New Leadership at Pratt Center

Pratt Center for Community Development’s Director Adam Friedman steps down, Lena Afridi appointed Interim Director

As of the end of 2021, Adam stepped down as Director of the Pratt Center to become the Chief Strategy Officer for the Research and Strategic Partnership team led by Allison Druin, Associate Provost for Research and Strategic Partnerships, situated in the Office of the Provost. Adam’s expertise in building strategic relationships in order to move visionary ideas into impactful policies and programs will help Pratt Institute advance its vision to be a leader in civic engagement, sustainable environmental practice, and the alignment of Pratt’s pedagogy with community service. Lena Pervez Afridi, Pratt Center’s Director of Policy and Strategic Partnerships, will serve as Interim Director. Afridi will be the first South Asian American to lead Pratt Center in its 58 year history. 

Under Adam Friedman’s leadership, the Pratt Center built on the legacy and strong foundations nurtured by Pratt Center’s previous Directors, Founding Director and Pratt Institute Emeritus Professor Ron Shiffman (Director 1964–2003), and newly elected New York City Comptroller Brad Lander (Director 2003–2009). Pratt Center advanced strategies to catalyze sustainable, equitable local economies anchored by a strong manufacturing sector. The Center’s research and advocacy was critical to new zoning and policies to protect the city’s industrial business zones and the creation of a new fund to help mission-driven organizations purchase and manage manufacturing space. Pratt Center launched game-changing programs and pilots such as Retrofit Block by Block and EnergyFit as a crucial part of long-term, equity-led environmental planning. Continuing a legacy of capacity building and technical assistance services to grassroots groups that reaches back to the 1960s, the Center has supported community-led organizations across New York City to shape development in their neighborhoods, build power against displacement, undo legacies of systemic racism in the built environment, hold the powerful accountable, and envision a city in which all New Yorkers can thrive. 

Interim Director Lena Afridi is well positioned to continue and expand this work. Born in Karachi, Pakistan and raised in Queens, she has devoted her career to fighting for good jobs, truly affordable housing, and equitable development shaped by and for low-wealth communities of color and immigrant communities. Her work has spanned movements for over a decade and connects issues of race, labor, and city planning, all of which will both ground and connect Pratt Center to its historic priorities of addressing economic and racial inequities through rigorous research, data analysis, and advocacy. Prior to joining Pratt as Director of Policy and Strategic Partnerships, she was the Director of Policy at the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development and served as Policy Director for Maya Wiley’s 2021 mayoral campaign. Lena is a Next City Vanguard Fellow and an Urban Design Forum Forefront Fellow.

It is expected that the search for the next permanent Director of the Pratt Center will be inclusive, broad, and will position Pratt Center for the decades to come.

About Pratt Center

Founded in 1963, the Pratt Center for Community Development works for a more just, equitable, and sustainable city for all New Yorkers. As part of Pratt Institute, we leverage professional skills including participatory planning, community organizing, and public policy advocacy to support community-based organizations in their efforts to challenge systemic inequities and advance sustainable development.

About Pratt Institute

Founded in 1887, Pratt Institute is a global leader in higher education dedicated to preparing its 4,700 undergraduate and graduate students for successful careers in art, design, architecture, information, and liberal arts and sciences. Located in a cultural hub with historic campuses in Brooklyn and Manhattan, Pratt is a living lab of craft and creativity with an esteemed faculty of accomplished professionals and scholars who challenge their talented students to transform their passion into meaningful expression.


31 Jan, 2022