December 20, 2016

Union Settlement Survey Reveals Major Concerns and Goals of Locals
Need to improve schools again ranks as top issue of survey participants;
Reducing crime, building affordable housing and creating new jobs are also major objectives.



Susan Puder – (212) 828-6024
December 20, 2016


Need to improve schools again ranks as top issue of survey participants;
Reducing crime, building affordable housing and creating new jobs are also major objectives.

Union Settlement, the oldest and largest social service provider in East Harlem, today released the results of its biennial survey, which polled over 1,000 individuals who use Union Settlement’s programs and services. The survey was conducted with the assistance of the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, which helped design the survey and compiled the results.

The survey asks participants of Union Settlement’s programs about issues of concern in the community, as well as a wide variety of questions relating to Union Settlement’s services, such as which programs they use and how satisfied they are with those programs.

For the second consecutive survey, the need to improve local schools ranked as the top concern, with over 26% of respondents indicating that doing so was the most important of 14 issues presented in the survey, and over 45% saying it was among their top three concerns. The other top concerns included the need to:

• Reduce crime (listed by 18% as the top concern and over 43% as one of the top three concerns);
• Build more affordable housing (11% top concern/ 34% top three concerns); and
• Create more job opportunities (10% top concern/ 36% top three concerns).

For the third survey in a row, reducing crime topped the list of goals that residents indicated were “extremely important,” even if it was not their top concern, with over 80% of respondents indicating that the issue was extremely important. This was followed by:

• Improving schools (79%);
• Building affordable housing (77%);
• Providing affordable health care (76%); and
• Creating more jobs (75%).

“East Harlem residents are deeply committed to this community,” said David Nocenti, Union Settlement’s Executive Director. “And so it is no surprise that they want a safe neighborhood, better schools, good jobs, and affordable housing and health care. These five goals also topped the list in 2012 and 2014, demonstrating the consistent importance of these issues to local residents.”

“We were delighted to be part of the process again this year, and to help provide these important findings to the community,” said Mary Cavanaugh, Dean of the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College.  “We have almost 80 social work students placed at a wide variety of organizations here in East Harlem, and knowing the priorities of the local residents is crucial to their work. This effort also furthers Hunter College President Jennifer Raab’s ‘All in East Harlem’ initiative, which is a college-wide engagement designed to improve educational, health, and social conditions in the community.”

About the 2016 survey

The 2016 survey was provided to participants in nine different Union Settlement programs: Adult Education, Business Development, College Readiness, Early Childhood Education, Family Child Care Network, Meals on Wheels, Mental Health Counseling, Senior Services and Youth Services. A total of 1,199 individuals responded to the survey, ranging from parents of infants in the early childhood program, to a senior who is 102 years old.

Respondents represented a diverse mix of ethnic and racial backgrounds. A majority (58.5%) identified themselves as Latino or Hispanic, and 41% as African American or black. The surveyed participants reported speaking over 20 different languages, primarily English (54%) or Spanish (27%), but also French, Mandarin, Arabic, Cantonese, Bambara, Mandingo, Wolof, Bengali and multiple others. Only 60% of respondents were born in the United States, an additional 11% were from Puerto Rico and the remaining 29% were born elsewhere. Of those born outside of the United States and Puerto Rico, the most common countries of origin were Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and China. A substantial majority (74.5%) of those surveyed were women.

With respect to program satisfaction, the 2016 survey revealed that 97% of program participants were either “always” or “usually” satisfied with Union Settlement’s services, and 94% would “definitely” or “probably” recommend Union Settlement’s programs to someone else.

“It is great to see such high levels of satisfaction among our program participants,” said Mr. Nocenti. “This demonstrates the great work that Union Settlement’s employees do every day, and how much local residents value the services that we provide.”

A team of professors and students from the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, led by Associate Professor Nancy Giunta and Research Associates Sabretta Alford, Kathleen McKenna, and Violeta Muñera, helped to update the survey and compile the results.

Click here to read the Executive Summary of the biennial survey:

About Union Settlement

Union Settlement is an on-the-ground resource for East Harlem residents of all ages, and a passionate advocate for the needs of underserved communities. Since opening our doors in 1895, we have brought education, wellness and community-building programs to our neighborhood, empowering New Yorkers with opportunities to better their lives. With a staff of more than 350 and services that impact 10,000 people, Union Settlement is building the vitality and success of East Harlem. For more information visit

About the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College

The Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College School, established in 1958, is the oldest publicly sponsored graduate social work program in the City of New York. The school’s focus is on excellence in education for social work practice, and its graduates are known for providing leadership in addressing major social problems in our ever-changing society. Through its educational programs and all of its activities, the School of Social Work especially seeks to enhance the well-being of poor, vulnerable and stigmatized populations in our society. The faculty of the School of Social Work is nationally and internationally known for its teaching, scholarship and contributions to the field of study. They are focused on agency based social work practice, education of their students, and knowledge-building through research.

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Click here to download a PDF version.