Next City: NYC Aims to Reduce the Disease of Financial Distress

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By Oscar Perry Abello

January 2 - On a muggy August Saturday, about a dozen East Harlem residents joined staff from the advocacy group New Economy Project and the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs for a walk around their neighborhood. A majority of the residents said they’ve lived in the neighborhood for decades, including three residents who claimed 50-plus years living in East Harlem. The gathering point was Union Settlement House, which has provided a wide range of wellness and community programs for East Harlem residents since 1895.

Huddled in a circle, the group began to discuss how the neighborhood makes it easier or harder for residents to manage household finances. One resident brought up the credit union branch 30 feet away, inside Union Settlement House. Others had heard about the branch, but some hadn’t realized anyone could go in and open up an account or apply for a loan—not just those who receive services from Union Settlement House. On their way to the next stop on their walk, residents made a point of how much businesses have changed or moved around within the neighborhood. It can be disruptive for New Yorkers, many of whom don’t own a car.

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