Richard and Iris Abrons: Wall Street Grants

NET WORTH: Unknown

SOURCE OF WEALTH: First Manhattan

FUNDING AREAS: Human Services, Education & Youth, Arts & Culture, Health, Jewish Causes, Environment, Policy

OVERVIEW: Richard and Iris Abrons conduct philanthropy through the Richard and Iris Abrons Foundation. He also moves family through the Louis and Anne Abrons Foundation, which gives more robustly to a range of organizations. The Abrons are a major patron of Henry Street Settlement. Without a web presence, the foundations lack transparency on grantmaking guidelines.

BACKGROUND: Richard Abrons graduated with his B.A. from Yale University, his M.B.A. from Columbia University, and his M.F.A. in writing from NYU. Some half a century ago, he co-founded First Manhattan Co., which manages more than $16 billion on behalf of its clients. He is also a playwright in New York and Los Angeles.

ISSUES:

HUMAN SERVICES: The Abrons family are major patrons of Henry Street Settlement in Manhattan, which “opens doors of opportunity for Lower East Side residents and other New Yorkers through social services, arts, and health care.” The forces here are personal as Henry Street's founder helped his grandmother take care of her children and find work sewing nurses' uniforms. And later, Abrons' parents met at a dance at the settlement. Abrons father, Louis, supported the settlement and created the Abrons Arts Center, a performing and visual arts program which the family continues to support. Abrons is vice chairman of the board of Henry Street Settlement.

Other grantees have included BronxWorks, which “helps individuals and families improve their economic and social well-being”; Legal Information for Families Today; Ackerman Institute for the Family; City Harvest; Coalition for the Homeless; Court Appointed Special Advocates; Food Bank for New York City; International Rescue Committee; Alameda County Food Bank; and United Neighborhood Houses of New York. It’s worth noting that several Abrons family members have psychology and social work backgrounds.

EDUCATION & YOUTH: Abrons supports his alma mater Yale, from where his late brother Herbert also graduated. Abrons is a major backer of Children’s Aid. Past education and youth grantees include World Wide Orphans, Big Brothers/Big Sisters; Yeshiva University; Storefront Academy Harlem; The Baruch College Fund; Hobart and William Smith Colleges; Boys and Girls Clubs of Larimer County; and UC Berkeley. It’s worth noting that away from the East Coast, California serves as another region of giving, and where Herbert’s stepchildren take up residence.

ARTS & CULTURE: The Abrons family are strong backers of Bronx Children’s Museum, both through the Iris and Richard Abrons Foundation and the Louis and Anne Abrons Foundation. Abrons sits on the board of Bronx Children’s Museum. Abrons is director emeritus of Poets and Writers, another grantee. Other grantees have included MCC Theater, MoMA, The Met, Albany Park Theater Project in Chicago, Jacob Burns Film Center, Lower East Side Tenement Museum, New York Shakespeare Festival, The Whitney, and WNET.

HEALTH: The family appears to have a strong interest in public health. They’ve supported UC Berkeley School of Public Health’s Center for Public Health Practice & Leadership as well as the California OneCare Education Fund, which aims to “create a healthcare system in California where every child and every adult receives the health care they need when they need it and at a cost they can afford.” They’ve also supported places like Mt. Sinai Adolescent Health Center, Dubin Breast Center, Jonas Center for Nursing, Lenox Hill Hospital, Global Lyme Alliance, and Bay Area Lyme Foundation. Daughter Leslie Abrons, a clinical social worker, has spoken about the psychiatric lyme disorders. The Abrons family also support Planned Parenthood and a range of its regional outfits, as well as National Advocates for Pregnant Women, suggesting that reproductive health is another interest.

JEWISH CAUSES: Yeshiva University is home to a scholarship in the family’s name. Other grantees have included American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, and Temple Shaaray Tefila of Westchester.

ENVIRONMENT: Abrons was a director of GrowNYC, whose mission is to “improve New York City's quality of life through environmental programs that transform communities block by block and empower all New Yorkers to secure a clean and healthy environment for future generations.” Through the organization, he established the Plant-a-Lot program of community gardens in poor neighborhoods. The family has also supported places like Earthjustice, Fresh Air Fund, NRDC, Riverkeeper, and Yellowstone Forever.

POLICY & JUSTICE: The family supports organizations like ACLU, People for the American WayBrady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, and Equal Justice Initiative. Many of these organizations are progressive in nature. Some of this work has also touched media outfits like Democracy Now!

OTHER: The Abrons family has supported organizations that work on a global level like International Rescue Committee.

LOOKING FORWARD: Expect the Abrons family’s varied and steady giving to continue. With some one dozen family members on the larger Louis and Anne Abrons Foundation’s board, keeping tabs on various family members is helpful in understanding grantmaking going forward. Expect New York City to continue to loom large for this funder, as Abrons explains: “As the president of the Louis and Anne Abrons Foundation, I have overseen grants to more than 200 nonprofits… Most benefit our city (New York), which is our emphasis.”

CONTACT:

The Abrams family foundations do not provide a clear avenue for getting in touch with the family but below are addresses:

Richard and Iris Abrons Foundation Inc.
812 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10021
(212) 422-1000

Louis and Anne Abrons Foundation Inc.
Foundation Source 501 Silverside Rd.
Wilmington, DE 19809
(800) 839-1754

LINK: Richard Abrons Website