BY GABE HERMAN | The Henry Street Settlement held an Oct. 23 ribbon cutting on the Lower East Side for its newest building, the Dale Jones Burch Neighborhood Center.
The center is the 18th program site for the nonprofit social services agency. It’s at 269 Henry St., a couple of doors down from the organization’s headquarters.
Free services to be offered at the new center include legal and financial counseling, employment services, parenting support and connections to food stamps and health insurance.
The restored building, empty since 9/11, was originally a firehouse and dates back to 1883. The former tenant was FDNY Engine Company No. 15, which moved to Pitt Street post-9/11 when their new fire trucks didn’t fit in the building.
The building was saved from the auction block in the mid-2000s by local officials, and then in 2017 was bought by the nonprofit for $1.
Members of Engine 15 and the NYPD’s Precinct 7 attended the festive outdoor ceremony, which included free doughnuts and apple cider from Doughnuttery, and a chorus of 4-year-olds leading the crowd in singing “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.”
“Today we open our doors and our hearts to all of you,” said David Garza, CEO of Henry Street Settlement, which was founded in 1893.
Garza thanked the staff in attendance. “You are the lifeblood of Henry Street and really define who we are,” he said.
The building’s namesake, Dale Jones Burch, is a Henry Street Settlement board member and lead capital campaign donor. Her family has been involved with and supported the organization for generations.
“After my family, Henry Street is what I care most about,” Burch said at the ceremony. “It is my privilege to serve this life-changing institution.”
Ian Highet, co-chair of the organization’s board, thanked Dale and her husband Bob for their contributions. “They are the key that has not only allowed us to acquire this firehouse, but give it back to the community,” he said.
Local resident Michael Rivera expressed gratitude for the Henry Street Settlement in providing services and helping people through all the gentrification that the area has experienced. “I want to thank the Henry Street Settlement from the bottom of my heart,” Rivera said.
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul also spoke, noting that the state had contributed over $1 million for the new center, which she said was a truly important cause. “It’s not about the flashy buildings, it’s about what you do to build up the human spirit,” Hochul said.
“It’s wonderful, it’s many years in the making,” Ashley Young, program director at the center, told The Villager after the ceremony. She noted all of the services that the new building will provide, and that staff can give referrals to other services within the nonprofit. “We’re a point of entry to all 17 Henry Street programs,” Young said.
The newly renovated building has four floors, with the top one for administrative use. The first floor has consultation and community rooms, and the third floor has a Parent Center. The second floor includes a Resource Center with health insurance enrollment and legal, financial and housing assistance.