FOREST HILLS, March 30, 2022 — Queens Defenders is pleased to announce the promotion of Lisa Saltzman, Esq. to the role of Director of Training.  Ms. Saltzman’s leadership in this role will ensure the organization offers an attorney training program that represents the gold standard among public defender organizations in New York City and across the country.   


As Director of Training, Ms. Saltzman brings over 25 years of criminal defense experience at Queen Defenders and a passion for developing staff attorneys. A frequent lecturer at various Bar Associations, Ms. Saltzman will be delivering an expansive curriculum for both newly admitted and senior attorneys that will cover all aspects of indigent criminal defense practice – from courtroom proceedings to new laws and regulations.   


“Throughout her time at Queens Defenders, Ms. Saltzman has been instrumental in the advancement of our staff and organization,” stated Executive Director Lori Zeno and Managing Director Hettie Powell, “With her dedication to the legal profession, her colleagues, and the clients we serve, we couldn’t imagine a more qualified and committed leader to usher Queens Defenders into a new era of excellence.”  


Lisa Saltzman: Ms. Saltzman has worked for Queens Defenders for 24 years and is a lecturer on various criminal law topics at the Queens County Bar Association, the New York State Bar Association, and the New York State Defender Association. Ms. Saltzman is also an adjunct professor at Seton Hall Law School and Cardozo Law School teaching trial skills in their Intensive Trial Advocacy Program. In 2019, she received the NCDD National Public Defender of the Year Award for her dedication and work in the field of DWI defense.  


PRESS CONTACTS : For supporting materials, more information, or to request an interview please reach out to:   

Alora Sherbert
Manager of Development & Communications


About Queens Defenders: Queens Defenders provides free, high-quality legal representation to individuals living in Queens County. Since 1996, Queens Defenders’ highly skilled attorneys have represented over 450,000 Queens residents and handle major trials and homicides, work with clients involved in Queens treatment courts, and represent cases involving domestic violence, youth charged with felonies, and immigrants facing criminal charges.   

In 2013 the organization launched youth diversion programs to help young people develop critical life skills, improve emotional and physical health, and enhance educational and professional opportunities to build successful lives.

Learn more at queensdefenders.org 

Executive Director Lori Zeno Gives Testimony at the Queens Borough Budget Hearing Advocating for Year-Round Youth Programs and Less Policing in the Borough

On Tuesday March 7th, 2022 Queens Defenders Executive Director Lori Zeno joined the Queens Borough Board Budget Hearing to comment on the Mayor’s Fiscal Year 2023 Preliminary Expense and Capital Budget. Specifically, Ms. Zeno is pushing back on the mayor’s proposal that sets systems in place to increase the policing of young people without adding support for year-round programming to provide safe spaces off the streets.


Ms. Zeno’s full testimony can be read below:

“Good morning.  My name is Lori Zeno, Executive Director of Queens Defenders.  We are a legal services organization representing over 20,000 Queens residents annually in Queens Criminal Court.  We also operate youth programs in Far Rockaway and Jamaica that reach over 200 young people each year through mentoring and youth development programs, our Youth Justice Court, the Rockaway Community Justice Center, and other initiatives.


Mayor Adams’ Fiscal Year 2023 Preliminary Budget presents a mixed bag of welcome initiatives and serious concerns for our borough’s communities, and our youth in particular.  The addition of increased Summer Youth Employment slots will be a boon to youth across the City this summer, but the mayor’s renewed focus on strategies that will lead to over policing have the potential to increase obstacles for youth residing in Black and Brown communities that have been disproportionately impacted by policies rooted in systemic racism. I implore the mayor to instead focus on strategies that can uplift our city’s youth from a strengths-based perspective and provide options they can access year-round.


Summer Youth employment is a crucial program that helps youth gain valuable work experience, make connections, and earn some money when they are not in school.  I would like to see additional investment in our youth outside of this impactful, but time-limited program.


Young people need safe spaces to go afterschool.  They need engaging programs that give them new perspectives and help them envision a successful future.  They need to learn about possible career pathways, how to set goals, and how to achieve them.  They need to socialize, experience the benefits of a relationship with a caring adult mentor, and learn how to navigate life’s challenges under the guidance of a robust support network.  They need to feel connected to a community.  There are many community-based organizations that do exactly this, but access to high-quality services and options for youth is not equal across the city, or across the borough.


