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, Shiffman 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 is a tenured professor in Pratt'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. He has taught and developed courses on urban and community planning, advocacy and architecture, participatory planning, sustainable development, and the history and philosophy of community development.
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. In recent years, he has written extensively and advocated for the need to revitalize neighborhoods through comprehensive and integrative planning strategies. 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 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.
Jane Jacobs Medals are presented annually through The Rockefeller Foundation to recipients whose work creates new ways of seeing and understanding New York City, challenges traditional assumptions and creatively uses the urban environment to make New York City a place of hope and expectation. Past recipients of the Jane Jacobs Medal for Lifetime Leadership include Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal, film producers and co-founders of Tribeca Film Festival (2011); Elizabeth Barlow Rogers, longtime and founding president of the Central Park Conservancy and current president of the Foundation for Landscape Studies (2010); Richard Kahan, founder and CEO of the Urban Assembly (2009); Peggy Shepard, executive director and co-founder of West Harlem Environmental Action, Inc. (WE ACT) (2008); and Barry Benepe, co-founder of Greenmarket (2007). The 2012 Jane Jacobs Medal is administered by the Municipal Art Society. To learn more about the 2012 Jane Jacobs Medal Winners and the Jane Jacobs Medal, visit www.rockfellerfoundation.org/news.
The American Planning Association's (APA) Planning Pioneer Award is presented to pioneers of the profession who have made personal and direct innovations in American planning that have significantly and positively redirected planning practice, education, or theory with long-term results. Previous recipients include planning giants Pierre Charles L'Enfant, Frederick Law Olmstead Jr., Frederick Law Olmstead Sr., Robert Moses, and Jacob August Riis. Shiffman will receive his award at an awards luncheon during APA's National Planning Conference in Chicago on Tuesday, April 16, 2013. He will also be featured in an upcoming issue of Planning magazine, APA's flagship publication. To view all of the APA 2013 National Planning Excellence and Achievement Award recipients, visit www.planning.org/awards/2013.
Image: Pratt Institute Professor Ron Shiffman. Image Credit: Peter Tannenbaum.
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