The Starr Foundation Gives Unprecedented $25 Million Grant to Expand Harlem Children’s Zone Project

Posted on October 16, 2006

New York, NY — A $25 million grant from The Starr Foundation will enable Harlem Children’s Zone, Inc., to expand its acclaimed Harlem Children’s Zone Project. The announcement was made today at a ceremony at the 125th Street headquarters of the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ).

The agency will add an additional 37 blocks to the current 60 blocks in the agency’s interlocking network of education and social service programs. This third phase of the Zone Project will begin in January 2007. When it is complete in 2011, it will add 4,500 children to the more than 9,500 currently served by the agency.

The Starr Foundation grant of $5 million for each of the next five years will go toward the third phase expansion, which will cost the agency an additional $10-12 million a year.

“I am absolutely thrilled that The Starr Foundation’s Chairman, Hank Greenberg, who has been such a visionary and leader in the world of business, is giving our agency this incredible vote of confidence,” said Harlem Children’s Zone President and CEO Geoffrey Canada. “This unprecedented grant from The Starr Foundation will help us finally realize the original vision of the Harlem Children’s Project – to reach a scale where we are helping thousands of poor children in Harlem get a real shot at The American Dream of a middle-class life.”

Maurice R. “Hank” Greenberg, Chairman of The Starr Foundation, said, “We have given more than $1 billion to organizations in New York city over the past 50 years, with the goal of supporting all of our citizens. The Harlem Children’s Zone is one of the strongest social service organizations in the City and has earned our support.  We look forward to working with them on this expansion.”

HCZ Board of Trustees Chairman Stanley Druckenmiller said, “Given our financial resources, I had all but given up on going ahead with Phase 3 six months ago. Starr’s gift, and its energizing effect on our board, has given us the wherewithal to proceed. In addition, we are embarking on a Capital Campaign to ensure the project’s longevity after the initial five years. HCZ will have to continue to raise another $18 million a year to support our ongoing work in Phase 1 and Phase 2 – in addition to the millions of dollars necessary for Phase 3. We are extremely grateful to Hank Greenberg and The Starr Foundation for enabling us to realize our original vision of creating a Zone that will serve nearly 100 square blocks and 10,000 children.”

The third phase of the Zone Project will expand its coverage area northward from 132nd Street to 143rd Street. The Zone Project targets a specific area in Central Harlem with a synergistic network of education, social service and community-building programs, including:

  • The Baby College, a nine-week parenting workshop for people raising children ages 0-3;
  • The Harlem Gems, an extended-day pre-kindergarten program that ensures that children enter school ready to learn;
  • Community Pride, which strengthens neighborhoods by creating and revitalizing tenant and block associations;
  • Employment and Technology Center, which teaches computer and job-seeking skills to teenagers and adults;
  • Promise Academy Charter School, an extended-day, extended year school open to all public school students via lottery covering grades K-12;
  • Youth Employment Academic Readiness, which builds academic and job-readiness skills among children in grades 6-12 who are not enrolled in HCZ’s Promise Academy charter schools
  • Peacemakers, which brings AmeriCorps workers to assist teachers in local schools; and
  • HCZ Community Center, offering an array of education and recreation services to children and adults.

In addition, HCZ will launch its first long-term longitudinal study of the effects of its work in Harlem. While a hallmark of the agency has been its emphasis on evaluating the effect of its individual programs, this new longitudinal study would look at the combined effects of its network of programs on the Central Harlem community.

The agency also announced that it will launch a $100 million Capital Campaign. The Campaign will create a $150 million endowment, which will help sustain the agency for decades to come. The agency has already received several pledges, including $25 million from HCZ Board of Trustees Chairman Stanley Druckenmiller, $5 million from HCZ Board Trustee Mark Kingdon, $1 million from HCZ Board Trustee Ken Langone, $1 million from Gary Cohn and $1.5 million from an anonymous donor. In addition, the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation is donating $5 million to assist in the building of the agency’s infrastructure for the expansion.

“All too often social-service agencies are run hand-to-mouth,” said Canada. “We want to create an endowment modeled after the typical university. This is about promises made – we want the parents of our pre-schoolers to know that HCZ will be here when their child is in college.”

Harlem Children’s Zone, Inc., was founded in 1970 as Rheedlen, the city’s first not-for-profit aimed exclusively at truancy prevention. Recognizing that children in poor communities such as Harlem face an array of problems, the agency’s scope of work grew over the years.

In 1990, Geoffrey Canada, a nationally recognized advocate for children and education reform, became the agency’s CEO and President. Under Canada’s leadership, the agency has grown from serving 1,500 children with a budget of $2.5 million per year to serving over 9,500 children with a budget of $46 million.

The agency began the Harlem Children’s Zone Project in 2000 with a 24 block area (from 116th to 123rd streets, from Fifth to Eighth avenues), then expanded to 60 blocks (going east to Madison Avenue and north to 132nd Street) in 2004. With the “Phase 3” expansion northward, the Zone Project will encompass 97 blocks. The Zone Project was called “one of the most ambitious social-policy experiments of our time,” in a June 2004 cover story of The New York Times Magazine.

Canada and the agency have received numerous awards and media recognition. Canada was recipient of the Heinz Award in 1994, the Children’s Champion Award and the McGraw Prize for Education. In 2005, he was named one of “America’s Best Leaders” by U.S. News and World Report. His work with HCZ has been profiled in The New York Times Magazine, 60 Minutes, The Today Show, The New York Daily News, the New York Post, among others.

The Starr Foundation was established in 1955 by Cornelius Vander Starr, founder of C.V. Starr & Co.  Mr. Starr, a pioneer of globalization, set up his first insurance venture in Shanghai in 1919.  He died in 1968 at the age of 76, leaving his estate to the Foundation.

The Starr Foundation has assets today of approximately $3 billion and is one of the largest private foundations in the United States.  Since 1955, The Starr Foundation has made grants of $2 billion, including $1 billion in New York City alone.

In keeping with Mr. Starr’s wishes, the Foundation supports education, cultural institutions, medicine and healthcare, human needs, public policy, and the environment.