March 23, 2013
NY Community Planner Recognized
Ron Shiffman received the 2012 Jane Jacobs Medal for Lifetime Leadership
Last week community planner Ron Shiffman received the 2012 Jane Jacobs Medal for Lifetime Leadership, presented by the Rockefeller Foundation and administered by the Municipal Art Society. Ron’s acceptance speech, read parts of it below, evokes the “pivotal role” Jacobs played for Ron and urbanists everywhere, “in forging the way we think about people, cities, and the economy.”–SSS The position I filled at Pratt fifty years ago was ironically created because of Jane’s advocacy against a Pratt planning proposal for an area of Brooklyn now known as Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens, and Cobble Hill–an action I will forever be grateful for. Brooklyn benefitted because a well intentioned, but misguided, plan was defeated and I benefitted because I got the job opportunity of a lifetime. I had the honor to meet Jane a few times, almost always with my good friend Roberta Gratz. In the early 70’s, Roberta and I took Jane on a tour of the South Bronx where my colleagues and I were working with residents committed to rebuilding their communities [the Peoples Development Corporation and Banana Kelly among them]. Jane immediately sensed that this, not planned shrinkage as proposed by some, was the way to rebuild our vulnerable communities. One of Jane’s greatest attributes was to give voice to those who struggled to preserve and revitalize their community, an effort [that] many others were engaged in [including] Elsie Richardson, Don Benjamin in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Jane understood the struggle of groups like Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn whose opposition to the misuse of eminent domain and the abuse of power by some pitted them against the some of the city’s most powerful entities. She inspired journalists like Norm Oder to put voice to their struggles. She set the stage for community organizers like Eddie Bautista to mobilize communities to speak out against environmental injustices. This award must be shared with them and many others in and outside of this room. Most importantly, I want to thank the people [who] taught me to build upon their assets to help them overcome their problems—problems often spawned by public policies that fostered displacement and allowed poverty to fester in many corners of our city. We have accomplished much over the years that I am proud of, but we have left yet undone a plethora of problems that the next generation must address: * The social, economic and environmental injustices that make us all weaker * The privatization of public space and public functions * The growing economic segregation of our city * The challenges of climate change – which we must aggressively and creatively confront. On behalf of my grandkids and their generation, I fervently pray that all of us in this room are ready to tackle these problems with renewed vigor. As an unapologetic optimist, I do believe that we will overcome these challenges with vision, commitment, and an ever abiding trust in our neighbors and that we will prevail.