Take Far Rockaway for example.  Far Rockaway is a vibrant community filled with dynamic and aspirational youth.  And the peninsula can feel cut-off from the rest of the city and youth lack many after school recreational opportunities.  They do not have the same opportunities as their more affluent peers for after-school and weekend employment, skill-building, and mentorship. Their schools maintain some of the lowest graduation rates across the city. And this is one of Mayor Adams’ identified high-crime neighborhoods that will be targeted with extra policing.


What kind of improvements would we see if we targeted communities such as Far Rockaway with wholistic investment in the youth who reside there?


At Queens Defenders, we like to say that we are in the business of transforming lives. Our Youth programs offer year-round paid internships where young people gain valuable work experience, learn a community-service mindset, and think about their dream careers and how they might pursue them.  Our programs have been wildly successful since their establishment in 2013 – their founding made possible with the support of then Councilmember, and now Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.  We have helped court-involved youth set new pathways for their lives and avoid further contact with the justice system.  We have enabled youth with aspirations for legal careers learn about the law, court proceedings, and the roles of defense attorneys, prosecutors, judges and other court-roles while simultaneously offering a restorative-justice based solution to issues in their schools and communities through our Youth Justice Court program.


Our young people have become well known in the communities in which they work not for a reputation as a troublemaker or due to frequent interaction with the police, but because they are a trusted resource for their peers and even adults looking for help with legal, immigration, housing, or other issues.  Our youth have fostered strong relationships with local police and worked with them to create community events that promote healthy relationships, knowing your rights, and how to interact with police should you be stopped or questioned.  They assist in our Food Pantry and design special events around the holidays for local families and families impacted by domestic violence.  They do this year-round, and this investment in youth has contributed greatly to their success and development.


Mayor’s Adams’ proposed solution of additional policing of communities and young people skips over a crucial step that can make a transformative difference in the lives of youth – particularly those residing in under-resourced communities such as Far Rockaway, Jamaica, and others.  We need to make a year-round investment in them.  We need to believe in their success.  These special police units are not the answer.  They will look for crime and to make arrests.  They are not focused on local youths’ successful transition to adulthood.  We as a city can and must do better.”

Client Testimonial: Ms. Spencer Reflects on Queens Defenders' Impact

Ms. Spencer is a 33-year-old budding professional and mother to a two-year-old boy. She has a passion for visual art, music, real estate, health, and wellness. As a hardworking single mother, she has managed to transcend home instability and secure a stable apartment for herself and her child. Queens Defenders met Ms. Spencer in 2019; she came into the Far Rockaway Outreach Center at the time looking for help with housing. The QD Housing Team helped Ms. Spencer navigate the use of her housing voucher and obtain a furniture allowance once an apartment was found and secured.

Ms. Spencer recently reconnected with her estranged mother who was homeless for the last 25 years. Her mother lives with mental health challenges and now lives with Ms. Spencer and her son. Ms. Spencer reports that this experience has helped her conquer her own battle with depression and anxiety; she is now serving as an advocate for mental health awareness.

Most recently, Ms. Spencer passed the NYS Real Estate Licensing Exam, and she manages her own Online Health & Wellness Brand.  She decided to reach out to Queens Defenders for moral support, as well as legal and financial advice. Ms. Spencer was eager to step into a new career as a real estate agent, but had certain reservations and barriers she needed to overcome. The QD Outreach Team provided the encouragement and support Ms. Spencer needed to step into her power, and into a brighter future for herself, her son, and her mother.

In preparation for starting her new job with a real estate agency, Queens Defenders donated one week's worth of brand new professional clothing to Ms. Spencer. According to Ms. Spencer, "More important than the clothing itself, Queens Defenders gave me the confidence I needed to shine. Queens Defenders has been very helpful in my recent journey. I think Queens Defenders is a strong asset to the community and I would strongly recommend this organization."

Ms. Spencer has been attending work training and is so excited for her future. She plans to advocate and educate the disenfranchised and lower income communities on financial literacy in order to help others traverse and defeat the obstacles she herself has faced.

