The settlement of New Amsterdam is established.
Slavery arrives in New Amsterdam when the Dutch West India Company imports the first 11 slaves to work in the settlement.
The colony of New Amsterdam appoints Orphan Masters to oversee care for orphaned children.
The Poor Law of 1661 limits public aid almost exclusively to the residents of New Amsterdam.
The English capture the colony of New Netherland and place it under the proprietorship of the Duke of York. The colony and the city of New Amsterdam are renamed New York.
Duke’s Laws, which apply to Long Island, Staten Island, and what will become Westchester County, provide for poor relief on a parish basis supported by tax revenue.
A colony-wide poor law passes, requiring overseers to provide assistance to legal residents.
The royal governor grants New York City its first charter, creating a common council to make laws for the city.
The Ministry Act provides for the election of vestrymen and churchwardens for the counties of New York, Westchester, Queens, and Richmond. These officers are empowered to tax residents for the support of ministers as well as for poor relief. Vestrymen are responsible for levying the poor rate and overseeing its collection, churchwardens for distributing aid to the poor.
The arrival of destitute Palatine German immigrants in Manhattan creates the first crisis of homelessness in the city.
New York’s first municipal almshouse opens.
of New Yorkers
lived at or near subsistence level
In preparation for an expected British invasion, the residents of the municipal almshouse, along with many of the city’s women and children, are transported out of Manhattan for the remainder of the American Revolution.
The state of New York passes a new law “for the settlement and relief of the poor.” This law completely secularizes the system of poor relief, ending the relief responsibilities of churchwardens and vestryman. In New York City these positions are replaced by the commissioners of the almshouse.
The Humane Society is formed to aid those imprisoned for debt and their families. The organization will later create a soup house to feed the poor.
1 in 5
households in New York City own slaves.
The rundown and overcrowded almshouse is replaced by a new, larger structure in what will later be City Hall Park.
Isabella Graham founds the Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children.
John Murray Jr. and Thomas Eddy, along with other leading New York City humanitarians, found the Free School Society to provide nonsectarian schooling to boys.
Isabella Graham, her daughter Joanna Bethune, and other members of the Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children found the New York Orphan Asylum.
New York City opens a new municipal almshouse at Bellevue.
The House of Refuge, the first asylum for juvenile delinquents in America, opens.
Responding to concerns about children living among homeless adults, New York City provides an alternative, opening Long Island Farms on the Queen’s County shoreline. It is available only to white children.
To provide care for black children, the Association for the Benefit of Colored Orphans, a private organization, opens the Colored Orphan Asylum.
New York Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor (AICP) is founded.
Randall’s Island Nursery opens.
The Hebrew Orphan Asylum opens to care for Jewish orphans, half-orphans, and children whose parents need temporary assistance.
more deaths than births in New York City
The Roman Catholic Protectory opens to provide for dependent, neglected, and abandoned Catholic children.
On July 13, rioters angry over the newly instituted draft for the Union army attack blacks and several institutions, including the Colored Orphan Asylum. The asylum is burned to the ground, but all of the children and staff escape unharmed.
A state tenement house law creates the first regulations for multifamily dwellings.
outhouse required for every
An economic downturn causes unemployment to spike to 25 percent.
New York State bans children from poorhouses with the Children’s Law of 1875.
children in private and public institutions
New York City ends outdoor relief except for cash assistance to the blind and fuel handouts to the proven poor.
The Neighborhood Guild, later known as University Settlement, opens on the Lower East Side. Modeled on London’s Toynbee Hall, this is the first settlement house in the United States.
A group of women opens the College Settlement on the Lower East Side.
On May 5, the New York Stock Exchange crashes, throwing New York City into a “Great Depression,” with widespread unemployment and homelessness in New York City.
unemployed New Yorkers
Edward Devine is appointed executive secretary of the New York Charity Organization Society and begins promoting a social-scientific approach to charity work.
Settlement workers John L. Elliot and Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch found the Association of Neighborhood Workers to represent the perspective of New York City’s various settlement houses. In 1920 the association will be reorganized as the United Neighborhood Houses.
A new Tenement House Act introduces stricter building standards for low-income housing and creates the New York City Tenement House Department to enforce them.
Seward Park becomes the first city-run playground in New York, precipitating a movement for public recreation spaces for children in cities across America.
shared one bathroom in the average tenement
The subway system opens, leading to greater development in neighborhoods including Harlem.
A record one million immigrants arrive at Ellis Island, marking the high point in a wave of immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe.
A Congestion Exhibit demonstrates the costs of unregulated, extreme urban density. This exhibit will help inspire a national movement for urban planning.
of black infants die before their first birthday
A committee of prominent reformers begins providing school lunches to students at some New York City public schools.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is founded in New York City.
