Pratt Center Announces Search For Next Executive Director

Dear friends of Pratt Center,

It is with sadness and appreciation that we share some important news. After joining Pratt Center as our Policy Director in June 2021 and quickly taking the helm as the organization’s Interim Executive Director in November 2021, Lena Pervez Afridi will leave Pratt Center, effective March 3, 2023 to serve as Chief of Staff at PowerSwitch Action, a national network of progressive organizations building municipal power. 

“We are saddened to see our friend Lena Afridi step down,” said Chante Ramsey, Pratt Center’s Director of Operations. “As a staff, we are lucky to have worked with such a capable leader whose gift for mission-driven, community-based planning has transformed our organization. Lena leaves our team and organization well-positioned for our next leader to continue the good work of building a sustainable, equitable, and just New York City for all.” 

“I am so proud to have been part of Pratt Center’s long legacy of fighting for a more just and equitable New York. I have learned so much from my colleagues, who have encouraged me to consider new ways of thinking and seeing,” said Lena Afridi, “They have connected policy issues ranging from energy efficiency to building code regulation in basement apartments to the lived realities of everyday New Yorkers. As a result, I see the city I know and love from new perspectives. I see the major challenges we are up against in the face of climate change, rising inequality, and increasingly unsafe and unaffordable housing. However, I also see new avenues for intervention, for change, for possibility. For that hope and perspective I am incredibly grateful and I will take those lessons with me in my next chapter.”

During Lena’s tenure, Pratt Center deepened its policy advocacy work to complement our community-based planning practice. In the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, Pratt Center issued a fresh analysis identifying neighborhoods with the highest concentrations of informal basement units, and—with our partners in the Basement Apartments Safe for Everyone Coalition (BASE)—developed a BASE policy platform and offered expert testimony advocating for governments to ease restrictions on basement legalizations to ensure safety for tenants. Our work caught the public’s attention with extensive media coverage from local and national outlets. Moreover, Pratt Center collaborated with Housing Justice for All tocall for stronger renter protections for all New Yorkers and produced policy reports emboldening their advocacy to municipal to state legislatures. Pratt Center developed and facilitated the stakeholder engagement strategy of Hunts Point Forward, a comprehensive community planning process that fielded the concerns and aspirations of the South Bronx community despite the barriers the pandemic posed for in-person engagement. Only weeks ago in January, we launched EnergyFit, a retrofitting and electrification program for homeowners in East Brooklyn whose homes have long been overlooked by the State’s energy efficiency programs. Pratt Center saw the continued growth of its Made in NYC initiative, which supports local makers and manufacturers, and issued a report outlining strategies to support nonprofit developers to create more affordable storefronts. On top of all of this, Lena led the expansion of the Pratt Center team—including the creation of a Scholar-in-Residence program—as well as oversaw significant fundraising milestones that helped create stability for the organization. Altogether, Lena’s leadership opened up new capacity and vision to continue our service to the people of New York.

“I want to thank Lena for her fine stewardship of the Pratt Center during this interim period,” said Pratt Provost Donna Heiland. “While saying goodbye is always difficult, we know she will continue to do great things and wish her the very best.” 

Pratt Institute is conducting a search for Pratt Center’s next bold Executive Director who will build on and continue the organization’s rich history. We are looking for a visionary leader capable of seeing new opportunities for collaboration in New York City with a successful record of building community-responsive ideas into transformative practice. If this sounds like you or if you know someone that fits the bill, we encourage you to apply here

We thank Lena for her vision, passion, and leadership over the last two years. She has made an indelible imprint on Pratt Center and New York City.

With Gratitude,
The Pratt Center Team


22 Feb, 2023