Queens Defenders Awarded New Contract with NYC Housing Preservation & Development

Queens Defenders is pleased to announce a new partnership with New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD).  Under this new grant award, Queens Defenders will provide Housing Navigator Services out of the Rockaway Community Justice Center and Jamaica Justice Center.  This new 10-person team has already begun working with Queens residents with Emergency Housing Vouchers to secure permanent, stable housing. 

Stan Khaldarov, Housing Navigator Supervisor & Director of Food Justice states, "Our Housing Navigator Program marks a new chapter in the growth of the Housing Initiatives at Queens Defenders. In addition to our existing housing services, our team of Housing Navigators is now assisting Emergency Housing Voucher ("EHV") recipients with their housing search, apartment viewings, and lease up process." 

Housing Navigators will be working one-on-one with clients, helping them to identify their housing needs, connect with realtors and landlords, and ultimately find, apply, and secure stable and affordable housing.  “Within the housing paradigm, finding and securing an apartment is often the most difficult factor. Our team is proud to assist our clients with taking this challenging step towards safe and stable housing,”  Khaldarov added. 

Queens Defenders is also pleased to announce that two current Young Adult Leaders, Andre Hussey and Hector Rodriguez, have been hired to the Housing Navigator team.  “I am proud of our Young Adult Leaders Andre and Hector who rose to the challenge and were promoted to be a part of this team,” Khaldarov said.  The Young Adult Leader Program supports Far Rockaway Youth with part-time employment paired with youth development and college and career readiness activities.  Our Young Adult Leaders are a crucial part of our community-based Outreach Programs and are often the first to step in and help individuals in need of assistance or coordinate community education events on topics including healthy relationships, college readiness information, and Know Your Rights workshops. 

The Housing Navigator program builds upon Queens Defenders’ already existing housing advocacy services that provide assistance with affordable housing lottery applications, information and advocacy related to Housing Court, and Know Your Rights workshops for tenants.  

Brandon Jeffries, Director of Youth Services at Queens Defenders stated, “The opportunity to enhance Queens Defenders resources is a dream turned reality.  Knowing that we can support residents with finding an apartment is an honor that we take great pride in as we transition those in need from a shelter to a new home. In a time where resources and services are changing, Queens Defenders remains determined to be at the forefront for the good of the community.” 

Queens Defenders Visits Village Academy in Far Rockaway to Expand Youth Services

On February 17th, 2022, Queens Defenders’ Outreach Team visited Village Academy to give an uplifting presentation to students, as well as inform them about our services. 

The Outreach Team consisted of Queens Defenders’ Director of Youth Programs, Brandon Jeffries and Youth Program Assistant, Theodore Robinson, as well as Young Adult Leaders, Andre Hussey, Hector Rodriguez, Amari Leitzsey, and Michael Osemwengie. There were over 100 students present to hear from the Queens Defender Team. 

Andre, Amari, and Hector each spoke about the different services that Queens Defenders can provide for the youth. Andre informed them of QD’s Tutoring Services, Youth Justice Court, and Safe Space – a program located on Central Avenue in Far Rockaway.  

Amari gave information on the Sports for Family Health (SFH) project that is going to be implemented by the New York City Department of Health and Hygiene and community-based organizations starting on March 1st. The SFH project is going to be an approach to turn sports environments into venues for promoting health to the youth and their families.  

Hector gave an uplifting speech about staying on the right path. He used his past negative experiences to encourage the students to make good decisions and let them know to “stay off the streets because it only brings trouble.” He explained the three outcomes of being on the streets: deceased, incarcerated, or living a life with no positive direction.  

Brandon gave uplifting speeches as well, telling the students how they can be anything they want to be in life as long as they put in time and effort towards their goals.  

At the end of the presentation, four students came on stage to show off their best dance moves. The students had a lot of fun, especially when one of the faculty members got on stage and danced as well. Queens Defenders is thankful for the chance to leave a positive and inspirational impact on the students of Village Academy, and we look forward to many students joining QD Programming across the community. 

