Policy & Advocacy

Connecting people, programs and policy to create change.


One key to achieving authentic and lasting change is educating residents about the way that New York’s economic and political systems work, listening to—and taking guidance from—their programmatic and policy ideas and priorities, and developing their leadership capacity to organize and make those priorities a reality. That’s why we are working side-by-side with community members to tackle the issues that are important to them, and crafting solutions that build on our expertise running programs that improve people’s lives.


237 East 104th Street
New York, NY 10029


(212) 828-6000


Since our founding in 1895, Union Settlement’s workers have organized community residents to win pioneering victories around public health, education, and community development. In a reflection of our reformist roots, today we are connecting our staff and program participants various important causes.

Early Childhood Education
  • Strengthen New York City’s early childhood system and expand subsidized programs for low income children. Early education and safe, stable child care are critical to promoting children’s academic and social success and supporting working families.
  • Salary parity for nonprofit early childhood educators. From The New York Times: “The Mayor’s decision to pay teachers and other employees in nonprofit early childhood education centers far less than their counterparts in the public schools is harming children and families in low-income communities throughout New York City,” said David Nocenti, Executive Director of Union Settlement, the largest provider of early childhood services in East Harlem.  “Our staff members have the same credentials and experience as the teachers in the public schools, but work more hours and are paid substantially less. There is no rational basis for this disparate treatment of our dedicated workers, who are serving some of the most vulnerable children in the City, but are themselves struggling to make ends meet.”
Adult Education
  • Increase public investments in Adult Education to meet the need and demand for classes from all the learners in our community. 1.7 million adult New Yorkers lack a high school degree or English proficiency, or both, and too many who want to advance their education can’t find seats because programs are underfunded.
Senior Services
  • Identify the needs of East Harlem’s seniors as our neighborhood – like the rest of NYC – ages. Since understanding what residents need is the critical first step to identifying effective programs and policies, we’re partnering with Mt. Sinai School of Medicine on a community survey of older adults.

Click here to view Union Settlement’s Director of Senior Services, Maria Alejandro, giving a speech at a TEDx Talk on aging.

  • Advocate for Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities like our own NORC located at Franklin Plaza. From Melanie Kane’s (Director of Union Settlement’s NORC) testimony to the New York State Assembly’s Standing Committee on Aging: The services provided by NORCs are crucial to the health and well-being of New York’s aging communities; however, the State Office for the Aging’s (NYSOFA) recently canceled Request for Applications (RFA) has led to complications in the effective planning and implementation of these programs. Further complicating matters, SOFA recently decreased program funding to FY2015-2016 levels for the 2018 calendar year. We are urging that the Legislature examine the recent changes and impact of the withdrawn RFA on providers, and work to protect the current funding level for the NORC program. Older adults across New York rely on NORC services to remain healthy and stably housed; without these services, their options for receiving appropriate community-based care would be decreased.
Civic Engagement
  • Understand and impact the ways that decisions about our neighborhood are made. As the largest social services provider in East Harlem, and its third largest employer, we recognize our opportunity and responsibility to be an anchor for community building and civic participation in the neighborhood that is our home. We’re piloting new, interactive ways to integrate civic engagement into our programs to boost grassroots action.