape or who have a very very long rap sheet of prior violent predicates. Most of the kids who come to the program come with drug arrests, theft, prostitution and gambling, low-level crimes and are first-time offenders.

For AGYP to not accept someone, he or she needs to be extremely violent with a long list of prior violent arrests. Andrew Glover Youth program has an amazingly low recidivism rate, somewhere along the lines of 3 percent. The program aims to take criminals off the streets, offer help and guidance as well as support. But not blind trust. We check up on them every day, help them the best way we can.

Officer Andrew Glover was a local East Village police officer who was murdered during the commission of his duties in the mid-1970s. Andrew Glover and NYU poli-sci student Robert Siegal were friends, who always spoke about making this program for kids, for the community. When Robert Siegal died, Angel Rodriguez [his friend, who was also acting as intermediate director at the local Boys Club] stepped in, and seamlessly took over. Angel Rodriguez didn’t hesitate, named the program after Officer Glover, and Angel is now my bossman!

A typical day for me is heading to criminal or family court in the morning with clients, taking clients to school, to doctor’s appointments, to psychiatric evaluation or drug testing, then coming into the Avenue B office to help handle any and all legal matters the best way we can. Since we mandate a strict curfew, I then spend my evenings catching up with them. I could be making a home visit. Also, in the evenings, we provide supervision here at the Avenue B location, where kids check in, learn new skills, and receive counseling.


Anonymous said...

I hate what has happened to the LES as much if not more than her. However she should consider that the people she is so worried about were as much responsible for the destruction of the LES as are the greedy developers. I grew up on Avenue D and witnessed so much death and destruction from the people she is so worried about.
There are two sides to every story.

Anonymous said...

This might be the first time I've ever been impressed with one of these interviews. Finally, someone who really does something for (young) people in the neighborhood who need help!

Greg Masters said...

Great profile of a great neighbor. Thank you, James Maher and EVG.

EV Grieve said...

Thank you Greg!

Stacie Joy actually conducted this week's interview!

Cindy said...

i know, but whats the answer?? I mean, do we "toss away these kids"? Or do we help them, show them the right way, like what you do? Do we educate or penalize? I mean, I MUCH prefer helping, leading, guiding and offer (tough) love. Tossing these kids into jails, or to their deaths is NOT THE ANSWER. Sheesh.

Anonymous said...

Very cool interview, very cool neighbor. Thanks for this, interviewers, and thanks, neighbor, for fighting for these kids. Great to see some diversity in this wonderful feature.

Unknown said...

Great profile! Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Elsie, you sound like someone who is doing genuinely good work with your heart and mind.

afbp said...

from: a peoples history of the united states.....
"the cry of the oppressed is not always just but if you don't listen to it , you will never understand what just is"

Anonymous said...

I love knowing there are still people in the neighborhood fighting the good fight and trying to help people. Awesome interview with an inspiring person!

Anonymous said...

Great work, Elsie!