Queens Defenders and Queens Borough President’s Office Help the Community Navigate Cannabis Legislation

On Tuesday, January 25th, Queens Defenders’ Director of Special Projects, Kirlyn Joseph and Attorney, Mani Tafari joined the 'Take Action Webinar' hosted by the Queens Borough President’s Office. The panel consisted of: Queens Borough President Donovan Richards; Katherine Brezler, The Office of the Queens Borough President’s Strategic Advisor; and Simon Malinowski, an attorney with Harris Bricken’s New York Office, moderated by Tariqua Morrison, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for The Office of the Queens Borough President. This esteemed group of individuals had an engaging conversation about the impact and overall aspects of the Marijuana Regulation and the Taxation Act (MRTA), as well as related expungement. 

To start the discussion, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards stressed the importance of educating the public about what exactly is in this bill and what it means for Queens. Borough President Richards touted the bill saying it brings the whole of New York State on a path towards restorative justice, while also stressing the importance of bringing business into the borough. Speaking on the impact of the legislation, Borough President emphasized the opportunities the expungement and contracts will bring to Queens and ensuring the communities most affected by the criminalization will be the first to get licenses, stressing that the disparate impact of previous drug laws will no longer be a barrier to the Queens community. 

Simon Malinowski, Managing Attorney at Harris Bricken’s New York office specializing in cannabis law explained the overall view of this emerging market. Mr. Malinowski went over a brief history of how the law came into being, and spoke about the various types of licenses and the process to get those licenses. Malinowski went into specifics about working with the Office of Cannabis Management and State Liquor Authority to procure a license. He ended by speaking about the social and economic equity program provided by the MRTA, and the social and economic equity fund recently announced by the cannabis control board. 

Queens Defenders Attorney, Mani Tafari brought a bit of history to the discussion by sharing a presentation on the history and background of cannabis in America. Mr. Tafari expressed that one of his biggest problems is with the stigma that is around the plant a stigma that exists because of a forced narrative believed by the community at large. Throughout Mr. Tafari’s fun history lesson, he illustrated that anti-marijuana campaigns, fueled by anti-immigrant and racist sentiments, brought forth this stigma that we are still fighting against today. 

Queens Defenders Director of Special Projects, Kirlyn Joseph discussed what she believes is one of the more important aspects of MRTA: the expungement. Ms. Joseph shared how previous policing methods would allow for large numbers of arrests on the grounds of criminal possession, leading to a criminal record that was public and will impact the rest of the lives of those individuals. She emphasized the important difference between sealing a case and expunging a case from the record, stating that when a case is sealed it is still accessible to employers and potential landlords, but when a case is expunged it is gone from your record (depending on the circumstances).  

This discussion was for Queens area residents to learn about the intricacies of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act and how it will benefit those in our borough. Watch this full informative webinar on YouTube here. 

Rockaway Community Justice Center Expands Services Despite Challenging Conditions due to COVID

In its first full year, despite having to transition between in-person and virtual programming due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rockaway Community Justice Center continuously offered various free services to the Far Rockaway Community and Community Court participants in particular. Services include but are not limited to assistance with resumés, job readiness training, educational services, emergency assistance, and OSHA training.  

Participants in Community Court completed their mandatory community service hours in the RCJC. One of the participants, Roger, was brought to the Community Court due to being charged with petty larceny. Roger is currently employed as a driver for Veteran Services and plans to obtain his GED. He has a strong passion for photography and videography, which he plans on pursuing through a connection made at Queens Defenders. 

Connecting participants with meaningful projects is one of the main tenets of the RCJC model. This is made possible by the RCJC Advisory Board Members. Board Member, Maggie Larkins, is a community leader and certified chaplain of the New York State Chaplain Task Force. She is also the president of Redfern housing and sits on several boards. Larkins’ goal for the RCJC is to “help those who want and need help, continue to provide services, resources, workshops, and any support that would meet the needs of the community.” 

The Rockaway Community Justice Center will continue to adapt to the needs of the community. Beginning in February, staff members will be available to assist with filing taxes. Additionally, expanded housing services are available for community members who qualify. More information on our Housing Navigator Grant can be found here. 

Queens Defenders Hosts Holiday Extravaganza for Clients and Their Families

On December 21, 2021, Queens Defenders hosted a Holiday Extravaganza in our Jamaica Justice Center for clients and their families. There was a wide variety of toys, clothes, and accessories for guests to choose from. All visitors received bags of fresh and non-perishable foods to take home for the holidays.  

