Program Aims to Bridge Gap Between College and Real World
By Linda Laban
Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A crowd of more than 500 people attended the opening celebration for Pratt Institute’s Brooklyn Fashion and Design Accelerator (BF+DA), which launched Nov. 11 with a reception headed by Pratt Institute President Thomas Schutte and BF+DA Executive Director Debera Johnson. This entrepreneur incubator — designed to bridge the gap between college and earning a living in the real world — is located on the seventh floor of the former headquarters of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer on Flushing Avenue on the South Williamsburg and Bed-Stuy border. The building is already home to many thriving food and beverage start-ups, including Kombucha Brooklyn, Village Fishmonger and Liddabit Sweets.
Currently at 21,000 square feet with room for further expansion, the BF+DA’s “tenants” pay rent for their space and use of amenities, which includes a 3-D rapid prototyping center, textile and technology labs, a showroom, retail space and conference rooms. The space includes 30 studios. Not all tenants are Pratt Institute alumni, and the businesses are not limited to being fashion or design-oriented. Some are focused on technology, developing products and materials.
“It’s about jobs, jobs, jobs,” Dr. Schutte said in his opening remarks. “It’s about economic development, being creative and being able to contribute to society.” Schutte spoke passionately, but was reticent to hog the spotlight away from BF+DA Executive Director Johnson and guest speakers Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna, a native of the area, who remembered the economic impact of Pfizer’s closure after 150 years of operating in Brooklyn, and state Sen. Martin J. Golden, who spoke about the importance of building the local economy via micro entrepreneurship.
BF+DA was launched with more than $2 million in funding pledges from Pratt Institute, the state of New York, New York City and the Borough of Brooklyn. The investment for businesses in the area stemmed fears that Pfizer would add to the condo-ization of Brooklyn’s working class neighborhoods, thus further cutting job opportunities. The BF+DA’s motto is “Make The Future Here” and, naturally, it comes written with a hashtag: #MaketheFutureHere.