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The New York Foundation is a charitable foundation which gives grants to nonprofit organizations supporting community organizing and advocacy in New York City.
The New York Foundation was created by Edward Henderson, Jacob H. Schiff, Isaac Seligman, and Paul Warburg in order that they might “distribute... resources for altruistic purposes, charitable, benevolent, educational, or otherwise, within the United States of America”.
The Foundation was officially incorporated in April of 1909, when the charter drafted by Henderson, Schiff, Seligman, and Warburg was enacted by the New York State Legislature and signed by the Governor, making it one of the oldest organizations of its kind.
Also in 1909, Louis A. Heinsheimer, a partner in banking firm Kuhn, Loeb & Co., died. His will bequeathed $1 million to “the Jewish charities of New York” under the condition that they choose to federate within a year of his death.
By the time that the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies was founded in 1917, Heinsheimer’s bequest had reverted back into the hands of his brother, Alfred M. Heinsheimer, who, in turn, donated the money to the New York Foundation.
In an article published on November 5th, 1910, the New York Times wrote an article about Alfred Heinsheimer's decision in which the Foundation's significance as a “non-sectarian” organization was emphasized.
That same year the Foundation gave a $4,100 grant to the Henry Street Settlement so that they might provide low-income families who were unable to afford “hospitals beds” with visiting nurse service. This groundbreaking program lead directly to the foundation of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York.
One year later, in 1911 the Foundation gave a grant to the Public Education Association so that they might establish a similar “visiting teacher” service.
Two grants were awarded to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, “a newly formed organization” whose Director of Publicity and Research, W.E.B. Dubois had personally requested funding from the Foundation for “an investigation of the Negro Public Schools in the United States” as well as for the “Bureau of Legal Redress for Colored People”.
In 1919 the Home for Hebrew Infants tested and proved the superiority of an alternative to institutionalized care by placing orphans with foster parents in private homes. This program was made possible in part by funds from the Foundation.
In 1925 Lionel J. Salomon bequeathed $2.4 million to the Foundation in his will. He specified that the money go toward funding groups aiding children and elderly.
In 1929, ten years after his brother’s death, Alfred M. Heimshiemer died, leaving the Foundation $6 million.
In 1930 the Foundation financed studies which “served to focus attention on serious yet previously ignored problems”. The Committee on the Costs of Medical Care surveyed the need for medical care in the United States while the Committee for Mental Hygiene analyzed state mental hospitals, then notorious for their “secrecy and ignorance”.
In 1934 the Foundation funded a program which helped scholars forced out of Germany by Nazi persecution get jobs at leading American universities.
In 1939 the Medical Society of New York received funds from the Foundation in order that they might “experiment in voluntary prepaid medical care”. The Foundation’s President, David M. Heyman, chaired the mayoral committee which established the Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York, a model for prepaid health care systems to come.
Seeking to give grants to groups that might “correct the condition[s] which cause... social maladjustment”, in the 1930s the Foundation was determined to “seek out neglected areas and tension points” where their resources would be most effective.
In 1930 the Foundation paid the salaries of “key staff members” of the Governor’s Commission to Investigate Prison Administration and Construction, which created programs for the education and rehabilitation of state prison occupants. Grants were made to both the city and state Department of Corrections, as well as the Social Service Bureau for Magistrate’s Court, which provided counseling for criminals with “unfortunate social backgrounds”.
In 1943 the New York Foundation cooperated with the Board of Education to produce what the New York Times called an "enriched school program" designed "to see whether juvenile delinquency and maladjustment can be reduced by a closer integration of school and community agencies". 18 teachers in 3 Harlem schools worked alongside "psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and recreation counselors" to help over 5,000 elementary and junior high school students "recieve special guidance" in the hopes of "correcting existing evils that have baffled school leaders for many years" as well as "promis[ing] future dividends in the way of better citizens".
In the aftermath of a series of race riots that occured in Harlem in 1944, the Foundation helped fund the Mayor’s Committee on Unity.