Toys and gifts were donated by Queens Defenders thanks to a grant provided by New York City Council Member Brooks-Powers. Other toys were donated by former clients and community members. All pre-made perishable food bags were provided by Campaign Against Hunger, 9 Million Reasons, and the Promise Church – a partnership with Queens Borough President Donovan Richards. The non-perishable food bags were made thanks to JEWELEX and donations from Queens Defenders employees.  

Visitors were overjoyed with the items they received at the Holiday Extravaganza. Children were laughing and smiling as they were handed brand new toys and pajamas. Families left with big smiles on their faces, looking forward to a happy and healthy holiday season.  

In addition to the giveaways at the Holiday Extravaganza, Queens Defenders hand delivered gifts, food, and other necessities to families impacted by domestic violence. 

Queens Defenders Executive Director and Founder, Lori Zeno spent countless hours shopping and planning for this event over several weekends. She said, “It is important to us at Queens Defenders that our support for our clients does not stop when we leave the courtroom. We are incredibly grateful to our generous partners and donors who made this event possible. Our team had a wonderful time celebrating the holiday season with our clients and their families.” 

Queens Defenders: Meet our Youth

Meet Kenny:

Over nine years ago, Kenny came to Queens Defenders as a participant in our very first Youth Program. He was arrested for stealing a phone, and joined Queens Defenders as part of his plea deal. Kenny reflects on his experience that summer and says, “Although I didn’t know it then, this is when my life began to change.” Kenny was among twelve other young people in similar situations who came to Queens Defenders to learn positive decision-making skills, as well as participate in some fun field trips along the way. That summer on a field trip to Brooklyn Boulders, he fell in love with rock climbing. Following the program, with the help of staff at Queens Defenders, Kenny returned to school (which he had previously given up on), and ended up graduating with his GED as the program’s Valedictorian for the entire state that year. Now, almost ten years later, Kenny is a husband, a father, a home-owner, and an entrepreneur. Queens Defenders is lucky to have Kenny on our staff as a Credible Messenger, serving as a mentor to young people in similar situations. 


Meet Judisa:

Judisa was in our first cohort of youth in the Jamaica Youth Program out of our Jamaica Justice Center. During her time in the program, Judisa worked towards her high school diploma, and ended up graduating early! She then developed a passion for helping young people navigate the college application process. The staff describes Judisa as ‘determined’ and ‘focused.’ Her skills have set her apart and earned her a spot as a Credible Messenger in our Mentoring Program. She works to inspire her peers, helping with professional development, program activities, assignments, and mentoring youth on their next steps. 





Meet D'Carlos:

D’Carlos has always been a leader, and when he joined Queens Defenders, he was able to use his leadership skills in a meaningful way. Prior to joining, D’Carlos was not making decisions he was proud of. But when he became a Young Adult Leader, D’Carlos was empowered to join in on many initiatives to help his community and peers. He served as a mentor to younger adolescents in the community, he was an advocate for his fellow Young Adult Leaders, and he worked together with other Leaders to initiate and facilitate weekly young men’s groups. Now, D’Carlos is close to finishing college and just got promoted to Manager at his current job. 





Meet Fatu: 

Fatu was the very first client in our Credible Messengers Mentoring Program out of the Jamaica Justice Center. Fatu was born in Africa and came to the United States with her mother when she was 10 years old. When Fatu was 16, her mother left. Fatu was moved into a foster care group home, and she eventually joined a gang. Later, she was arrested on three different felony assault and robbery charges. She was represented by Queens Defenders, and her attorney, Anthony Martone immediately saw the light in her. He introduced her to the rest of the staff, and everyone agreed that Fatu had so much more to offer the world. With the help of Queens Defenders, Fatu now has a job, a GED, and people to call family. Fatu says, “I owe everything good in my life to Mr. Martone and Queens Defenders.” She hopes to someday become a lawyer like Mr. Martone – someone with a big heart who is committed to getting the best for his clients. 



