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10 New York-based organizations that are making the city a better place

Written by
Clayton Guse

New Yorkers are a special breed of people. We sift through endless crowds of people, endure mind-numbing subway delays and work our asses off. But at the end of the day, there's no other place in the world that we'd rather live. It's an amazing city, but there are always things that residents can do to make it even better.

It can be easy to forget that there are hundreds of New York-based organizations that exert and incredible amount of time, resources and energy to make the city a better place for every single person living here. From grassroots initiatives to global nonprofits, here are 10 organizations in New York that are making the city a better place. 

New York Restoration Project

The NYRP has a simple goal: provide every New Yorker with a beautiful, green public space within walking distance of their homes. They fill New York’s conservation gaps with resources that the city simply doesn’t have (or provide). The organization most notably heads up the MIllionTreesNYC initiative, which provides free trees for residents to plant in their yards, community gardens and other spaces. They also lead the charge to maintain 52 community gardens across all five boroughs, partnering with communities to ensure that the public has access to open spaces where people can collaborate, meet and grow stunning flowers and vegetables.

South Bronx United

South Bronx United takes a unique approach to engaging youth in NYC’s northernmost borough: providing recreational and competitive youth soccer leagues for more than 900 young boys and girls. This nonprofit goes much further, though. It also offers programs in academic enrichment, mentoring, health and wellness, immigration legal services and a medley of other social services that are much needed in one of the lowest income districts in the entire country.

New York Cares

There are more volunteer opportunities in New York than one can possibly keep track of, but New York Cares works to simplify that mishmash by providing a simple portal for anyone who is interested in giving back. The organization partners with more than 1,300 nonprofits and schools in the city, leads about 1,600 volunteer projects every month and directly helps more than 400,000 New Yorkers in need every year. Whether it’s offering year round opportunities or hosting citywide days of service, New York Cares makes volunteering simple.

Council on American-Islamic Relations

In an age when Muslims are facing institutionalized discrimination in the United States an beyond, members of the community need advocates and allies. New York’s chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations is one of the leading organizations pushing to curb discrimination agains Muslims in the city. They publish resources that address the needs and rights of American Muslims, ranging from guides for employers and law enforcement officials to practical handbooks for members of the community. CAIR responds to attacks on Muslims in New York, provides legal support for those facing discrimination and puts its resources towards standing up for one of the city’s most vulnerable groups—especially when few others will.

Food Bank of New York City

The Food Bank has been working in New York for more than 30 years, providing more than 60 million free meals annually across the city. The organization works with more than 1,000 charities and schools, and offers aid that equates to $170 million-plus every single year. In a city that’s filled to the brim with excess and wealth, there’s no reason why any New Yorker should go hungry. That’s at the core of the Food Bank’s mission, and they’re always looking for volunteers to help shoulder the load.

Girls Write Now

New York City is an epicenter for talented writers from across the globe. From best-selling novelists to award-winning journalists, there is no shortage of incredible scribes here. Girls Write Now works to leverage this well of knowledge by providing the city’s first and only writing and mentoring program for girls. The organization’s mission is simple: pair professional female writers with girls working their way through the public school system, and give them the resources and training they need to thrive in the media landscape. If you’re a professional writer who’s looking to give back, Girls Write Now should be one of the first places you look.

Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New York

When you think of the Catholic Church in New York, you probably think of giant cathedral filled with prayer. But the charities associated with the organization do more for immigrants, homeless people and others in need than you’d never believe. The Catholic Charities provide millions of meals in soup kitchens and food pantries, offers temporary and transitional housing for thousands of families each year and is a vital resource in helping immigrants and refugees find paths to citizenship, housing and work. The organization, both in New York and throughout the country, has a long history of providing refuge for immigrants, even when authorities deem the practice illegal. In a city that’s home to more than 2.8 million immigrants, the importance of this work cannot be understated.

New York Foundation for the Arts

Every year, a countless number of starry-eyed artists flock to New York with nothing more than a pocket full of dreams (and little to no cash). The New York Foundation for the Arts works to support up-and-coming artists who need a little extra financial oomph to put their work in motion. From providing awards and cash grants to sponsoring ambitious projects, the NYFA has worked for more than 40 years to help New York City be the haven for artists that it is today.


The journey for refugees coming to America is long, arduous and often life-threatening. Once many arrive here, they’re left without resources, connections, friends and financial capital. HIAS is a Jewish nonprofit that works to make life a little bit easier for those refugees, not only in New York City, but also across the world. They work with refugee families to resettle in the United States, and find work, transportation and all of the other things that most U.S. citizens take for granted. It’s the oldest resettlement organization in the world, and is one that makes New York—and America in general—a great place for everyone.

Ali Forney Center

For decades, New York City has been a place where members of the LGBTQ community can come and find acceptance. But when many young gay men and women arrive here, they’re left without any resources and turn to the streets instead of the city’s shelter system. The Ali Forney Center works to stop that, by providing LGBT youth ages 16 to 24 with emergency housing so they can escape a life of abuse or discrimination. The center also provides social services, medical care, HIV testing, employment assistance and a medley of other resources that help some of NYC’s most vulnerable transplants get on their feet.

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