Ron Shiffman, professor, Pratt Institute Graduate School of Architecture, and founder, Pratt Center for Community Development, was recently recognized with two national honors: the Rockefeller Foundation’s 2012 Jane Jacobs Medal for Lifetime Leadership and the American Planning Association’s 2013 National Planning Excellence Award for a Planning Pioneer.
Shiffman received the Jane Jacobs Medal for his role in creating the model for community development corporations commonly used today and for his tireless pursuit of and belief in the power of community-based groups to change the makeup of New York City for the better. Along with the medal, he received a cash award; he donated $50,000 of his award to the New York Community Trust and $25,000 to the program in which he teaches—the Program for Sustainable Planning and Development. Shiffman received the American Planning Association honor for his important contributions and leadership to the field of urban planning.
Shiffman has spent more than fifty years working to promote community-based activism and to empower local groups to participate directly in the development of their neighborhoods. Trained as an architect and urban planner, he is an expert in community-based planning, housing, and sustainable development and a champion of green economies based on local manufacturing. He has had extensive experience bringing together private and public sector sponsors of housing and related community-development projects.
“Professor Shiffman’s brilliance is in understanding that the nation’s democratic soul is embedded in its diverse communities,” said Pratt Provost Peter Barna. “Throughout his career, he has expanded the imagination and life potential of his students at Pratt and countless community voices to ensure that diverse voices prevail,” Barna added. “He embodies John F. Kennedy’s challenge: ‘Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.’”
Shiffman co-founded the Pratt Center for Community Development in 1964 to empower low and moderate-income communities in New York to plan for and realize their futures, and served as its director until 2003. Pratt Center is 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. In addition to his work with communities and as an academician, Shiffman has served on the New York City Planning Commission and on a number of gubernatorial, mayoral, and civic task forces.
Shiffman recently co-convened a series of discussions at the Center for Architecture called “Freedom of Assembly: Public Space Today,” that addressed the right to public space and free speech and resulted in a collection of essays titled Beyond Zuccotti Park—Freedom of Assembly and the Occupation of Public Space (New Village Press, 2012), for which he was the lead editor. The book was recognized as one of website Planetizen’s top 10 best books in urban planning, design and development published in 2012.
To learn more about Shiffman’s recent work and views on green design and sustainability, see this recent New York Times article that recalls the apt description of Shifman, he “has saved more New York neighborhoods than Robert Moses has destroyed.”
Text: Amy Aronoff
Photo: Peter Tannenbaum