The Foundation celebrated its fortieth anniversary in 1949. The New York Times commended the Foundation on its ability to take "risks... in fields that no other philanthropic organization cared to enter". Calling the $8,000,000 given by the Foundation in its first four decades "an investment", the Times cited the "successful" Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York (H.I.P.) as an example of the Foundation's ability to produce "return[s] in social gain" and wrote "Probably no philanthropic organization ever recieved more for its money than the New York Foundation".
In another article published contemporaneously the Foundation is praised for "serving a function that governments themselves could not yet adequately perform" inparticular because the Foundation "has shown great interest in the problems of minority groups". The New York Times reported that at the time of the Foundation's fourtieth anniversarry their endowment was worth $11,000,000.
In 1954 the Foundation’s trustees began approving grants to groups focusing on the arts and recreation with support going to Lincoln Center’s building fund--the original objective of which was to make the performing arts more affordable to a larger segment of the population.
The Foundation also began giving more grants to groups serving needy children, African-Americans, and the growing Puerto Rican population. ASPIRA, an organization committed to educating and training young Puerto Ricans so that they might achieve leadership roles in their community, was initially funded in part by grants from the New York Foundation.
In 1958, David M. Heyman was asked by Mayor Robert F. Wagner Jr. to head a commission studying the deterioration of municipal hospitals in the city. This study, along with funding from the Foundation itself, lead to the founding of the Task Force on the Organization of Medical Services.
Between 1958 and 1962 the New York Foundation gave more than $4,700,000 in grants. 40.4% of those grants were given as "'seed money' to stimulate research and expansion and modernization of existing medical school and hospital and nursing service programs. The Foundation's President at the time, David M. Heyman, was quoted in the New York Times, saying "We are far from the day when private philanthropy can write off medicine as a piece of finished business... there is all too often a dismal gap between purse research and the practical application of it".
In the 1960s the Foundation had begun making grants outside of its “traditional” restriction of the five boroughs. These included grants made to “selected civil rights efforts” in the Southern United States in the belief that “the struggle for civil rights in the South would have an enormous impact on the lives of the city’s black citizens”.
In 1963 the New York Foundation made a grant to Synanon, an “experimental, drug-free rehabilitation program” in California. This was followed by grants given to similar “therapeutic communities” in and around New York City.
On the Foundation's fiftieth anniversary David M. Heyman was quoted in the New York Times saying "We have always felt that the Foundation should be a leader in sensing the trends of society, in helping develop the means of adjusting society to its new problems... The Foundation must probe, experiment and gamble on new social forms... We try to be objective... We try to keep mobile and not committed for too long a time..."
Between 1956-57 the Foundation gave over $2,000,000 in grants to 140 instituions. The New York Times reported that these grants were "the largest for any comparable period since the Foundation was organized in 1909". More than $1,000,000 went to "agencies concerned with public health and medicine", more than $500,000 went to "social welfare groups", and almost $400,000 went to groups supporting "the advancement of education and the arts". President of the Foundation David M. Heyman said that the Foundation's goal was "to identify new areas of need and... put financial resources to work on those particularly pressing problems whose solutions would promise the greatest good". He noted that the Foundation's strength lay in its ability to "withdraw from a field as rapidly as it entered" and that the Foundation was "relying on a ready public response to carry a good work forward on its own".
Among the grants awarded to medical institutions, the New York Times reported that over $500,000 in grants had been made toward mental health programs, over $100,000 toward medical research groups studying "eye surgery, the deaf, protein structure, and the effects of radiation on genetics", and over $140,000 toward medical and nursing education, including one group supporting the "re-education of foreign physicians [unable] to meet state examinations". A $50,000 grant to the Hospital Research and Education Trust recieved special attention in the press. The New York Times wrote that the program "promises the first important break-through in decades in reducing mounting costs of hospital care... for the chronically-disabled".
By 1968 the Foundation was again focused on addressing the economic, housing, and educational needs of local communities in New York City. Grants made funded everything from a study of lead poisoning among children in the South Bronx to a program of financial assistance for students from disadvantaged urban areas and from fuel cooperatives for tenant-managed buildings to the advanced training of minority personnel in various professions.
