Winter 2018 Newsletter – Editorial



Union Settlement was founded in 1895 by a group of individuals who were dedicated to helping some of the poorest individuals in New York – the largely German and Irish immigrants living in squalid tenement conditions in East Harlem.

Our founders were not rich, but they were financially better off than those they were serving, and they knew that the best way to have a positive impact was to “settle” into this community, work side-by-side with the residents, and learn from them about their needs and goals.

I found myself thinking about Union Settlement’s origins – and the “settlement house” approach to problems – more and more as I watched the debates in the weeks leading up to the passage of the federal tax cut bill in December.

At that time, almost all of the discussion focused on how much of the $1.5 trillion in tax cuts would go to each of three groups – the rich, the middle class and the poor – but there was almost no discussion of where the government would be cutting spending to offset the revenue reductions.

Medicaid? Head Start? Immigrant assistance? Labor law enforcement? Environmental protections? No discussion at all.

Even more fundamentally, at this time of tremendous wealth inequality, tax cuts themselves are treated as a solution that will somehow address the needs of the populace, with no focus on working side-by-side to learn more about the problems that exist, and developing cooperative approaches that work.

This newsletter will reach you in February, but I am writing this piece on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. As Dr. King said: “An individual has not started living fully until they can rise above the narrow confines of individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of humanity.”

Thank you for rising above your own individual concerns, and joining with Union Settlement to address the broader needs of our underserved neighbors here in East Harlem.

— David Nocenti, Executive Director of Union Settlement