Farewell to Deputy Director Elena Conte

Collage of photos showing Elena engaged in various projects over the years--delivering testimony at City Council, speaking at a transit forum, giving a presentation, leading a roundtable discussion, giving an interview to a reporter, sharing tips with a group preparing to give testimony at a hearing

Elena Conte will be stepping down as Deputy Director after nearly fourteen years at Pratt Center.  

Elena first joined Pratt Center in 2007 as the Organizer for Public Policy campaigns. Over these past 14 years, innumerable projects and community partners have benefited from Elena’s contributions, guidance, her values-driven leadership style and on-the-ground experience as an organizer and advocate.

As an Organizer, then as Director of Policy and most recently as Deputy Director, Elena’s work has focused on centering the experiences of communities of color in the land use and environmental review processes, and supporting community-based coalitions to analyze proposals, develop alternatives, and advocate and organize for plans that advance their visions for their neighborhood—from Willets Point in Queens to Jerome Avenue in the Bronx.

To highlight just a few achievements, Elena helped halt a proposed soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park which would have deprived thousands of largely low-income immigrant New Yorkers of their park. She co-founded a collaborative with other technical assistance providers in 2014 to help challenge city policies and zoning changes that would have furthered displacement in Black and Brown communities. This experience led Elena to initiate Pratt’s Public Value Recovery work, an innovative set of proposals to direct revenues generated by public actions to advance public benefits and racial justice, such as the repair of NYCHA buildings. Today these efforts are shaping a new conversation about comprehensive planning in NYC. 

These contributions notwithstanding, Elena is probably best known as an advocate, strategist, and workhorse of a partner. She has excelled in coordinating powerful coalitions and taking on Goliaths to advance bold visions—from transportation equity campaigns that brought us Bus Rapid Transit in NYC to the 20+ year battle over the Sheridan Expressway to the myriad environmental, housing, open space, or labor coalitions to which she has contributed.

Within Pratt Center, Elena’s role has been no different—seeking to serve wherever needed and always centering racial justice in our work and operations. This commitment led to the creation of Pratt Center’s Racial Equity Action Plan which seeks to foster a culture of racial justice through professional development, restructuring to create leadership opportunities for more people, and scrutiny of our programs.

In Elena’s own words:

“I’m proud of my contributions to these efforts, and I see stepping down as an intentional way to make space for their full realization. During my time at the Center, I have grown immensely as a professional, and I have loved being part of an intergenerational pattern of mentorship among staff and graduate fellows.”

Pratt Center director Adam Friedman shared these words:

“It is hard to convey how many people have benefited from engaging with Elena in ways big and small. In virtually every encounter, whether it was in a conference room, a hearing room, a community center or the office kitchen, her insight and honesty, and her absolute commitment to racial justice left everyone more informed and dedicated to building a better world.”

Elena will be stepping into a new role as a Senior Fellow with the Center to support transition activities through June 2021. We are poised to grow our team at the same time, so stay tuned for announcements of exciting new positions that will chart the course of our work!


05 Mar, 2021