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[Last name, First name], Oral history interview conducted by [Interviewer’s First name Last name], [Month DD, YYYY], [Title of Collection], [Call #]; Brooklyn Historical Society.
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Oral history interview conducted by Sady Sullivan with Kate Fermoile
February 04, 2008
Call number: 2008.030.39
Oral History Interview with Ronald Shiffman
Ron Shiffman was born in 1938 in Israel. His parents had immigrated to Israel from Russia after his father was imprisoned in a Siberian gulag for his expression of Zionist political views. Shiffman's parents later immigrated to the Bronx borough of New York City, where Shiffman grew up. Shiffman graduated from Pratt Institute's School of Architecture, and later its School of Urban Planning. In 1964, Shiffman co-founded the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development (now known as the Pratt Center for Community Development). In 1965, Shiffman, in partnership with the Central Brooklyn Coordinating Council and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, conceived and launched the first community development corporation, known today as the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation. In 2012, Shiffman won the Jane Jacobs medal for Lifetime Achievement from the Rockefeller Foundation.
In this interview, Ron Shiffman remembers the nascence of what became Restoration. He provides background information, tells of its involvement with the Central Brooklyn Coordinating Council, which spearheaded its initial plan, and their fated introduction to U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy. Shiffman recounts Kennedy's historic tour of the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn; the founding of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Renewal and Rehabilitation Corporation and the schism that birthed Restoration. Shiffman provides his opinion on the role that racism, sexism, and classism played in Bedford-Stuyvesant politics of the 1960s. Shiffman discusses the problems with reliance on federal funding for community development corporations (CDCs), and discusses Restoration's succession of presidents, noting their individual legacies. Shiffman discusses his work as a consultant to CDCs worldwide, particularly in South Africa. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan with Kate Fermoile.
Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS) and Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation (Restoration) partnered on the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation oral history project in 2007-2008 to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of Restoration's founding as the first community development corporation (CDC) in the United States. Nearly sixty interviews were conducted with founding Board members, supporters, activists, artists, tenants, and other community members. Audio clips from these oral history interviews were included in the exhibit "Reflections on Community Development: Stories from Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation" (BHS 2008, Restoration 2009).
CitationShiffman, Ronald, Oral history interview conducted by Sady Sullivan with Kate Fermoile, February 04, 2008, Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation oral histories, 2008.030.39; Brooklyn Historical Society.
- Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation
- Central Brooklyn Coordinating Council (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
- Kennedy, Robert F., 1925-1968
- Pratt Institute
- Shiffman, Ron
- African Americans
- Black nationalism
- City planning
- Community development corporations
- Community development, Urban
- Community organizing
- Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
- Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
- South Africa
Finding AidBedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation oral histories