Meet Hector:

Hector stumbled upon Queens Defenders in the summer of 2018 when we were moving into the Rockaway Outreach Center. When he heard about the programs Queens Defenders had to offer, he was immediately intrigued. At the time, Hector shared that he was making poor life decisions and hanging around with the wrong crowd. Hector wanted to do better for himself and his family, so he started to volunteer for Queens Defenders. After several months of volunteering, Hector was hired as a Young Adult Leader. During his time at Queens Defenders, Hector has grown into a responsible young man who is devoted to helping his community. He represents Queens Defenders at various community meetings and events, and advocates on behalf of youth in the community. Hector is a leader among his peers, and encompasses the phrase, “Far Rock Strong.”




Meet Alliyah:

Alliyah started volunteering for Queens Defenders through the Youth Justice Court program at the Far Rockaway Library for Teens. Immediately, the staff at Queens Defenders could see how bright Alliyah was and how committed she was to helping her peers. After years of volunteering, Alliyah was hired as a Young Adult Leader in the Rockaway Outreach Center. As one of the Leaders, Alliyah has been actively giving back to the Rockaways through community engagement with other youth. She is particularly passionate about helping her peers become college-ready. In partnership with Queens Defenders and our supporters, Alliyah lead a College Readiness Event for the youth of Queens where she facilitated a panel discussion about what they need to know for college - all while being a student at St. John's University. Alliyah is a sociology major and intends to become a lawyer and open her own nonprofit aimed at empowering youth.



Meet Alex:

When Alex first came across Queens Defenders, he was about to age out of the foster care system. Now, he is a Young Adult Leader that specializes in advocacy and foster care services. During his time at Queens Defenders, Alex has supported food justice initiatives in Far Rockaway and Jamaica, as well as adult services. Additionally, Alex assisted several CUNY students when their rights were being infringed on. A consummate professional, Alex recognizes the value in community advocacy and engagement. The sky is the limit for what is in store for the community with Alex involved! 





Meet Lastra:

At the start of her junior year at Scholars Academy, Lastra walked into our Rockaway Outreach Center to see what it was all about. From the moment she walked in the door, our staff could see her passion for helping the community. When Lastra was asked if she was interested in volunteering, Lastra took a moment to think about what she could meaningfully contribute to the Center. She ultimately decided that she could offer tutoring services, as she had been tutoring her peers for years. A week later, she had the tutoring program up and running with multiple youth coming in daily for homework help. And now, three years later, the tutoring program is thriving and continues to support many children in the community. Lastra is currently studying Applied Mathematics at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, all while helping her peers and younger children at the Outreach Center. 




Meet Andre:

Andre first got involved with Queens Defenders through the Youth Justice Court program while he was a student at Frederick Douglass Academy VI High School. He started off as a volunteer 3 years ago, and is now an active youth mentor on the team. Andre decided to be a volunteer at Youth Court and other Queens Defenders programs because he saw it as a great way to stay out of trouble and help the youth of the community. He proclaims, “What inspired me about being a volunteer with Queens Defenders was it kept me out of trouble and helped me learn life-changing things. Volunteering with Queens Defenders helped me change my mind set in life and to stay on the right path and guide others to do the same.” After graduating high school, Andre became an official employee of Queens Defenders. In the years he’s worked for Queens Defenders, Andre has made a tremendous impact on the community, and he continues to serve as a role model for his peers and younger kids in the Far Rockaway. 


Meet Tamara:

Tamara is our newest Young Adult Leader and is described by all staff as a hard worker willing to go above and beyond to help. With the help of the Queens Defenders team, Tamara is learning administrative skills that go hand in hand with our Housing and Food Justice initiatives. She has become an invaluable team member that believes in helping – so much so that she has volunteered her time on several Saturdays to give back to the community at cleanups and the Rockaway Youth Summit. Tamara always wants to help in any way she can. Her work ethic has inspired others with an approach to work until the job is done.  





Meet Jaden:

In the Summer of 2020, Jaden joined the Queens Defenders team as a member of the Summer Youth Employment Program. From the very beginning, Queens Defenders staff recognized something special in Jaden. At the end of the summer, Jaden was offered a position at the Rockaway Outreach Center as a Homework Helper. Since then, Jaden’s growth has been tremendous. Through hard work and connections made through Queens Defenders, Jaden completed his Eagle project in which he built a beautiful community green space in Edgemere Park. This project involved raising money for supplies, and working tirelessly to complete the space. In recognition of his hard work, Jaden was awarded with two citations: one from NYS Assembly Member Khaleel Anderson, and the other from NYC Council Member Selvena Brooks-Powers. Jaden continues to work towards his goal of helping his community, and he ultimately plans to attend an ivy league college where he will study law and eventually become a politician. 


