Treasures of New York: Settlement Houses

Treasures of New York: Settlement Houses Explores The 130-Year History of a Dynamic Social Service Movement and its Ongoing Role in NYC’s Social Fabric

Premieres Thursday, November 17 at 8pm on WLIW21 Premieres Sunday, November 20 at 7pm on THIRTEEN
Streams Nationally Online at

NEW YORK [November 7, 2016] – In the late 19th century, settlement houses sprang up in New York City as havens for new immigrants and the existing population of Manhattan’s impoverished lower east side. Over 130 years later, more than three dozen organizations, following the settlement house model, offer a wide array of services and activities to New York City’s ever-changing population in communities throughout the five boroughs. Nestled in our neighborhoods, these safe zones for children and adults of all ages provide opportunities for teaching, learning and connecting with our neighbors, which play an integral role in New York City’s social fabric. A new film, Treasures of New York: Settlement Houses, explores the unique history of this dynamic social service movement, which boasts distinguished alumni such as Abraham Beame, Jacob Javits, James Cagney, and Burt Lancaster. The one-hour documentary is a part of an exciting and informative fall season line-up of the series, which celebrates our region’s most meaningful locations and relevant cultural institutions.

Treasures of New York: Settlement Houses premieres on Thursday, November 17 at 8pm on WLIW21 and Sunday, November 20 at 7pm on THIRTEEN. Following the broadcast, the film will also be available for online viewing at

Social reformer Stanton Coit established the first settlement house in the latter part of the 19th century in reaction to New York City’s flood of new immigrants into an already overcrowded city. The settlement house movement created havens where residents of the City’s impoverished neighborhoods could seek assistance, education or a simple respite.  Treasures of New York: Settlement Houses explores the movement’s evolution and the social ramifications of settlement houses in New York’s five-borough community.  Through both archival and modern day interviews and images, viewers will learn how institutions that began as a resource to help immigrants and poverty-stricken city dwellers now provide services and activities designed to identify and reinforce the strengths of individuals, families, and communities.

Today, 37 organizations under the umbrella of United Neighborhood Houses continue to garner avid support, as their presence and leadership impact the region.  “Settlement houses are vital parts of their communities and we are proud to amplify the voices of these organizations by providing a shared space to discuss innovative program models and advocate for funding and policy to support the lifetime of services they provide,” said Susan Stamler, Executive Director of UNH.

The film examines how these community centers currently provide services and programs to over half a million New Yorkers.  Today’s settlement outreach may include job training and employment programs; early childhood education; afterschool youth programs; arts education and performances, English as a second language and literacy education; citizenship and legal counseling; mental health and home care; and senior centers.  Settlement Houses also offer opportunities for community service—holding forums and leading advocacy efforts on local concerns, registering voters, and providing information about citywide issues.

Among the settlements spotlighted is Henry Street Settlement on the Lower East Side.  Viewers will learn more about Henry Street Settlement’s historical and current impact from Executive Director David Garza.  In Staten Island, the film examines the scope of Project Hospitality’s work as the largest provider of direct services and advocacy for immigrants and impoverished communities in the borough, highlighting its large web of passionate community volunteers and funders.  At the youth service provider, SCAN New York (East Harlem/South Bronx), Treasures of New York introduces viewers to 11-year old after-school program participant and beat composer/performer, “AJ,” and SCAN alum – now SCAN board member – Jamel Oeser-Sweat, whose youth was deeply affected by foster care, homelessness and emergency shelters before the agency’s programs profoundly helped him.

For more information about the series and this program, visit the Treasures of New York website at

Treasures of New York is a production of WLIW LLC in association with WNET. WNET is the parent company of WLIW21 and THIRTEEN, New York’s public television stations and operator of NJTV. Rebecca Fasanello is producer. Emily Boghossian and Marisa Wong are associate producers. Diane Masciale is general manager of WLIW21 and executive producer of local production, including the Treasures of New York series. Executive-in-Charge of Production is John Servidio.

Funding for the program Treasures of New York: Settlement Houses is provided by the Louis and Anne Abrons Foundation, The Atran Foundation, the Metropolitan Media Fund, the Richard and Iris Abrons Foundation, Sid and Ruth Lapidus, The Schiff Foundation, Lois and Arthur Stainman, the Paula Del Nunzio and Paul F. Balser Sr. Family Foundation, Dale and Robert Burch, Pete and Becky Ruegger, Ellen and Larry Sosnow, Jeffrey Tucker, and Bryna Sanger and Harry Katz.

For more information about the series and this program, or for a full list of underwriters from WNET and WLIW, visit the Treasures of New York website at


About WNET

WNET is America’s flagship PBS station and parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21. WNET also operates NJTV, the statewide public media network in New Jersey. Through its broadcast channels, three cable services (KidsThirteen, Create and World) and online streaming sites, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than five million viewers each week. WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend, Charlie Rose and a range of documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings. WNET’s groundbreaking series for children and young adults include Get the Math, Oh Noah! and Cyberchase as well as Mission US, the award-winning interactive history game. WNET highlights the tri-state’s unique culture and diverse communities through NYC-ARTS, Reel 13, NJTV News with Mary Alice Williams and MetroFocus, the daily multi-platform news magazine focusing on the New York region. In addition, WNET produces online-only programming including the award-winning series about gender identity, First Person, and an intergenerational look at tech and pop culture, The Chatterbox with Kevin and Grandma Lill. In 2015, THIRTEEN launched Passport, an online streaming service which allows members to see new and archival THIRTEEN and PBS programming anytime, anywhere:


“English Class at Arab-American Family Support Center”

“Community Iftar at Arab-American Family Support Center”

Young Children’s Class. Credit: Courtesy, University Settlement

Girls’ Club Having Tea. Credit: Courtesy, University Settlement

Grand Street Settlement House, Jewish Woman in Her Seventies Learning to Write English. Credit: Roy Perry, Museum of the City of New York