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. 

The Building Blocks of Parent-Child Relationships

One of the foundational “building blocks” of early child development is a secure attachment between child and parent. In partnership with the Single Parent Resource Center (SPRC), NYJL’s Building Blocks program aims to strengthen these bonds through interactive play. Volunteers organize activities where parents and their children (ages 6 months to 4 years) can tap into fun, imagination, movement, and health. At the end of each session, children and parents take home their projects, which serve as reminders of their time together at Building Blocks. 

Unlike other NYJL projects, volunteers’ children are part of the program. And as many NYJL volunteers are new parents themselves, Building Blocks fosters teaching and learning together and integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection. Some activities have included adorning planters for growing basil at home; decorating holiday cookies; playing soccer; and making lava lamps out of household items. Building Blocks has also partnered with another NYJL community committee, Cooking and Health Education for Families (CHEF), to focus on nutrition and making good food choices.

At the 68th Annual Winter Ball, the NYJL will honor two key leaders of the Building Blocks program: Outstanding Sustainer Rosemarie Dackerman and Outstanding Volunteer Olivia Leon. Rosemarie heads community partner SPRC, and Olivia helped launch, and now co-leads, the program.

“Being part of the Building Blocks committee and being able to have my son join our sessions and help volunteer has been a truly rewarding and unique volunteer experience,” says Olivia. “[…]Building Blocks is a great example of how the NYJL grows and evolves volunteer options to meet the needs and schedules of our membership.  But the best part has been working with the Single Parent Resource Center and their clients over the span of three years. It has been great to watch all our children grow together, learn from each other and form friendships.”

Celebrate Building Blocks with us at Golden Tree’s Spirit of the Season: A Spotlight on Community on Thursday evening, December 5. Building Blocks will be among five committees recognized for their important contributions to our community. 

Fall 2019 Legislative Breakfast Honoring Women’s Voices

By Courtney Smith

The New York Junior League held its first Legislative Breakfast in several years on Thursday, November 7, 2019. The event provided a platform to discuss the importance of women’s voices in advocacy and the NYJL’s advocacy priorities this year. The keynote speaker was to be Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who has been an active NYJL volunteer for many years.

Mayoral Support

The breakfast opened with NYJL President Lauren Jenkins Chung, who welcomed Rohan Narine, South Asian Indo-Caribbean Community Liaison to the Mayor, who presented the NYJL with a letter from the Mayor, that showed his support.

NYJL has been a tremendous ally in the mission to end injustice, advocating for women from all backgrounds for over 100 years. I applaud the NYJL staff and volunteers for forging a brighter future for New Yorkers.”

Census Participation

Following Mr. Narine and the Mayor’s Office was Kathleen Daniel, Field Director of the NYC Census 2020.

“The census is the largest mobilization in the country in peacetime. This is today’s civil rights movement in America. We have a right to be counted, no matter where we live, no matter our background. No one has the right to count us out.”

Ms. Daniel said there was only 69.1% participation in the 2010 New York Census, there has never been an accurate census, and the only way to prepare for and support our citizens is by first counting them. She encouraged NYJL volunteers to join NOCC (Neighborhood Organizing Census Committee) to help spread the word on the census and ensure everyone in the community is counted.

Women’s Equality

Leading into the Keynote address, Congresswoman Maloney’s Chief of Staff took the podium to deliver Rep. Maloney’s apologies for being unable to attend the event due to unexpected congressional proceedings in Washington D.C. that morning. Chief of Staff Sarah Hague shared the excitement of Rep. Maloney to be one step closer to having the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) resolution approved in Virginia, which would ratify the amendment and place it in the Constitution, thereby stating women’s full and complete equality as the law of the land.

Women’s History Museum

Congresswoman Maloney is working to pass a bill to establish a Women’s History Museum in Washington D.C. Junior League supported an earlier bill to establish a congressional commission to study the need for a Women’s History Museum. She hopes to increase representation and attention paid to the contributions of women.

“If we don’t make a better effort to tell our children the full story of the people who shaped our Country, if the stories of the remarkable women who shaped our Country today are simply omitted, women will continue to get caught in historical quicksand, and simply sink out of sight.” 

Currently, the bill has the support of 293 bipartisan members and is on its way to passage in the House of Representatives.

Voting Rights Advocacy, Awareness and Education

In closing remarks, NYJL President Lauren Jenkins Chung thanked the speakers and honored guests for attending the Legislative Breakfast and reflected on the NYJL’s long history of advocating for women and the incredible struggle for women’s voting rights 100 years ago. President Chung announced that the NYJL’s newest issue for the coming years will be Voting Rights Advocacy, Awareness and Education. The New York Junior League will develop and pilot a new learning module for young adults, and create a training curriculum that emphasizes advocacy skills, the importance of civic engagement, and citizens’ rights and responsibilities in voting.