Statement on diversity, equity, and inclusion from the NYJL Board of Directors

We recognize the heartbreaking and devastating effects of racism and inequity that are playing out in our City and country. For the past 120 years, New York Junior League (NYJL) volunteers have been community builders. At no other time in our history has this been more critical. We stand together with our NYC community, and in particular with the Black community, against exclusion, bias, structural and systemic racism and prejudice in all forms. Together, we find power and joy in working collaboratively to ensure that the Junior League of the City of New York is a place of ethical stance and substance, a place in which all members cultivate personal integrity in service to the collective values of respect and trust. The brutal events of the last several days have reinforced the importance of this, now more than ever. We will remember the names George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others who have lost their lives to violence or who have been threatened as a result of structural and systemic racism.

In 1901, Mary Harriman and 80 other women broke barriers by actively going out into the community and improving the social conditions of New York City.  Today we face a defining moment, when we need to ensure our current NYJL culture is connected to the reality of our NYC community, and ensure that we continue to be catalysts for lasting, positive community change.

The NYJL Board of Directors and Management Council will continue to support and drive diversity, equity, and inclusion for the New York Junior League.  We are grounded in an authentic and abiding commitment to inclusive environments of diverse individuals, organizations, and communities.  This commitment stems from a fundamental belief that truly diverse and inclusive organizations have a greater propensity for innovation, for attracting and retaining incredible members and for stronger relationships with the communities where we serve and are accountable to.

We understand this is a commitment that requires ongoing action. We welcome all women who value our mission and are guided by our shared values of respect, service and leadership, and recognize the need to expand leadership development opportunities to more diverse populations of women, ensuring a dynamic membership that reflects the city in which we live and serve.  We are investing in ongoing diversity, equity and inclusion training, and we will continue to look for ways to meaningfully advocate shoulder-to-shoulder with our community and advocacy partners on behalf of pressing issues in our community.

We are proud of the work that has come before us and want to make a difference today by focusing on how we will plan to stand together to move the needle on these critically important issues.

Video: Community Issues Forum

Community Action and Advocacy Around Homelessness and Food Insecurity in the Current Environment

Monday, April 20, 2020 • 7:00 p.m.

Featuring panelists:

  • Manhattan Borough President – Gale Brewer
  • New York City Councilman – Ben Kallos
  • New York State Senator – Liz Krueger
  • Win Vice President of Policy and Planning – Jessica Yager

Panel discussion moderated by NYJL President Lauren Chung

The NYJL will revitalize St. Nicholas Park during April and May 2020!

DUE TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC, SPRING 2020 PARK DAYS HAVE BEEN SUSPENDED. THANK YOU FOR YOUR INTEREST IN VOLUNTEERING WITH THE NYJL’S PLAYGROUND IMPROVEMENT PROJECT. STAY SAFE.

The New York Junior League’s Playground Improvement Project (PIP) is excited to announce that this spring, they will revitalize St. Nicholas Park in Harlem, in partnership with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation!

Every year since 1992, New York Junior League (NYJL) volunteers, as part of the Playground Improvement Project, have designed, planned, funded, and completed a playground or park renovation. Initially focused on local school playgrounds, the NYJL eventually forged a partnership with the NYC Parks Department to revitalize public parks. Many Manhattan parks lack funding or staff to make general improvements to gardens, benches, and playground equipment. The NYJL helps meet these needs by contributing supplies and dedicated volunteer time.

A “ribbon park” bordering Hamilton Heights, Manhattanville, and Harlem, St. Nicholas Park was created in 1895 when the City acquired the land after the close of the Croton Aqueduct. The patron saint of Amsterdam, St. Nicholas contributes his name to two of the park’s surrounding streets, commemorating the Dutch farmers who settled northern Manhattan in the late seventeenth century.

Now, St. Nicholas Park brings together Harlem neighbors for festivals and other community events. It features basketball and handball courts, playgrounds, a dog park, and barbecue areas. Operated by the National Parks Service, Alexander Hamilton’s historic home also resides in the park. Residents visit the park to host neighborhood gatherings and barbecues, play catch, observe park activities from park benches, read, and exercise in the park.

In 1995, Harlem community members and City College formed the initiative”Take Back St. Nicholas Park” and renovated the park. In 2010, the New York Junior League beautified the park and is excited to return for another round of renovations this spring.

