Education Obituary

Disadvantaged Youths’ Advocate in New York City Dies

By Rob Bock — February 26, 2013 1 min read

Richard L. Murphy, a former youth-services director in New York City who created the advocacy organization that evolved into the Harlem Children’s Zone, died Feb. 14 of complications from stomach cancer, The New York Times reported. He was 68.

The Rheedlen Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by Mr. Murphy in 1970, first worked with families in Harlem to stem truancy. In 1990, after 20 years of working with Rheedlen, Mr. Murphy was appointed commissioner of the New York City Division of Youth Services by then-Mayor David N. Dinkins. Through the Safe Streets, Safe City program, Mr. Murphy spearheaded the Beacon Schools initiative, which let community agencies use space in schools to coordinate social, educational, health, and recreational programs for children and their families outside of school hours.


One of the first Beacon centers was opened, in partnership with Rheedlen, in a public school in Harlem, and later became the Harlem Children’s Zone, according to the HCZ website. The nationally watched effort now serves some 14,000 children and adults in the neighborhood.

After Mr. Dinkins’ term ended and Rudolph W. Giuliani took office in 1994, Mr. Murphy’s tenure with the city ended in controversy, the Times reported, though an investigation into allegations of mismanagement of the youth division found no wrongdoing. Later, Mr. Murphy helped open a culinary-arts high school in the city, and he served as the director of the Center for Youth Development and Policy Research at the Academy for Educational Development, in Washington.

A version of this article appeared in the February 27, 2013 edition of Education Week as Disadvantaged Youths’ Advocate in New York City Dies