Originally founded in 1888, Riis Settlement is named in honor of the Danish-American social reformer Jacob Riis. During its early years, the agency served the burgeoning immigrant community in Manhattan's Lower East Side. Later, changing demographics and the city's call to service in the outer boroughs led, in 1950, to the agency's relocation to New York City Housing Authority's Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City, the nation's largest public housing development. Since then, their mission has remained the same: to build and strengthen underserved communities in Western Queens and to act as a catalyst for change.
From eight sites throughout the community, including the headquarters in Queensbridge Houses, the community center of the Ravenswood public housing development and six other locations in public schools, Riis Settlement currently provides comprehensive services and programs to low income youth, families, immigrants and seniors. In the last 25 years, their operating budget has grown from $100,000 to $3.6 million. They have a committed Board of 16 directors, a staff of nearly 100 employees and programming that serves more than 750 people a day. Riis Settlement has instituted aggressive communications and fund development activities which utilize social media, an agency website, annual reports, newsletters, special events and regular appeals. Former Director of Development and Communications, Christopher Hanway, assumed the role of Executive Director on August 1, 2013 and has significantly grown the organization's operations and reach into the community