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Records of the Pratt Center for Community Development

Identifier: PI-026

Scope and Contents

This collection documents the activities of the Pratt Center for Community Development from its inception in 1963 to 2021, with the bulk of materials documenting activities after 1999. Some of the significant topics represented in the collection include the history of community development methods and projects in New York City generally, as well as advocacy around manufacturing, the environment, transportation, land use, and more. The collection also documents the Pratt Center’s many partnerships with other community organizations, such as the Cpyress Hills Local Development Corporation, Good Old Lower East Side, and the Fifth Avenue Committee, as well as projects funded by major grants from New York City, New York State, federal agencies, and private foundations. The materials are largely textual comprising printed email, written notes, memoranda, agendas, and work plans, as well as a large number of publications, reports, presentation slides, and proposals. Among other formats are architectural plans and drawings and a small number of ephemera.


  • Creation: 1953 - 2021
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1999 - 2018


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to the public.

Conditions Governing Use

For permission to publish, contact the Institute Archivist at

Administrative History

The Pratt Center was founded in 1963 and is the oldest continuously operating university-based community planning organization in the U.S. The Pratt Center, originally known as the Pratt Center for Community Improvement, set out to fundamentally reimagine the nature of citizen participation in urban renewal projects. Rather than impose programs on communities, the Pratt Center made it its mission to educate and assist community members in carrying out improvements in their neighborhoods. This shift, and the inception of other organizations like the Pratt Center, represents the birth of the community-based development movement that the Pratt Center has continued to champion.

Between 1963 and 1967, the Pratt Center pursued this emerging mission in three key ways: technical assistance, education and advocacy at the city-level, and direct participation in grass-roots activities. At this time, technical assistance meant project coordination, circulating reports, or interaction with city officials on behalf of community leaders, agencies, and civic associations working in communities targeted for urban improvement, such as Bedford-Stuyvestant, where the Pratt Center was particularly active in its early days. To pursue education and advocacy, the Pratt Center organized conferences and published material on any subject related to the new field of community development. Finally, the Pratt Center engaged in what it called a “participant education process,” focused on bringing both technical and leadership knowledge to grass-roots programs. In these early years, the Pratt Center remained focused on urban renewal, but its education and advocacy projects pointed towards the evolution of new methods for empowering communities.

The renaming of the Pratt Center to the Pratt Center for Community and Environmental Development in 1968 signaled how exactly the Pratt Center’s programming would evolve under the direction of Ron Shiffman. In many ways, the method, offering technical assistance, training, and information services to community groups, remained the same. However, the scope of offerings and communities served broadened significantly from 1968 to the end of the century. Technical assistance came to include architectural and development services; research and public policy analysis became more prominent parts of the Pratt Center’s portfolio; and the Pratt Center began producing publications, like the magazine City Limits, as part of its information services.

During this time, the Pratt Center undertook wide ranging projects. In the 1980s the Pratt Center used the money from grants from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation to conduct multiple analyses of housing policy in New York City. The Pratt Center’s work contributed to the enactment of inclusionary zoning policies, a topic that remains an active area of advocacy for the Pratt Center today. On the technical assistance front, the Pratt Center provided both architectural and development support to the Magnolia Tree Earth Center of Bedford-Stuyvesant for the construction a new facility for the organization, which is still active in the community today. In 1983, the Pratt Center launched an education and training program, the Pratt Community Economic Development Internship, which formalized the Pratt Center’s ongoing efforts to train community organization leaders to lead the revitalization of their own neighborhoods. In 2003, a graduate of that program, Brad Lander, became the director of the newly renamed Pratt Center for Community Development.

In 2010, Adam Friedman, previously the director of the New York Industrial Retention Network (NYIRN), succeeded Brad Lander as director of the Pratt Center. The merger of NYIRN with the Pratt Center at this time highlights how concerns around environmental justice, manufacturing, and transportation, among others, have become essential to the Pratt Center’s current mission. The Pratt Center continues to support programming in geographically diverse communities, ranging from Cypress Hills to the South Bronx, while remaining active in communities it has served historically, such as Bedoford-Stuyvestant. Notable projects undertaken by the Pratt Center in the past 20 years include a partnership with the Southern Bronx Riverfront Waterfront Alliance to mitigate the environmental impacts of the Sheridan Expressway, studies of manufacturing industries in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and, in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a major effort to retrofit residential homes. At the city-wide level, the Pratt Center produced important policy critiques of the city’s displacement evaluation toolkit and used spatial data analysis to advocate for the expansion of bus rapid transit services. By documenting these initiatives and partnerships, many of which are ongoing, the collection presents a clear trajectory from the beginning of the community development movement to present-day implementations of technical assistance, policy analysis, and community education.


46.33 Linear Feet (106 containers. 92 document boxes, 4 flat file drawers, 2 photo print boxes, 3 oversized boxes, 1 record storage carton, and 4 roll storage boxes.)

