Chief Executive Officer
Leslie Abbey, Esq. is an organizational leader and entrepreneur who has committed her career to supporting at-risk youth and families, social justice, and data-driven strategies to improve social service outcomes. As Hot Bread Kitchen’s CEO, Leslie will oversee execution of the organization’s three-year plan to support 1,000 breadwinners across New York City and expand its programs to all five boroughs.
Prior to joining Hot Bread Kitchen, Leslie was Deputy Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of Covenant House New York, the City’s largest organization dedicated to serving youth experiencing homelessness. Having joined the organization in 2017, Leslie oversaw more than 260 staff at seven sites in Manhattan and the Bronx, and was responsible for all programs and operations, including innovation, compliance, performance measurement, and training. During her tenure, she implemented significant operational improvements, including the launching of multiple data-driven strategies to improve youth outcomes. Leslie also jointly oversaw development and communications for the agency. After creating an all-new development department in her first six months, Leslie led the team to increase government and private funding revenue, resulting in growth of the organization’s budget by more than 50%. Leslie also spearheaded a diversity, equity, and inclusion Steering Committee, which shepherded a DEI assessment of the organization and created an agency-wide DEI strategic plan.
From 2014 to 2017, Leslie was Interim Executive Director and Chief Program Officer at Lantern Community Services, a leading nonprofit provider of supportive housing in New York City, and the largest operator of such services for youth leaving foster care. From 2007 to 2014, Leslie held progressively senior positions at the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS). Her first role was as Executive Director of the Juvenile Justice Initiative, the City’s largest alternative-to-placement program for youth in the juvenile justice system and the first-ever program of its kind to use top tier, data-driven evidence-based social service models. After achieving dramatic reductions of youth in state custody in that role, Leslie was promoted to Associate Commissioner and, eventually, to Interim Deputy Commissioner, of the Division of Policy, Planning, and Measurement, where she led the creation and implementation of myriad City-wide initiatives to improve outcomes for youth and families, and oversaw all foster care, prevention, and juvenile justice contractors.
Leslie started her career advocating for youth as an attorney in the Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Practice from 1997 to 2007, where she first represented children and youth in Bronx Family Court, and then moved on to the Practice’s Special Litigation and Law Reform Unit. In that role, Leslie brought multiple class action lawsuits against government agencies to improve conditions for youth in state custody.
Leslie received her J.D. from New York University School of Law in 1995. At NYU, she was an editor of The Review of Law and Social Change and a member of the Family Defense Clinic. She received her B.A. with Honors from Swarthmore College in 1990.
Leslie has served on various boards and committees in the nonprofit and public sectors. In the year following her law school graduation, Leslie founded Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT), which provides legal information and support to Family Court litigants. Recently honored with a Pro Bono Award from the New York State Office of Court Administration, LIFT now serves 30,000 litigants annually, with a staff of 20. Leslie continues to serve LIFT as a member of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee, and also currently sits on the Board of Managers of Swarthmore College and Board of Trustees of New York University School of Law. Recently, she was appointed to serve on New York City Mayor Eric Adams’s transition team, as part of the Human Services Committee.
A native New Yorker, Leslie lives in Manhattan with her husband, two teenagers, and rescue dog, Sammy.