Meet the foundations that took home NCRP Impact Awards

Awardee for Small/Midsize Foundation: New York Foundation

Maria Mottola, Executive Director New York Foudation

Maria Mottola,
Executive Director
New York Foudation

One of the oldest foundations in the country, the New York Foundation was established in 1909 with a gift of $1 million from Alfred M. Heinsheimer and his brother, Louis. From the beginning, the trustees argued that the role of philanthropy was to broaden awareness of social problems, not limit its grantmaking to direct charity. These early trustees were venture capitalists comfortable with a high degree of risk and made grants to organizations at their earliest stages, providing important sources of funding for what would later become the Visiting Nurse Service, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Urban League and Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York.

For over a century, the New York Foundation has been responding to the critical needs of New Yorkers. Believing that the resilience and vitality of New York City’s neighborhoods is its greatest resource, the foundation supports work that inspires residents to become more informed, active participants in the life of the city. It is continuing its tradition of bold grantmaking by supporting groups such as Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA), which aims to protect and maintain affordable housing stock through collective action. Tenant leaders and organizers conduct outreach to individual tenants, organize tenant associations, hold monthly legal clinics and engage in city and statewide campaigns to preserve affordable housing.

CASA members meet regularly with court officials to win improvements in the Bronx court system. Working with tenants from across the city, they call on the government officials to provide legal representation to tenants who are at risk of eviction and do not have attorneys.CASA ally Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lipman has become a champion in New York State for the right to counsel in civil cases. A pending bill in the city council would allocate funds for low-income tenants to be represented by counsel, and though the cost is considerable, it will be offset by sizable savings in shelter costs.

CASA’s leaders also led a successful battle to force the Rent Guidelines Board (RGB), the body that determines rent increases for rent-stabilized apartments each year, to hold its public hearings in each outer borough to allow for more tenant participation. This summer, so many CASA members turned out to the RGB hearing in the Bronx that they weren’t allowed in. The resulting news coverage showed hundreds of CASA members in brightly colored t-shirts demanding entry to testify.

CASA’s community organizer, Sheila Garcia, was appointed last March by Mayor de Blasio as a tenant member of RGB. And last summer, the board – under pressure from advocates seeking to preserve affordable housing – approved the lowest increase in the history of the RGB: 1 percent. Ms. Garcia is a former teacher who learned community organizing during an apprenticeship through another New York Foundation grantee, the Center for Neighborhood Leadership.

The Department of City Planning recently announced that CASA’s neighborhood was one of 15 slated for rezoning. Concerned that current residents may be displaced by new developments, CASA is hosting a series of visioning sessions. The first, held in March, attracted more than 450 residents who will work to make sure the city’s plan incorporates affordable housing, jobs and strong anti-harassment and anti-displacement policies.