The NYJL invites volunteers from the public to help restore St. Nicholas Park during specific weekends in April and May!

If you have questions, please contact playground@nyjl.org for more details.

Urgent: Help us collect more holiday gifts for children in homeless shelters by December 23

More than 22,000 children in New York City are homeless this holiday season.

Every year, NYC’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS), the Coalition for the Homeless, and other organizations mobilize a massive drive to collect and deliver gifts to every single child living in a shelter or hotel over the holidays.

To make sure every child receives a gift, the NYJL is partnering with the NYC Department of Homeless Services (DHS) to help collect 50 urgently needed toys by close of business on Monday, December 23. New toys should be delivered directly to Astor House (130 E 80th St, New York, NY 10075) between now and Monday. The DHS administrator will personally pick up gifts and deliver them to children on Christmas Eve.

  • We need new toys for children under the age of 10, such as toddler toys, dolls, cars, trucks, and board games.
  • Please wrap the toy (if possible) and label it with a description of the toy, the age, and whether it’s for a boy or girl.
  • Toys may be delivered to Astor House today (Thursday) until 10:00 p.m., tomorrow (Friday) until 6:00 p.m., and Monday, December 23, until 5:00 p.m.
  • The DHS administrator will pick up the gifts in the morning on December 24.

If you are unable to hand deliver wrapped gifts to Astor House by December 23, Mary Arnold Toy Store near headquarters is happy to take toy orders and deliver them to Astor House for free. You may contact the store directly at 212-744-8510. You can view their inventory on their website.

Thank you for your generosity this holiday season!

Arts exploration in the classroom

The young artists who take NYJL’s Tuesday morning art classes are explorers. They get lost in the details while carefully sketching a Ming-dynasty-inspired vase. They discover combinations of color and light by creating stained glass mosaics out of tissue paper. And they contemplate the wilderness of Chihuly’s twisted glass sculptures by recreating their own out of other materials. These students are exercising their critical thinking and experiencing the pride artists feel when creating an artwork with theirs own hands.

Research supporting art education’s positive impact on children’s academic success and social-emotional wellbeing is abundant. A 2019 Brookings Institute report found that, among elementary school students,“[…] increases in arts learning positively and significantly affect students’ school engagement, college aspirations, and their inclinations to draw upon works of art as a means for empathizing with others.” And according to studies by the National Endowment for the Arts, students from low-income communities demonstrated higher test scores in science and writing if they were highly engaged in the arts from kindergarten to eighth grade, compared to students who were less involved in arts during those formative years. 

Affirming the importance of arts programming in education, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio committed $23 million in 2014 to upgrade arts facilities and equipment, strengthen partnerships with cultural institutions, expand specialized programming for English language learners and students with disabilities, and support staff development. 

“Arts instruction must be continuous, rigorous, inclusive, and reflective of the diversity of the communities and students the DOE serves,” said Chancellor Richard A. Carranza in the NYC Department of Education’s Arts in Schools (2017-2018) report. 

The NYJL is strongly committed to arts education too. In fact, we have six committees dedicated to engaging students in rich, cultural and artistic activities and experiences. One example of our arts education programming is Project Muse. 

Every week, Project Muse volunteers provide interactive art education classes to third grade students at a Title 1 school in the Lower East Side. Volunteers cultivate an environment where students feel comfortable, supported, and inspired to learn and develop their creativity and artistic skills through explorations of diverse artistic styles, championed by artists such as Frida Kahlo and Monet. 

Project Muse organizes several field trips to arts and cultural institutions each year, so students can engage with artworks in real life and create their own inspired projects. Recently, NYJL volunteers and students visited the Children’s Museum of Art to see E.V. Day’s Breaking the Glass Ceiling exhibit, encouraging guests to question invisible boundaries and aspire to greatness beyond society’s expectations and limits. 

Project Muse artists have also visited the Botanical Gardens, where they documented natural works of art through photography. Afterwards, the students walked through the neighborhood to identify and admire street art. 

To foster students’ aspirations, Project Muse hosts a career panel each year so students can learn more about art-related careers.

If you would like to celebrate Project Muse, please join us Thursday evening, December 5, at Golden Tree, where we will celebrate the important contributions of five community projects. A three-day shopping event and celebration, Golden Tree is one of NYJL’s signature events to raise funds for our mission–and continued exploration in the arts.