Pratt Center is the oldest university-based community planning organization in the U.S.
Pratt Center was founded in 1963 when graduate planning students and faculty at Pratt Institute partnered with community organizations to address urban poverty by empowering local residents to participate in the official planning processes that affected their communities. Our work in central Brooklyn served as the model for Senator Robert F. Kennedy's project to create Community Development Corporations (CDCs) and develop safe, stable housing and economic opportunities in New York City and other urban areas throughout the country.
Pratt Planning Papers
The Pratt Planning Papers were a series of publications on progressive urban planning put out by the Pratt Department of City Planning in the 1960s and ’70s. Pratt Center compiled this issue, which featured two articles by Senator Robert F. Kennedy on the importance of community planning and urban renewal in light of the country’s accelerating urban blight and poverty challenges. It reflects on the community development movement in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, providing an early look at the innovative community programs and initiatives that partially grew out of the recommendations in Pratt Center’s first report two years earlier.
We built on this experience in the 1970s, fighting successfully to ensure that federal community development assistance was invested in poor neighborhoods amidst the fiscal crisis. As residents of the South Bronx, Harlem, central Brooklyn, and the Lower East Side faced a wave of disinvestment and arson, we launched an architectural practice that worked with neighborhood housing groups to reclaim their buildings. The Pratt Center's architects pioneered the conversion of abandoned tenement shells into safe and decent housing for residents who refused to leave.
Picced, a history
This history from the Fall '74 issue of STREET documents Pratt Center's first decade of pioneering community development work in New York City, noting our focus on "providing communities with tools to fight their own battles more successfully, augmented by the technical expertise of staff, students and faculty members." We've added another four decades to our story, and it's because of the generous, unwavering support of our partners, like those original seed grants from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, that our purpose remains unchanged.
In the 1980s we expanded our community-driven architectural practice, providing technical assistance to numerous CDCs to rebuild and preserve affordable housing in low- and moderate-income communities. We also worked with local groups and local government to secure millions of dollars in public loans to rehabilitate abandoned City-owned buildings as mutual housing co-ops.