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April 2014 Newsletter

A Fund at the Heart of New York

Francis Florio didn’t consider himself a philanthropist. Although he did well investing in properties in Brooklyn and Queens, he wasn’t fabulously wealthy. After watching a close friend and business partner cope with a blood disorder before she died in 1970, Florio approached The Trust to create a charitable fund to support research about blood disorders.

The Florio Fund started in 1974 with a $1.7 million gift from Mr. Florio’s estate. At the time, of course, no one had heard of AIDS, and the war on cancer had barely begun. Since then, we’ve made grants totaling $7.9 million that spurred research into leukemia; one of the country’s first grants for HIV/AIDS; malaria; sickle cell anemia; and other life-threatening diseases. Usually ranging from $50,000 to $100,000, our grants allowed young scientists to do initial work, which led to larger grants from the federal government and other funders.

A study commissioned by The Trust lists the accomplishments of Florio Fund recipients in these four decades: An oncologist went on to write a Pulitzer Prize-winning book about the origins of cancer; another scientist contributed to Nobel Prizewinning work studying the body’s immune system; and an epidemiologist we supported has become one of the world’s leading vaccine advocates.

Today, the Florio Fund is going strong, with a market value of $7.4 million—more than four times the original gift. We’re confident that Francis Florio would say he made a great investment.

More on the legacy of  Francis Florio>>

April 2014 Newsletter |  5 Questions for Irfan Hasan

How to Boost New Yorkers’ Health

Irfan Hasan, The Trust’s program officer for health and people with special needs, earned his B.A. from Northeastern University and M.P.A. from NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service. Before joining
The Trust in 2000, he oversaw programs at Greater Boston Rehabilitation Services.


1. How would you describe your program?

We weave together 125 funds to make grants that improve health and help those with special needs—everyone from newborns to octogenarians. For example, our grants help the Adaptive Design Association, a nonprofit based in Hell’s Kitchen, use inexpensive materials to make neck braces and other equipment for disabled kids so they can learn, play, and eat better.

2. How do you coordinate with your two suburban divisions?

Here’s an example: We met with the Mental Health Association of New York City and learned that vets returning from Afghanistan and Iraq face ignorance and hostility on college campuses. With our funding, the Association created a program to bring veterans and students together on four City campuses. Our Westchester and Long Island divisions helped expand it to four suburban campuses.

3. How do you use technology to improve health?

We’ve helped develop electronic medical record systems throughout the City. In the last few months, we took it a step further. Our grant to the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center in Manhattan’s Chinatown helped create the City’s first Chinese-language patient portal, to get lab results online and manage chronic conditions such as diabetes.

4. What issue concerns you right now?

Mental health. The number of workdays lost because of depression and other mental health issues is staggering. The City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene now requires hospitals to report young people hospitalized for a first psychotic episode—the first in the country to have such a rule. Our grant helps these people find coordinated, easily accessible care. Getting the right treatment can mean keeping their jobs and relationships.

5. Why should someone create a permanent fund in The Trust?

Thanks to the generosity of past donors, we’re poised to act. For example, the money for the young people I just mentioned comes from a fund set up in 1944 and another fund set up in 1980. Think about that: 70 and 34 years later, those donors are still making life better for New Yorkers.

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The New York Community Trust is a 501(c)3 public charity.

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