Steamy Cabbie Calendar Benefits University Settlement


Are you ready to heat up your holiday shopping? The 2017 Taxi Drivers Calendar might be just the ticket. The calendar, showing New York City cabbies in various states of undress, just went on sale. Each calendar costs $14.99 and some of the proceeds benefit University Settlement, the historic Lower East Side social services institution. Over the years, about $55,000 has been raised for University Settlement programs. Click here for ordering information.

The Performance Project Announces New 2016/2017 Artists-in-Residence

Performance Project's 2016-2017 Artists-in-Residence | Image via The University Settlement

Performance Project’s 2016-2017 Artists-in-Residence | Image via The University Settlement

The University Settlement’s Performance Project has announced its 2016/2017 Artists-in-Residence.  Residencies last for one year and include rehearsal space and support as the artists work toward a public showing of new work. The artists work with young performers and Performance Projects staff to create projects within the diverse University Settlement cultural community. The four selected artists are Alex Bornisky,  Stephanie Batten BlandMark Nuñez/Gotham Dance TheaterJody Wood and Superhero Clubhouse. The artists’ work differ in their topics; from immigration, self-care for  social workers and community care providers, education, migration and permaculture.

In the announcement, Co-Artistic Directors Alison Fleminger & Baba Israel noted, “These artists not only bring artistic strength but also a commitment to truly connecting with our communities and exploring resonant themes such as immigration, migration, education, permaculture, and the self-care of social workers. Together these projects offer University Settlement a profound opportunity to ask,  ‘How can we more skillfully and creatively share space with one another?’ ”

University Settlement Appoints Eric Weingartner as New CEO


A big transition is taking place this summer in the leadership of the Lower East Side’s oldest settlement house.

After 28 years, Michael Zisser is stepping down as head of University Settlement and The Door. Recently the board of directors announced the appointment of Eric Weingartner as chief executive officer.

Weingartner has spent the past seven years as managing director of the Robin Hood Foundation. In the past two decades, he’s also held senior positions in city government as well as the non-profit sector. He was a policy advisor to Michael Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani, specializing in welfare reform, neighborhood economic development, public education, youth development, higher education, and workforce programming.

“In my years of work on poverty and related issues,” Weingartner said in a statement, “I have appreciated the intelligence and fortitude that University Settlement and The Door have brought to some of our toughest challenges as a City. The culmination of my work in philanthropy, government and the non-profit sector, I hope leaves me well positioned to lead these effective organizations.”

University Settlement is a nearly 130-year-old social services organization with programs on the Lower East Side and throughout New York City. The Door, founded in 1972, provides youth development services.

University Settlement will continue to be led by Executive Director Melissa Aase, while Julie Shapiro is staying on as executive director of The Door.

We sat down recently to talk with Michael Zisser about his years on the Lower East Side. We’ll have that story in the next several days.

Adult Students at University Settlement Master English Through Spoken Word Poetry

Panel Talk With Author of “Upscaling Downtown,” New Book on LES Nightlife

Trusty Sidekick Returns For an Encore at University Settlement

A favorite with the kids, and the young at heart, Trusty Sidekick is back (every weekend in March) with their popular show, Shadow Play. The multi-media performance explores what happens when local hero, Flash, loses track of his shadow after moving to a new home.  Program Curator Alison Fleminger notes, “Trusty Sidekick’s theater is an amazing gift to our community and to families from all over the city.   Their work is so clever, it delights people ages 2-92.” Watch a fun trailer for the show after the jump.

Melissa Aase Becomes University Settlement’s Executive Director; Michael Zisser Now CEO

Melissa Aase, University Settlement’s new executive director.

University Settlement has announced some changes in its management structure. Michael Zisser, executive director of one of the city’s oldest and largest social service organizations since 1988, becomes chief executive officer.  Melissa Aase, a longtime University Settlement manager, has been elevated to the role of executive director.  Aase began her career at the non-profit organization in 1992 as a student intern. She has been director of community development since 2003.

“The past few decades have been some of University Settlement’s most exciting,” said Zisser. “Our budget has grown by over 1000%, we’ve expanded to more than 550 staff and we now serve thousands more families at 21 sites throughout New York City… This new structure reflects the next step in our growth, and I can’t think of a stronger, more intelligent, passionate leader than Melissa Aase.”

An Inside Look at New York’s “Shift-Bed” Residents

A still from “Your Day is My Night.” The documentary and live performance will be presented at University Settlement’s Performance Project Nov. 1-3, 2012. Photo courtesy of Lynne Sachs.

They are living right here on the Lower East Side but most of us are oblivious to the existence, let alone the daily travails, of New York’s “shift-bed” residents.  A hybrid documentary/live performance, “Your Day is My Night,” coming to University Settlement next month offers a rare glimpse into their hidden world.