Meet Amari:

Amari started working for Queens Defenders during Summer Youth Employment. There, he stood out as someone who was always willing to help – no matter what. Amari was then hired as a Young Adult Leader, and has continued to give back to his community ever since. Amari is not afraid to learn a new skill if it means he can help more people. He has tutored younger kids, coached basketball teams, assisted clients apply for housing, helped community members complete their taxes, and the list goes on. Amari has more skills than most young men his age, and he completes every task with a smile on his face. Queens Defenders is proud to have watched Amari grow as a Young Adult Leader, and we are lucky to have him on our team. 




Meet Benita:

Benita was in Queens Defenders’ first cohort of Young Adult Leaders. She was hired after working for Queens Defenders during Summer Youth Employment. Benita started the summer as a quiet young woman, and by the end of the summer, she had come out of her shell. The staff at Queens Defenders were amazed by her growth and kindness, and knew she had to be a member of the team. During her time at Queens Defenders, Benita worked on many projects. She was pivotal in growing our mentorship program. She was a mentor to both freshmen in high school as well as young basketball players. Benita always leads by example, and her growth throughout the years is extraordinary. Now, Benita is in college during the school year, but returns to Queens Defenders over breaks to help the community in any way she can. 




Meet Jermaine:

Jermaine was first introduced to Queens Defenders when he was attending high school at Queens High School for Information, Research, and Technology. He was interested in the programs Queens Defenders had to offer at the Far Rockaway High School Campus. Jermaine traveled to Washington DC with Queens Defenders for the “March for Our Lives.” It was there that his passion for advocating for young people flourished. Shortly thereafter, Jermaine worked for Queens Defenders through Summer Youth Employment, and was ultimately hired in our first cohort of Young Adult Leaders. Since then, Jermaine has graduated high school, started college, and developed into a leader in the community. Jermaine helps in any area he’s asked, and always leads by example. 




Meet Mike:

When Mike first participated in Queens Defenders Youth Justice Court, he described his life as "kind of crazy," and he was hanging out with the wrong crowd. Through the help of the Rockaway Outreach Center and mentors at Queens Defenders, Mike was given direction by giving back to his community through volunteering. Now, he works with the Youth of Queens and every day pushes forward with his goal of putting Far Rockaway on the map.






Help Queens Defenders support more young people in the community by donating here.


Queens Defenders Hosts Domestic Violence Awareness Webinar

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Throughout the month, Queens Defenders posted a series of resources on social media for survivors of domestic violence, as well as family members of survivors. To conclude the month, Queens Defenders hosted a live webinar that featured a panel discussion about domestic violence, how to recognize the signs, and how to support survivors.

On Wednesday, October 27th, members of the community came together for the panel discussion. Panelists included:

  • Marissa Bernowitz, Executive Administrator, Domestic Violence Advocate & Survivor, Queens Defenders
  • Saheli Kothari, Social Work Intern & Domestic Violence Advocate, Queens Defenders
  • Zena Sawaged, Community Coordinator, Mayor's Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence
  • Angelina Rosado, Survivor, Advocate, Activist, Educator, and Founder & Executive Director, Returning Hope, Inc.

Panelists engaged in conversations to raise awareness about domestic violence. They shared resources in the community for survivors and their family members.

The event was held in memory of Destini Smothers, a 26-year-old mother of two children from Far Rockaway. Destini's aunt, Shareen King, joined the panel to share her experiences.

Watch a recording of the webinar here.


If you or anyone you know need support for domestic violence, you can call the Queens Defenders hotline: (718) 261-3047 ext. 608.


Queens Defenders supports survivors through our Domestic Violence & Empowerment (DoVE) Program. Supported by the New York City Council’s DoVE Initiative and in partnership with Safe Horizon and the NYPD 101st precinct, this program provides intensive, personalized support for survivors of domestic violence and their children and facilitates connections with shelters and support services.

For more information on how Queens Defenders can support survivors of domestic violence, visit here.