Ronald Shiffman collection on the Pratt Center for Community Development
Language of Materials
Ron Shiffman is a city planner, architect, and expert in community economic development and sustainable development assistance for community-based groups in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. In 1964, Ron Shiffman co-founded the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development (known today as the Pratt Center for Community Development). The following year, Shiffman, in partnership with the Central Brooklyn Coordinating Council and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, assisted in the conception and launch of the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, the country's first community development corporation. Shiffman served on the New York City Planning Commission from 1990-1996 and was the Pratt Center's Director until 2003. As of 2018, Shiffman was a Professor Emeritus at Pratt Institute's School of Architecture. This collection documents the broad scope of Shiffman's career from the 1960s to the present, and is a rich source of material pertaining to community-based planning, participatory and advocacy planning, self-help and sweat equity, housing programs and policies, community development corporations, and land use across New York City and internationally.
Biographical / Historical
Ronald Shiffman was born in 1938 in Israel. His parents had immigrated to Israel from Russia after his father was imprisoned and exiled to Siberia for expressing Zionist political views. Shiffman's parents later emigrated to the Bronx borough of New York City, where Shiffman grew up. Shiffman graduated from Pratt Institute's School of Architecture, and later its graduate program in City and Regional Planning. In 1964, Shiffman co-founded the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development (now known as the Pratt Center for Community Development). The Pratt Center is now the nation's largest public interest architectural, planning, and development office, and is the oldest continuously-operated university-based planning technical assistance and training organization in the United States working with community-based groups in low and moderate-income communities. Shiffman served as the Pratt Center's Director until 2003. Shiffman is now a Professor Emeritus at Pratt Institute's School of Architecture, where he chaired the Department of City and Regional Planning (now known as the Program for Sustainable Planning and Development) from 1991 to 1999.
In 1965, Shiffman assisted the Central Brooklyn Coordinating Council and Senator Robert F. Kennedy to conceive and launch the first community development corporation, known today as the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation. Shiffman was appointed to the New York City Planning Commission by Mayor David Dinkins and served on the Planning Commission from 1990-1996. He has also served as a consultant to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the United States Agency for International Development, and the Ford Foundation on national and global community-based planning, design, and development initiatives. After the fall of apartheid, he was a founding board member of Shared Interest, an organization that guarantees micro-loans for black entrepreneurial economic development enterprises in South Africa. He also served as President of the Salzburg Congress on Urban Planning and Development from 1996-2000, an international organization of architects, planners, and development practitioners. Shiffman was a founding member of the racial justice non-profit the Center for Social Inclusion, which later merged with Race Forward. As of 2018, Shiffman continues to serve on the board of the expanded Race Forward. In 2012, Shiffman was awarded the Jane Jacobs medal for Lifetime Achievement from the Rockefeller Foundation, and the following year he won the Planning Pioneer Award from the American Planning Association.
Scope and Contents
This collection is a rich source of material pertaining to community planning, housing programs and policies, community development corporations, and land use across New York City and internationally. The collection includes a wealth of material about Brooklyn neighborhoods such as Bedford-Stuyvesant, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, the Atlantic Yards and Red Hook. Manhattan locations include Lower Manhattan, Chinatown and Harlem. The collection includes information about a wide variety of housing programs and policies throughout New York City, including mutual housing and land trusts, low-income home ownership and rehabilitation programs, rent regulation, and housing preservation. There is extensive information about the Strycker's Bay, Cooper Square, and Midwood Friends land trusts and mutual housing programs. The collection also includes information about self-help housing efforts in the Lower East Side and the South Bronx.
The initial establishment and development of the community development corporation (CDC) model is well documented in this collection, with a particular focus on the Bedford-Stuyvesant Community Development Corporation. Additional community development projects and organizations throughout the city are also represented. This collection also includes the project files, interviews, and transcripts from Building Hope: The Community Development Corporation Oral History Project. This was a major, Ford Foundation funded project to document the development of the first nineteen CDCs established across the United States.
Shiffman and the Pratt Center's international and environmental involvement is represented through files on affordable housing and community development in South Africa, collaborations with colleagues in Germany on brownfields, and exchanges in France. There is a small series of material pertaining to Shiffman's tenure on the NYC City Planning Commission, as well as on the Pratt Center's Community Economic Development Internship, a training and capacity-building program. The collection also includes a substantial number of publications from the Pratt Center, affiliated organizations, and foundations. These publications represent a wide range of topics similar to those found in the rest of the collection: housing, community-based planning, advocacy and participatory planning, urban renewal and revitalization, urban poverty and community development.
Conditions Governing Access
The majority of this collection is open to research. Audiovisual material in this collection is not currently avaialble to researchers.
Identification of item, date (if known); Ronald Shiffman collection on the Pratt Center for Community Development, 2013.023, Box and Folder number; Brooklyn Public Library, Center for Brooklyn History.
Location of Materials
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Ronald Shiffman made an initial donation of materials in 2013, with a subsequent donation in 2018.
Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements
Some of the materials in this collection are stored offsite and advance notice is required for use. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org at least three weeks prior to research visit.
The donor thoroughly reviewed the collection, with guidance from the archivist, in advance of the transfer of materials to Brooklyn Historical Society. The archivist removed duplicate materials and commerical broadcasts from the collection.
Audiovisual materials were reviewed and a maxiumum of two copies were retained. Additional duplicated were returned to the donor, as were commercial broadcasts. Four audiovisual tapes were discarded due to mold, these tapes are: "Local Initiatives Support Corporation and Housing and Urban Development Workshops #1 -- Business Planning vs Program Planning with Neal Nathanson and Charles Rial" (tape #394), "Local Initiatives Support Corporation and Housing and Urban Development Workshops #4 -- Highlights, undated" (tape 397), "Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, John Doar #1, undated" (tape 474) and Untitled (item #433).
About this Guide
The majority of this collection remains in its original folders. Folders in poor condition were replaced, and label information was transferred to the new folder. Loose materials were physically grouped by subject and housed in acid free folders. Titles for these materials were supplied by the archivist.
Although the majority of materials were foldered and clearly labelled, the collection did not have a clear intellectual arrangement. The exisiting arrangement was imposed by the archivist in close collaboration with the donor.
Digital files were donated on six 3.5 inch floppy disks. The disks were imaged by BitCurator-2.0.14. No viruses or personally identifying information were found during processing.