Of the innovative production based on the lives of Chinese immigrants compelled to rent beds in 12-hour increments, Director Lynn Sachs says: “This shared domestic space becomes a… canvas on which lives are recounted and revealed.” Referring to her “new friends,” she explains, “We are making something together that we believe in, that expresses something about living in New York that perhaps has not been revealed before.”

Weekend Kids’ Pick

See a performance of “Shadow Play” at the University Settlement, a multi-media production for 2 to 5 year olds.  Developed through workshops with shadow-experts (preschoolers), the play explores the question of what happens to your shadow when you go to sleep. Produced by Trusty Sidekick Theater, Saturdays at 10:30 and 12:30 through March 31. $5 for kids, $10 for adults, 184 Eldridge Street (corner of Rivington).

For more family friendly events on the LES, visit our kids page.

Arts Symposium at University Settlement This Weekend

Our friends and neighbors at University Settlement, Henry Street Settlement, along with many other community organizations, are teaming up on a free three-day event that begins this evening at the University Settlement building, 184 Eldridge St.

The Art is Not Apart Symposium will bring together artists, educators, curators and community workers who seek to reclaim the arts as an integral part of community life.

Eldridge Street Block Now Named “University Settlement”

On Eldridge Street - University Settlement celebrated its street naming with a dragon dance. Festivities were moved inside due to cold temperatures. Photo by

We’ve just returned from the University Settlement, where Councilmember Margaret Chin and State Senator Daniel Squadron were on hand for a festive street naming ceremony.  The block of Eldridge between Delancey and Rivington will now officially be named for University Settlement.

The event included a vigorous dragon dance and music from University Settlement’s Early Childhood Center participants.  Executive Director Michael Zisser thanked Community Board 3 and the City Council for supporting the street naming, especially appropriate as the settlment house celebrates its 125th anniversary this year.  More photos after the jump.

The Creative Center Merges with University Settlement

University Settlement announces a merger. A small non-profit, The Creative Center is now part of one of our neighborhood’s largest social service organizations.  The Creative Center brings the arts to seniors and people with chronic diseases.

According to a news release, “The Creative Center at University Settlement… will continue to provide all of its current arts-in-healthcare programming…  In addition, (it) will become integrated throughout University Settlement’s senior programming.”

Robin Glazer, the organization’s executive director said:  “The Creative Center came at this merger from a position of strength and collaboration, and recognizing that even excellent, small and ‘scrappy’ non-profits are at risk in the current environment… We wanted to ensure that all our excellent work will continue, and University Settlement offers us a strong institutional home and a wonderful opportunity to expand…”

Michael Zisser, University Settlement executive director added: “We are thrilled to welcome this high-quality program into the University Settlement family, bringing additional skills, services and reach to our wide range of programs… The Creative Center board and Director Robin Glazer have been excellent partners and we look forward to many new and exciting developments together.”


Help University Settlement Celebrate on Saturday

University Settlement is celebrating a big anniversary this weekend and they’re inviting the whole community to join in the fun. To mark 125 years serving the Lower East Side, the large social service organization is hosting a block party, on Eldridge Street, between Rivington and Delancey. There will be a DJ, performances, face painting, arts & crafts and lots of food. The event will be held tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more info, visit University Settlement’s web site.

TLD Interview: Performance Project’s Alison Fleminger

In this bleak era for arts funding — particularly for arts education in our public schools, small theater companies (and non-profit arts organizations in general) —  it is comforting to know there is a quiet renaissance taking place over at the University Settlement.  The Performance Project brings in professional performing artists to perform, create, and interact with members of our ever-changing Lower East Side community. Since its inception in 2007, such diverse groups as the Mud/Bone Collective, the band The Wiyos and The Nerv Tank have presented work.  The series also offers free “Monday Night Salons,” which allow artists to connect with Lower East Side residents (and other artists) in a relaxed environment.  There is usually a potluck, along with a performance and then a conversation about important issues facing the arts and the local community.

I recently had a chance to sit down with the innovative Program Curator for the Performance Project, Alison Fleminger. We met in the historic Speyer Hall, a gorgeous refurbished performance space, at the University Settlement’s home base on the corner of Rivington and Eldridge.  Fleminger grew up around a Settlement House environment (her mother, artist Susan Fleminger, was the director of visual arts and the arts-in-education program at The Henry Street Settlement for many years before becoming Deputy Director) and has a keen interest in theater and performance, which made her a unique candidate for the position.

Settlement Summit Held on Lower East Side

Abrons Arts Center Dance Ensemble performs at Settlement Summit. Photo by: Sean Sime.

This week, leaders of community-oriented social service organizations from around the world are gathering on the Lower East Side.  The Settlement Summit, the largest meeting of its kind ever held, includes workshops, topical conversations, site tours and (as you can see above) some entertainment.  University Settlement, the oldest settlement house in this country, is helping to host the unprecedented event, as a kind of lead-up to its 125th anniversary celebration later this year.