Story #20

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Reweaving the social fabric of a neighborhood

Our 20+ year partnership with New Settlement Apartments

Up until now, most of our stories have focused on one individual who has seen their life improve when they turned to BronxWorks for help.

This story is about a few more than one:  895 families to be exact!  Think about that number of people who, virtually en masse and just over twenty years ago, moved into one of the largest affordable housing developments in the South Bronx at the height of the city’s aggressive strategy to rebuild the Bronx.

It is also about the definition of community-building:  collaborations that effectively tap into the expertise of the partners in the effort.

The developer of this effort was New Settlement Apartments (affiliated with the Settlement Housing Fund).  New Settlement Apartments became the largest of then-Mayor Ed Koch’s ambitious housing development initiatives, encompassing 14 buildings and 895 units.

The push to create affordable housing in place of the burned-out rubble that once represented much of the Bronx is accurately credited for the borough’s revitalization.  But Jack Doyle, New Settlement Apartment’s Executive Director, points out that “Housing is more than bricks and mortar.  Reweaving the social fabric of a neighborhood is critical because you have hundreds of people rebuilding their lives again.”

With twenty years of experience in rebuilding lives to its credit at that time, BronxWorks – then known as the Citizens Advice Bureau – joined with New Settlement Apartments to provide critical social service support for the borough’s newest residents.  The reweaving of their lives had begun.

Thanks to a grant from Citibank, BronxWorks set up an office in a basement space where residents could go to get advice, information, and help with problems, whether it was acquiring food stamps, health insurance or other benefits, or legal assistance with immigration issues.

Currently, the complex houses HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters), BronxWorks' highly-respected parent education program.  BronxWorks continues to work with residents, and New Settlement Apartments has developed its own broad array of programs and services for families and youth as well as a significant capacity for community organizing, a natural evolution of its successful growth in the Bronx.  That growth now includes 1,022 apartments for individuals and families in 17 buildings.

Story #20 in our 40 BronxWorks Stories project aligns nicely with the 20 year partnership we've enjoyed with New Settlement Apartments and the community.  Together, we continue lifting lives and building futures with the individuals and families who found themselves an important part of the borough’s own rebuilding history.

On December 10, 2012, BronxWorks celebrated “BronxWorks Day” designated by the Mayor and the City Council.  This was an opportunity to thank partners, like New Settlement Apartments, for helping us reach the 40th Anniversary milestone.  Questions or comments?  Send them to info@bronxworks.org.

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