In December, Center for Urban Community Services founder Tony Hannigan stepped down from his role as president and CEO of the organization after 37 years at the helm. He will be succeeded by Joe DeGenova, who has been with the organization for 30 years.
Tony has been an integral leader in the supportive housing community – forging a path not only for CUCS but the entire city of New York and beyond, serving as a national leader in supportive housing service provision. As a keynote speaker at the Network’s conference in 2016, Tony regaled the audience with his journey into supportive housing. In 1981, fresh out of graduate school and working for the Columbia University School of Social Work, he was responsible for a grant funded program to develop training materials for working with disenfranchised individuals.
He began his outreach in New York City’s deteriorating single room occupancy hotels, determined to provide SRO tenants access to quality housing and support services. He was mindful of ensuring tenants received the support they needed while preserving their freedom, independence, and tenants’ rights.
In 1982, CUCS (then Columbia University Community Services) teamed up with Broadway Housing to open The Heights in northern Manhattan, a 55 unit building with shared kitchens and bathrooms. “It wasn’t quite perfect,” Tony recalled, “But the will was there. It was a new experience for everyone involved.”
Under Tony’s leadership, CUCS and supportive housing in New York City grew and flourished. CUCS went on to provide services in Broadway Housing’s other residences, and in the 1990s teamed up with Common Ground, now Breaking Ground, to provide services first at the Times Square and now in 10 buildings. CUCS also began developing buildings – the Leninger and the Sydelle under Tony’s leadership. In all, CUCS provides services to 50,000 individuals and families nationally.
Not only has CUCS been a national leader in service provision, they also boast a Training Institute that serves more than 15,000 individuals annually throughout New York City and nation-wide. CUCS has also provided key research in the field of supportive housing - they studied both the service needs of long-term shelter stayers as well as those of street homeless individuals.
Tony has been a board member with the Network for 9 years. Fellow board member and Breaking Ground President and CEO Brenda Rosen said this of Tony: “He is a thought partner and always makes the time to discuss issues regardless of his packed schedule. Tony brings a unique level of credibility to any conversation with government partners, colleagues, and elected officials. He is the real thing.”
Other board members added, “Wit and wisdom are the words that leap to mind when I think of Tony. He had a way of making complex arguments and situations immediately understandable. He brought humor and down-to-earthness to every high-level conversation I ever saw him in. He always led from the heart and his laugh will be sorely missed.”
“For people who are in need of ongoing support, one of the great treasures about supportive housing is that it is there for them for a lifetime,” Tony said, adding that he, too, has been profoundly impacted by supportive housing through his lasting friendships with tenants.
For all that he has done for our community, we extend a heartfelt thank you and congratulations to Tony.