A Conference on Dependent Children is held at the White House, leading to the creation of the U.S. Children’s Bureau and a national movement for the passage of pensions for widows and other single mothers.
A fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory kills 146 people, most of them young women. The tragedy inspires a movement to improve working conditions.
The National League on Urban Conditions Among Negroes (later known as the National Urban League) is formed to study and provide social services to African American migrants to New York and other cities.
Mary White Ovington publishes Half a Man: The Status of the Negro in New York, a detailed exploration of African American life in the city.
The beginning of World War I in Europe leads to an influx of blacks from the South into the city. This population shift will become known as the Great Migration.
Reform mayor John Purroy Mitchel visits schools in Gary, Indiana. He later hires Gary superintendent William Wirt to implement in New York City the progressive education system used in Gary.
New York State passes a Mothers’ Pension law.
The New York State Child Labor Committee is formed; in the next year a new child labor law will pass the state legislature.
An average low-income family spent
of its income on food
New York charities and businessmen create the privately funded Emergency Work Bureau to provide work relief for the unemployed.
provides jobs for
heads of families
The New York State legislature sets up a public work-relief program for New York City.
New York State passes the Wicks Act, creating the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration to provide work and home relief through New York’s municipalities. This law effectively overturns New York City’s ban on home relief, in place since 1876.
The National Committee on Care of Transient and Homeless (NCCTH) forms.
in institutional or
Franklin Delano Roosevelt becomes president and initiates the programs for recovery and reform known collectively as the New Deal. One of the first acts signed by Roosevelt creates the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), modeled on the programs in New York.
La Guardia successfully lobbies for a new housing code, forcing countless landlords to either make extensive improvements to the tenement houses they own or board up the buildings.
The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is created and charged with “the clearance, replanning, and reconstruction” of housing in New York. NYCHA will oversee the extensive development of public housing.
The Social Security Act establishes Aid to Dependent Children (ADC), the joint federal-state program modeled on widows’ pensions. ADC becomes the primary national welfare program.
On March 16 a riot in Harlem leads to widespread violence and extensive damage to the neighborhood.
A decline in economic opportunities in Puerto Rico, a perception of opportunity in New York, and improved transportation lead to an increase in the number of Puerto Rican migrants into the city. Over the 1940s and 1950s, Puerto Ricans will become one of the largest minority groups in the city.
Robert Moses is appointed head of the Slum Clearance Committee, the primary organizer of urban renewal in New York City in the 1950s. Moses will oversee extensive development projects that will often result in the dislocation of poor and working-class residents.
The passage of the Economic Opportunity Act inaugurates a national War on Poverty. In New York, several community action programs receive funding through this legislation.
Various organizations form the City-Wide Coordinating Committee of Welfare Groups (Citywide) in New York City to demand rights for welfare recipients.
In Shapiro v. Thompson, the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down residency restrictions on welfare benefits.
With New York City in a fiscal crisis and in danger of being unable to pay its debt, the federal government establishes the Emergency Financial Control Board to oversee the city’s budget.
1965 and 1975,
President Jimmy Carter makes a surprise visit to Charlotte Street in the South Bronx, bringing national attention to spreading urban desolation.
From 1977 to 1989,
jobs are lost
Ed Koch becomes mayor of New York City, promising a pragmatic approach to social policy.
The Legal Aid Society files McCain v. Koch, a class-action suit demanding that the city provide safe and humane shelter for homeless families.
The New York State Department of Social Services releases an administrative directive requiring that the city provide emergency shelter for homeless families.
The number of homeless families in New York City surpasses
for the first time.
Charles Murray, a fellow at the neoconservative Manhattan Institute, publishes Losing Ground, an attack on the incentives created by the welfare system.
Jonathan Kozol publishes Rachel and Her Children, an exposé of living conditions for homeless families in welfare hotels.
The New York City Commission on the Homeless, chaired by Andrew Cuomo, releases A Way Home: A New Direction in Social Policy, which advocates the expansion of transitional housing run by nonprofit providers contracted by the city.
Bill Clinton, a centrist Democrat, is elected president, partly on the promise to “end welfare as we know it.”
President Bill Clinton signs the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, ending Aid to Families with Dependent Children and replacing it with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), time-limited support provided to the states through block grants.
Dennis Culhane publishes his first article examining the use of public shelters among homeless adults. His ideas, known collectively as “housing first,” will later be applied to homeless families.
Michael Bloomberg becomes mayor of New York City, promising a pragmatic, data-driven administration.
New York State cuts funding for the Advantage housing subsidy, one of a series of local housing-assistance programs developed by the Bloomberg administration, and the city make no efforts to replace it, effectively ending subsidized housing for homeless families in New York City.