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Pratt Center for Community Development

The Pratt Center is the oldest university-based advocacy planning and technical assistance organization in the United States. Located in Brooklyn, NY and part of Pratt Institute, Pratt Center leverages professional skills and practical experience in the areas of community organizing, policy advocacy, planning and technical assistance to support community-based organizations and small businesses in their efforts to improve neighborhood quality of life and to develop replicable models for equitable, sustainable community development.


Founded in 1964 with a grant from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Pratt Center's original goal was to create a partnership between Pratt Institute’s planning department and local New York organizations eager to address issues of urban deterioration and poverty. In 1963, Pratt Institute Department of City and Regional Planning chair George Raymond set out to educate New Yorkers about how urban planning, done right, can build better neighborhoods. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund sponsored a Community Education Program at Pratt Institute to "help community groups in New York City obtain a basic understanding of planning theory and the political and economic realities of housing and urban renewal programs, as well as achieve a realistic appraisal of what citizens can rightfully expect of government in these several fields." Raymond and a Pratt Institute planning student named Ron Shiffman began working with a group of ministers on a study of Bedford-Stuyvesant, anticipating a city urban renewal program planned for part of the area. The Pratt Center's work with central Brooklyn organizations to develop a comprehensive plan to rebuild Bedford-Stuyvesant through job training and other economic development programs became the model for the Ford Foundation and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy's project to create community development corporations, in New York City and across the country, to contend with urban poverty, decaying housing and disinvestment.

Central Brooklyn Coordinating CouncilEdit

One of the Pratt Center's first major projects was to help the Central Brooklyn Coordinating Council evaluate the impact of a proposed urban renewal plan on their neighborhood. The planning model which grew out of that endeavor integrated housing, economic, and social planning considerations. This effort attracted the attention of Senator Robert F. Kennedy and led to the establishment of one of the first community development corporations (CDCs) in the country - the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation. In addition to providing planning and support for Restoration, the Pratt Center continued to play an active role in Bedford-Stuyvestant through the 1960s by operating the Central Brooklyn Neighborhood College which offered training and education for local residents, especially African-Americans and Latinos who had either dropped out of high school or lacked access to higher education.

Participant EducationEdit

In 1965, under a federal Higher Education Act grant, the Pratt Center launched a participant education program to assist and train local residents in the process of community development. This was followed by a series of leadership training courses and the Pratt Center's sponsorship of the Central Brooklyn Neighborhood College. Administered by community residents, this University of the Streets program was targeted primarily to African—Americans and Latinos who had either dropped out of high school or lacked access to higher education.

Pratt Planning and Architectural CollaborativeEdit

A division of the Pratt Center, later called the Pratt Planning and Architectural Collaborative, was formed in 1975 to provide direct architectural services to neighborhood-based housing groups who were taking on an increasing number of projects in communities where quality professional assistance was either unavailable or too costly. Pratt Center ended its direct architectural service in 2010.

Pratt Community Economic Development Internship ProgramEdit

In 1984, with the cooperation of the Development Training Institute, the Pratt Center established the Pratt Community Economic Development Internship, a program designed to build the capacity of community-based organizations to carry out housing and community economic development projects. Nearly 300 community leaders graduated from the program during its 12 years of operation.


In 1997, the Pratt Center played a pivotal role in founding the New York Industrial Retention Network (NYIRN), which has since worked with more than 2,100 local businesses employing 93,000 people. NYIRN’s research and policy work has gained greater public recognition for the importance of blue-collar businesses and workers in the city and its neighborhoods. NYIRN helped create New York City's 16 Industrial Business Zones and has leveraged more than $20 million in energy efficiency improvements for industrial businesses in New York City. In 2010, NYIRN became a project of the Pratt Center.

Name ChangesEdit

Community Education Program at Pratt InstituteEdit

With funding from the Rockefeller Brothers George Raymond and Ron Shiffman founded the Community Education Program at Pratt Institute in 1963.

Pratt Center for Community ImprovementEdit

The following year, Raymond renamed the Community Education Program the Pratt Center for Community Improvement (PCCI), committed to a “participant education process” promoting community empowerment in city planning.

Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental DevelopmentEdit

In 1968 Ron Shiffman became director of the Pratt Center for Community Improvement. In order to reflect increasing work in the areas of recycling, promoting clean air and water, and sustainability the organization was renamed the Pratt Center for Community and Environmental Development (PICCED).

Pratt Center for Community DevelopmentEdit

Ron Shiffman retired in 2002. Brad Lander, a graduate of the Pratt Community Economic Development Internship Program and Pratt’s Masters’ in City and Regional Planning, and director of the Brooklyn-based CDC Fifth Avenue Committee, became director of the organization, embarking on a strategic plan that led, in part, to renaming the organization the Pratt Center for Community Development. The strategic plan identified three initiatives for the Pratt Center — Helping Communities Build, Planning for Equitable Development, and Sustainability and Environmental Justice.


Pratt Center's work is concentrated in the following areas:

Community-based planning

Technical assistance

Issue organizing

Policy research and advocacy

Educational CollaborationEdit

Pratt Center works with students and faculty primarily from Pratt Institute's Programs for Sustainable Planning and Development as well as other departments, including the School of Library and Information Science and Communications Design. Graduate students provide research, technical assistance, mapping, and other services for Pratt Center clients. Each academic year, the Pratt Center invites Pratt Center Fellows, a select group of Pratt Institute students, to work in Pratt Center's office and in New York City neighborhoods on research, planning, design, and other projects.

In 2013 Pratt Center launched the Taconic Fellowship program, made possible by a grant from the Taconic Foundation. The Fellowship program supports field work conducted by Pratt Institute faculty, staff, and students, that advances the Pratt Center's goals of sustainability and equity in community development and responds to the evolving needs of a changing society. The goals of the Fellowship are to expose more disciplines to community development work and to support Pratt Institute's commitment to collaboration, inter-disciplinary projects and service learning opportunities.