About Gateway

Gateway was the community newsletter of Pratt Institute published monthly by the Office of Communications, in the Division of Institutional Advancement through spring 2014. For current Pratt-related news, visit the News page on Pratt’s website.



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



Where can you go to find pictures of “Dem Bums” back in the day? Or R.F.K. hanging out at the Brooklyn Navy Yard? On the just-launched Brooklyn Visual Heritage website you can peruse or purchase thousands of images of important Brooklyn historical events or simply ones that recall your own personal history.

The Brooklyn Visual Heritage website was created through Project CHART (Cultural Heritage, Access, Research, and Technology), a three-year collaborative effort of Pratt’s School of Information and Library Science (SILS), the Brooklyn Historical Society, Brooklyn Museum, and Brooklyn Public Library, was developed as an easily accessible way to share historic images of Brooklyn.

Scholars, historians, and the general public of all ages can engage with Brooklyn’s historic past and make connections to our current city. Pratt-SILS received a grant of over $950,000 for Project CHART from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). For SILS, the goal was to provide hands-on training for the next generation of information professionals so that they can become effective digital managers and curators for digital collections and services within cultural institutions. Students participating in Pratt’s new 18-credit program in Digital Management of Cultural Heritage as part of their Master’s degree in Library and Information Science received scholarships through the IMLS funding. 

Caridad Bojorquez (M.L.I.S. '13), a Project CHART intern, worked alongside the staff at the Brooklyn Historical Society. "We were given the opportunity to challenge and direct ourselves on how to best handle collections," said Bojorquez. "We developed digitization plans, researched things like copyright and geographic locations, worked with fragile items, and learned how cultural institutions work both internally as well as collaboratively with fellow organizations."

Hosted by the Brooklyn Public Library, the Brooklyn Visual Heritage website is included in the library’s strategic plan, which aims to more fully engage users with Brooklyn culture and community. While Project CHART’s time frame was limited to the three years of the grant, the collaborating institutions intend that Brooklyn Visual Heritage will have a long life beyond the grant timeframe.

“The project has been an exceptional experience for the students—and the institutions involved— it gave students an educational experience tied to a real project of lasting value,” said Tula Giannini, dean, SILS and project director for Project CHART. “As a collaborative effort it was both challenging and rewarding. We worked together as a team to build consensus on the design of the site. So, for example, we chose to use an open source platform and focus on user experience.  We drew upon ‘best practices’ of the partnering institutions and in the end, users have the experience of a seamless search even though they are going across three institutions.” 

For Giannini, the next chapter in the project is focusing on how this new digital resource can be used to serve education and research, as well as engage users to participate more fully in the rich resources and programs of these great Brooklyn cultural institutions. “We want to be able to connect people to the cultural history of their communities,” Giannini said. “We are now working on refining the site. Next month, we are meeting to consider future plans.”

Text: Bay Brown



On the lighter side, Pam Halpert (played by Jenna Fischer) from NBC’s The Office has been sporting her Pratt sweatshirt quite a bit lately. As you may recall, a few years back in Season 5, Pam is enrolled at Pratt. Then Jim proposes and the story line veers. It seems Pam likes to wear the old sweatshirt when she is painting. In the episode entitled Vandalism that aired on January 31, Pam is enjoying painting a mural in the warehouse when things go awry:

Pam explains to the camera that she's really enjoying her assignment of working on the warehouse mural—until she sees that it's been defaced. Someone's spray-painted two butts and a "This Sucks" over her work. She's heartbroken and outraged. She gets in the scissor lift and addresses the warehouse crew with a megaphone, asking who perpetrated the crime. The warehouse staff—including the supervisor Val—ignores her.

Pam gathers everyone in the conference room to rally the staff to help her find the mural culprit. Though Pam was hoping to incite a righteous mob, only Dwight and Nellie will help her. Dwight assembles the warehouse team and demands that they draw butts on paper. To learn what happens next go here.

Text: Bay Brown