At the same time, funding was given to support national programs whose work “affected problems of concern at the local level”, such as the National Council on Hunger and Malnutrition and the National Comittee Against Discrimination in Housing.
In 1969 the impending decentralization of the public school system lead the Foundation to give grants to the Public Education Association as well as the New York Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which educated lawyers on the relevant legislation.
In addition grants were made to several experimental programs in the public school system, including three “innovative” community schools: East Harlem Block School, the Children’s Community Workshop School, and the Lower East Side Action Project.
In the 1970s the Foundation began making grants to “organizations concerned with affordable housing the revitalization of low-income neighborhoods”. These included the West Harlem Community Organization, East Harlem Interfaith, the Upper Park Avenue Community Association, United Neighborhood Houses, and other programs committed to management training, tenant organizing, and housing rehabilitation services.
In 1973 a $10,000 grant from the New York Foundation went to the founding of the Hunter College Institute for Trial Judges, which the New York Times described as "a forum for the discussion of the courts and social change [that is] the first of its kind in the country". 30 New York judges, along with several prominent social scientists conducted a series of seminars and discussion groups. The Institute's founder, Dr. Blanche D. Blank, was quoted in the Times, saying "We would like to make available to trial judges the insights and finding of current scholarship and, at the same time, bring to the academic world some of the special knowledge and experience of the bench".
In 1975 New York City’s fiscal crisis began. In that year the Foundation Board’s Planning Committee reviewed and revised the policies of the foundation, reemphasizing the foundation’s role as an “innovator, as the provider of seed money to new programs that would eventually be picked up by more traditional funding sources” while choosing to “no longer consider grants in the arts or medicine”. In the wake of the “devastating impact that the financial crisis [had] on the City’s already ravaged neighborhoods” the Foundation “redoubled its efforts” and commitment to “the young and the aged, the poor and minorities” as well as “people and groups working to improve their own communities”. Grants were given to several neighborhood preservation groups including the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development and the Association of Neighborhood Housing Developers.
In 1978 the New York Foundation once again began making start-up grant to "new untested programs... involving a high element of risk".
By 1984 the New York Foundation had distributed close to $44 million to an extraordinary variety of people and organizations. Challenging the status quo of the times, the Foundation was "willing to take calculated risks to assess local resources and mobilize and deliver them at the neighborhood level".
During the 1980s the Foundation's grantees included crisis intervention programs run by youth for youth, advocacy services for welfare recipients, and training classes for surrogate grandmothers working with disadvantaged mothers and their children. As always the Foundation was "guided by the belief that community residents had the will if not the means to make a difference in their own lives".
Today the New York Foundation is known as "a preeminent funder of grassroots groups". Since its founding the New York Foundation has given over $133 million to "a wide range of people and groups working in extraordinary circumstances. At the time of their 100th Anniversary celebration in 2009, more than half of the foundation's grants went to community organizing groups.
- “75th Anniversary Annual Report” New York Foundation. 1984.
- Barboza, Steven “Taking Risks That Matter”. 2009.
- “Gives Away Million Brother Left Him” New York Times. November 5th, 1910.
- "German Scholars Get Places Here" The New York Times. January 28, 1934.
- "Paralysis Vaccine is 85% Successful" The New York Times. January 25, 1935.
- "A Good School Program" The New York Times October 3, 1943.
- "Diversified Philanthropy" The New York Times March 1, 1951.
- "40 Years of Giving Renewed by Fund" The New York Times March 1, 1951
- Kaplan, Morris "Charitable Fund Marks 50th Year" The New York Times April 5, 1959.
- "Foundation Cites 4.7 Million in Aid" The New York Times October 24, 1963.
- "Fund Here Grants Record 2 Million" The New York Times July 29, 1958.
- "Forum for Judges Set Up at Hunter" The New York Times November 23, 1973.
- Ferretti, Fred "Lack of Funds Scaling Down July 4 Old New York Festival" The New York Times June 9th, 1976.
- The New York Foundation