Street’s Life

Print More

Before million-dollar Bed-Stuy brownstones, before city-subsidized community gardens, mile-long street fairs, parks concerts and the very idea that U.S. cities were places to be celebrated instead of abandoned, there was Street.

From 1972 to 1976, urban planners at the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development (PICCED) published Street: A Magazine of the Urban Environment, a semiannual magazine about what city neighborhoods were and what they could become. “The idea was: What if we look at neighborhoods in a positive way?” remembers Ron Shiffman, who as PICCED’s director was the de facto publisher of the magazine.

Like its successor, City Limits, Street provided practical information to neighborhood residents looking to rebuild their buildings and blocks, informing budding community development groups about government programs aiding development, environmental improvement and employment. Some articles highlighted PICCED’s innovative planning projects, including the first-ever mixed-use zoning plan in New York City and a groundbreaking low-income co-op. Others profiled unsung local residents who were holding their neighborhoods together. Street was more than a handbook; through striking graphic design as well as bold text, it created a space to imagine possibilities for urban revitalization.

Street broadened the reach of what planning could encompass: It included articles about food additives, terrariums, hospital expansion, sewage (one of several reprinted from Better Homes and Gardens), and how to create storage containers out of milk cartons. One cover was a graphic screed against the Vietnam War.

The magazine was mailed to a few hundred community and political leaders around New York City. With no staff exclusively its own, content came from PICCED and Pratt planners, architects and artists. “When deadlines for Street came up, it was all-consuming,” recalls Brian Sullivan, a longtime PICCED planner who is now a community development consultant. What made it worthwhile, he says, was the opportunity for advocacy. “We were not only planners and architects. We had a political point of view,” he explains. “We were progressives who had come out of the civil rights, antiwar and antipoverty movements, and we saw the work we were doing as an extension of that consciousness.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *