Breaking Ground at the Dale Jones Burch Neighborhood Center

By Henry Street Settlement

Above: Executive Director David Garza, Dale Burch and family, November 10, 2017. Click here or below to see more photos from this event.

A loud siren pierces the air, stunning the 200 audience members. Their silence is eclipsed by awe and applause as they witness Henry Street Settlement Executive Director David Garza’s dramatic entrance – a ceremonial slide down the fire pole. (Looking for video of this? Click here or scroll down to see!)

And so began the spirited groundbreaking for the Dale Jones Burch Neighborhood Center at Henry Street’s newly acquired firehouse, adjacent to Settlement headquarters. The event took place on Friday, November 10, filling the historic firehouse, vacant for 16 years, with members of the community, friends, family, neighbors and Henry Street staff.

David caught his breath and welcomed the large and enthusiastic crowd to the new space. “This is a rare and special day for the Settlement, whose mission is to open doors of opportunity. The firehouse gives us our widest door yet! And when it opens, the firehouse will once again return to its intended role as a first responder,” he said, “and aptly named for a woman – an amazing, caring and strong woman.”

Noting the unseasonable weather, David said, “Even though today is cold and windy, I know it will be remembered as one of the warmest and brightest in our history.”

The firehouse acquisition was made possible, in part, by a very generous gift from the Burch Family Foundation – the largest single gift in the Settlement’s history. Members of the family were on hand to commemorate the occasion for both the Settlement and for Dale Burch, a president emerita of our Board of Directors and the Center’s new namesake. Dale’s daughter Katie Burch (ably assisted by Jones, her lively two-year-old son) told audience members that her mother, like the new Center, is “always trying to help people in big and small ways and make them feel welcome.”

The Dale Jones Burch Neighborhood Center at Henry Street Settlement will be home to the Settlement’s Parent Center and Resource Center. Ashley Young, Director of the current Neighborhood Resource Center, read from Lillian Wald of Henry Street to illuminate how the new space will help bring the Settlement’s past into the next 125 years serving the community.

New York City Council Member Margaret Chin to the audience, “This is a true community-led effort and marks an exciting moment in the history of Henry Street Settlement. I am so excited to see what is going to happen with this building!” Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer joked that the $1 purchase price from New York City was “just right.”

Members of FDNY’s Engine Company No. 15, which relocated from the site to Pitt Street in 2001, brought their rig to their old home – to the delight of children of all ages. Executive Director of the New York City Fire Museum Executive Director Gary Urbanowicz spoke about the firehouse’s storied history. The current firehouse is actually the second on the site; the first was home to the infamous William “Boss” Tweed.

Then the moment all were awaiting – the ceremonial groundbreaking — took place. Members of the Burch family and David Garza donned Henry Street fire hats and, with engraved hammers held aloft, broke the “ground,” which was actually a slab of Home Depot cement with the Settlement’s old (three-building) logo on it.

Abrons Arts Center artists brought their talent, as Perfect City Working Group members read poems, one about Dale Burch,* and the youth hip-hop collective’s dancers brought some heat with their energetic performance.

As “Burn Baby Burn” blared from the sound system, the crowd exited the firehouse to continue the celebration at a reception in the Settlement’s historic dining room, complete with a special cake to honor the occasion, cookies with Henry Street’s new logo and champagne.

Renovation of the Dale Jones Burch Neighborhood Center is expected to be completed in 2020. In addition to the Burch Family Foundation gift, its purchase was made possible by funding from the New York State Regional Economic Development Council, the Barker Welfare Foundation, the Russell Grinnell Memorial Trust, and our community of generous donors to the Buy a Brick, Build a Future Campaign and the Capital Campaign.

*Dale Burch
D is for Dale, Dedicated and Devoted,
A is for Amazing, it should be duly noted.
L is for Loyal, focusing on our mission,
E is for Exceptional, bringing dreams to fruition.

B is for Bold, always speaks what’s on her mind,
U is for Unparalleled, committed, generous and kind.
R is for Responsible, always taking action,
C is for Caring, filled with extraordinary compassion.
H is for Henry Street, now synonymous with her name,
All of us, everyone, are profoundly glad she came.

And don’t miss the video of the event’s fun opening! Click to play:

Breaking Ground at the Dale Jones Burch Neighborhood Center

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