News from Pratt Center: October 2022

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What can our elders teach us about mobility justice? What happens to labor policy when we listen to immigrant women-led worker centers? How can we work together to create a biodiverse trail network in Central Brooklyn? What can we find at the intersection of design and food justice?

What strikes us most about this year’s class of fellows is their unflinching curiosity—it’s the kind of curiosity that has led them to create truly innovative, community-centered projects working to advance equitable community development across New York City. This year’s class of Taconic Fellows are members of Pratt Institute who have bold questions about what the city could be if given the opportunity to try out new ideas. We are excited to try out these ideas with them over the next year. Their creativity and vision for a just city honors this fellowship.

Pratt Phenology Trail

Fellow: Ira Stern

Together with graduate students and the Fort Greene Park Conservancy, this project will research, assess, and initiate a trail network emanating from the Pratt Campus throughout the the neighborhood and points beyond. This project will conduct a stakeholder analysis, provide opportunities for inclusive trail design, assess potential data points for study and interpretation (including phenology), and involve stakeholders in methods for selecting transect subjects and interpretation modes.

Food Futures Food Justice Lab

Fellows: Ashley Kuo | Andrea Chiney | Anushka Vaidya | Noam Nissel | Aura Wang | Ann Hung | Bo Yan Wu | YuQuian Wang | Zhao Xi Dong | Junger Xia

The Food Futures Food Justice Lab imagines solutions to inequitable food access with Collective Food Works (CFW), a non-profit supporting community food systems in Brooklyn. Students will design and beta-test ideas for CFW’s “Collective Baskets,” a mutual aid program addressing the gap between food waste and food insecurity through alternative, culturally-attentive solutions beyond the community fridge model. 

Mujeres Atrividas

Fellow: Cynthia Tobar

Mujeres Atrevidas (Bold Women) is a bilingual, documentary project depicting how female delivery workers, construction workers, and day laborers have been impacted by the pandemic, and their fight for labor rights through their involvement with worker centers, most notably Workers Justice Project. Through an insightful look at what daily conditions female-identified frontline workers face, Mujeres Atrevidas will illuminate the key role female-led worker centers can have in cities and states across the country where new labor policies and standards are being enacted. 

Long Memories of Material Injustice

Fellows: Keena Suh | Heather Lewis

This project engages Central Brooklyn elders, Pratt faculty and students, 7Cinema, and other community partners in a public history project focused on transportation access over the last eight decades. The project will highlight the 1969 removal of the Myrtle Avenue El, the effects of the 1970s fiscal crisis on subway and bus services, the effects of the BQE on community life, and past and present activism for equal access to public transportation.


The Pratt Center team is experimenting with new ideas too. A couple months ago, we realized that we have things to say about how to build a more equitable city that couldn’t hold space in the sometimes rigid genres of urban plans, policy briefs, and research memos. So we started a blog. 

Notes On… is a blog of urban commentary by the Pratt Center for Community Development. We’re inspired by the classic community-based planning exercise of everyday people using sticky notes to tell urban planners what works and what doesn’t work in their own neighborhood. For more than half a century, Pratt Center has gathered and cherished these notes that inform our work to promote transformative urban change across New York City. With our blog, we share our notes on the city—insights, observations, thoughts, and musings. And like most good note taking, we keep it short. These pieces seek to demystify our complex, built environment, magnify the often forgotten, and beautify the task we call community-based planning. Read a few here:

  • Four Notes on Riis Beach 
    By Addison Vawters

    “A queer politics applied to questions of land tenure would need to seriously engage the existing claims of indigenous communities’ right to the land, posing serious questions about what solidarity organizing looks like in the current land dispute.”

  • Notes on a Year After Hurricane Ida
    By Sylvia Morse

    “Last summer, 11 New Yorkers drowned in their basement homes ... Today, in the midst of another hurricane season, basement tenants and homeowners are as unprotected as they were a year ago.”

  • Notes on Nighttime Governance
    By Tara Duvivier

    “While New York City is often regarded as the ‘city that never sleeps,’ most of our policy and planning contemplates only what happens during the day—so what about the night?”


For over fourteen years, the Basement Apartments Safe For Everyone Coalition (BASE) has sounded an alarm on the need to legalize basements to ensure safe and dignified housing for the New Yorkers who are one of the most vulnerable to climate change and the housing crisis. After Hurricane Ida took the lives of 11 of our neighbors last year, the urgency of this work has only heightened. On the anniversary of Hurricane Ida, a number of outlets cited and lifted our work as we continue to ensure safe NYC basements.

A Year After Ida, Many Families Remain Homeless, Bitter

In NYC’s Basement Apartments, Deadly Flood Risks Remain

A Year After Hurricane Ida Flooding, Families in Hotels and Basements Protections in Limbo

Comptroller Proposes Roadmap to Legalize NYC’s Basement Apartments


Abolitionist Geography: Essays Towards Liberation
5/10/2022 | Verso

Liberation isn’t a principle or an ideal—the ever necessary Ruth Wilson Gilmore reminds us—liberation is a place. All we need is a map to get there. This book may very well be it.

“Mr. Biden, Tear Down This Highway”
9/8/2022 | New York Times

The good people at Segregation By Design share a stunning visualization weaving historical data and archival photography to reveal how the Cross Bronx Expressway and pollution displaced 1,500 families.

“The Owners of Astor Wines & Spirits Just Sold It to Their Employees”
9/13/2022 | Hellgate

What happens when the people who created a beloved community staple want to retire? They keep the love going.

“Unplugged: Why Utilities Are More Likely to Disconnect Black, Latino, and Indigenous Households”
9/6/2022 | Grist

Over 20 million households across the nation are deciding if they need to “heat or eat” due to climate change. This article makes a strong case to think seriously about energy relief.


04 Oct, 2022