Language of Materials



This collection documents the activities of the Pratt Center for Community Development, an advocacy planning and technical assistance organization based at the Pratt Institute, that has been active across New York City since 1963. The collection consists primarily of paper records documenting the projects of the Pratt Center. Publications, photographs and architectural drawings are also included in this collection.


The collection is arranged in nine series, six of which are arranged into further subseries. The following series and subseries are arranged alphabetically: Series 1; Series 3.1 to 3.6, and Series 4.6 to 4.12. The remaining series and subseries are arranged chronologically with undated material arranged alphabetically at the end of each series and subseries. Graphic material is found in Series 4.3.3 and Series 8. Audiovisual material is grouped together in Series 9.

Series 1: Administrative 1.1: Advisory Board

Series 2: Marketing and Press 2.1: Ephemera 2.2: Events 2.3: Press Releases

Series 3: Development and Operations 3.1: Federal Agencies 3.2: Foundations and Corporations 3.3: Fundraising 3.4: New York City 3.5: New York State 3.6: New York Industrial Retention Network (NYIRN) 3.7: Reports 3.8: Miscellaneous

Series 4: Projects 4.1: Community Development Corporations Oral History Project 4.2: Education and Training 4.3: Pratt Planning and Architectural Collaborative 4.3.1: Cypress Hills Community School 4.3.2: H.O.M.E. Queens 4.3.3: Plans 4.4: Reports and Research 4.5: Taconic Fellowship 4.6: City-Wide Policy and Planning 4.6.1: Charter Revisions 4.6.2: City Council 4.6.3: Climate and Sustainability 4.6.4: Economic Development 4.6.5: Energy 4.6.6: Food 4.6.7: Housing 4.6.8: Industrial Policy 4.6.9: Lobbying 4.6.10: Manufacturing 4.6.11: Policy Working Group 4.6.12: Retail 4.6.13: Retrofit Block by Block 4.6.14: Sandy 4.6.15: Small Business and Jobs 4.6.16: Supermarkets 4.6.17: Transportation 4.7: The Bronx 4.7.1: Sheridan Expressway - Hunt's Point 4.8: Brooklyn 4.8.1: Bedford Stuyvestant 4.8.2: Brooklyn Greens 4.8.3: Brooklyn Navy Yard 4.8.4: Bush Terminal 4.8.5: Cypress Hills 4.8.6: East New York 4.8.7: Gowanus / Red Hook 4.9: Lower Manhattan 4.10: Northern Manhattan 4.11: Newark 4.12: Queens 4.13: Miscellaneous

Series 5: Made in NYC

Series 6: New York Industrial Retention Network (NYIRN)

Series 7: Publications 7.1: Miscellaneous Publications and Reports 7.1.1: The Hill 7.2: Pratt Planning Papers 7.3: STREET Magazine

Series 8: Photography 8.1: Events 8.2: Pratt Center Economic Development Internship 8.3: Portraits 8.4: Locations 8.5: Miscellaneous 8.6: Pratt Center Historic Collection Slides

Series 9: Audiovisual Material

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Materials were transferred to the Archives by the Pratt Center for Community Development.


Further accurals expected.

Related Materials

Related Collections at Pratt Institute Archives

Related Materials at the Pratt Institute Archives

  1. PI-016 Records of the School of Architecture

Related Collections at Other Institutions

  1. Ronald Shiffman collection on the Pratt Center for Community Development, 2013.023; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Harmful Language Statement

If you encounter any pejorative language (i.e. racist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic) or content in the finding aids or within the content of the collection, please send an email to with the relevant details. For more information about how the Pratt Institute Libraries are addressing offensive language and content across its catalogs and databases, please see the Libraries' Harmful Language Statement:

Processing Information

This collection was processed and the finding aid written by Marisa Kurtz, Melanie Zerah, Bea Walter, Claire Linn during the Spring 2021 INFO-625-02 Management of Archives and Special Collections course taught by Prof. Fontánez Rodríguez. Further accruals were processed by Jack O'Malley during Fall 2021 and Spring 2022. Descriptive Rules Used: Finding aid adheres to that prescribed by Describing Archives: A Content Standard. Finding aid written in English.

Guide to the Records Pratt Center for Community Development
Jack O'Malley, Claire Linn, Beatrix Walter, Melanie Zerah, and Marisa Kurtz.
May, 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Part of this collection was processed with generous funding from the Documentary Heritage Program of the New York State Archives.

Revision Statements

  • November 17th, 2021: This finding aid was updated by Cristina Fontánez Rodríguez to incorporate new material.
  • April 7, 2022: This finding aid was updated by Jack O'Malley to incorporate new material, namely boxes 7 through 93 and all oversize material.

Repository Details

Part of the Pratt Institute Archives Repository

200 Willoughby Avenue
Brooklyn NY 11205 United States