Who We Are
Board of Directors
Kevin Cheng is a graduate of Queens College and now a Master of Biology candidate and his coursework has centered on the flora and fauna of New York in various habitats. Kevin's work experience in natural science laboratories and at the Great Basin Institute in Nevada as a Naturalist/Outdoor Educator through AmeriCorps combined with his work at two non-profit organizations in the Lower East Side have reaffirmed his enthusiasm for the environment and helping others. Kevin hopes that by continuing to surround himself with challenging people and ideas, he will not only obtain a better understanding of the natural world, but also develop new ways to apply this knowledge. He believes the best way to create a more sustainable New York is to encourage more New Yorkers to be personally invested in the well-being of their environment through education and awareness. In his role as Compost Associate for the NYC Compost Project Local Organics Recovery Program hosted at the Lower East Side Ecology Center, Kevin will bring composting into people's awareness and offer New Yorkers a hands-on way to better the environment.
Derrika was born and raised in the Lower East Side and graduated from Leadership and Public Service High School with a passion and dedication for community service. She joined the Young Adult Internship Program with Henry Street Setllement, where she became the headcook for the Daycamp program, creating healthy meals for children. In following her passion for teaching and food, she enrolled in the Green City Force AmeriCorps program in 2012, where she was a member on the Urban Farm team. Derrika's cohort built the first farm on NYCHA property at the Red Hook West Houses development. During her time with Green City Force, she also helped create and teach lessons on compost and urban agriculture to children and the community. Derrika is excited to apply her composting skills in her new position as Compost Associate for the NYC Compost Project Local Organics Recovery Program hosted at the Lower East Side Ecology Center.
co-founder and executive director
Christine Datz-Romero is the co-founder and executive director of the Lower East Side Ecology Center and a long time resident of the neighborhood. Christine has shown her environmental activism by developing innovative, community based recycling programs over the last two decades. Through the Compost Collection program, Christine has introduced the idea of composting to countless New Yorkers, and spearheaded and sustained the effort to compost food waste in Manhattan. She is a true compost pioneer, inspiring people to compost in their own homes and communities. Additionally, Christine has been at the forefront of the Ecology Center’s innovative Electronics Waste Recycling program. Her passion for green space makes her an advocate for community involvement in public open space. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Queens College and has done graduate work at the New School/Milano School for Nonprofit Management. As a member of NYC’s environmental community for more than two decades, Christine currently serves on the board of the 6th Street & Avenue B Garden, is a public member of the Waterfront Committee of Community Board 3, and past chair of the Manhattan Solid Waste Advisory Board.
Andrew Hoyles hails from the Great Lake State of Michigan were his love for the natural environment blossomed. Andrew joined the Ecology Center team in 2009 as the Compost Instructor for the New York City Compost Project in Manhattan. His passion for composting comes from an abundance of agricultural composting experience and a general love of worms. He holds a Bachelors of Science in Biosystems Engineering from Michigan State University.
e-waste warehouse manager
A native of the Lower East Side, Sam Huntington joined the Ecology Center in the summer of 2012 and has taken on the role of manager at the Center's E-Waste Warehouse. After graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a degree in Political Science, Sam returned to New York in 2008. Since that time he has worked as an event production assistant for several companies, a legislative analyst for the Mayor's Office of Management and Budget, and a municipal investment banking analyst for Service Disabled Veteran Owned Broker-Dealer Drexel Hamilton. He thoroughly enjoys the combination of the warehouse's environmental mission and its "anti desk jockey" vibe.
ecobiznyc program manager
Rebecca Krauss is a transplant from Boston, and brings a love of cities, the environment, and creative solutions to the Ecology Center. Combining these in her pursuit of a graduate degree in Urban Planning at NYU's Wagner School, she studies urban infrastructure and sustainable solutions to the environmental problems associated with it. She joins the Ecology Center in 2010 to support the EcoBizNYC program.
Caroline Kruse has been the Ecology Center’s Development Director since 2008. Before coming to the Ecology Center, Caroline conducted field research measuring the effects of global warming on coral reefs in Bermuda and obtained her undergraduate degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Princeton University. Since her arrival at the Ecology Center, Caroline has learned a great deal about environmentalism in New York City and has gained experience in such diverse subjects as green roofs, materials reuse, and compost bin trouble-shooting. With her passion for all things water, and as a PADI certified science scuba driver, Caroline has begun an oyster gardening project in the East River.
Natalie Wesson’s love of the environment started at a young age, growing up in wild and wonderful West Virginia. As a young adult, she attended Tulane University and received a B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. During which time, she conducted field research on sustainable management of marine resources with the School for Field Studies in the Turks and Caicos. Natalie began her ecological career at the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, managing the Green Apple Corps, an environmental education and ecological restoration program. She joined the Ecology Center in 2011 as Compost Coordinator for the NYC Compost Project in Manhattan.
e-waste program associate
Andi, a native of Puerto Rico, migrated to New York at the age of 16. After graduating high school, she worked in many fields and traveled the country to get a feel for different types of people and their lifestyles (always returning to The Big Apple). While working as a Maintenance Worker for Columbia University and taking green cleaning/environmental courses at La Guardia Community College, she was shocked to learn about environmental problems facing our planet. She joined the Ecology Center in spring 2013 and is ecstatic to do something meaningful and be part of team and not just another employee that clocks in. When you drop-off your e-waste at the Gowanus E-waste Warehouse, you are likely to see Andi!
Board of Directors
Dominique Camacho is a LEED AP and founder of Sustainable NYC, a popular independent eco general store. She is also on the board of the East Village Community Coalition, a neighborhood preservation group. She has lived in NYC for 15 years and is passionate about creative environmental solutions.
Atom Cianfarani is a recycled-commodities designer, sculptor, green roof specialist and board member of the Lower East Side Ecology Center. Everything Atom creates has an integral commitment to preservation. She has designed acclaimed runway fashion with her signature material: recycled inner tubes merged with vintage fabrics, developed the most sustainable restaurant in North America, founded the first young designers co-operative in the New York's East Village, and produced commissioned public sculptures with found materials. Re-use and re-design is her solution to our disposable society; always expanding the boundaries between her love of garbage and good design.
Executive director of the Lower East Side Ecology Center. (See above)
Helena Durst is the vice president and a fourth generation member, The Durst Organization. Helena is a member of the Voices Unbroken’s Board of Directors, a community-based non profit organization dedicated to providing under-heard members of the community with the tools and opportunity for self-expression, through creative writing workshops in jails, prisons, group homes, residential treatment facilities, and various other transitional and alternative settings. She also sits on the Citizens Union Board, a nonpartisan force for good government for more than 100 years that works to inform and engage New Yorkers in its civic and political life. Helena is the Real Estate advisor for her sister’s non-profit arts organization, Chashama. Helena studied real estate at Baruch College and is the great granddaughter of Joseph and Rose Durst. She strives to continue her family’s legacy of leaving places better than when they found them.
Samantha Magistro began her professional career as an intern at Bronx Pro Real Estate Management Inc. After four years of working on tax credit compliance and tenant income certifications, Samantha joined Bronx Pro as an Assistant Project Manager to work on an renovation project - University Macombs Apartments. While pursuing post-graduate studies at Columbia University, she remained active in her field, interning at the Manhattan's Borough President's Office and holding a part-time position as a Project Manager at Enterprise Community Partners. Samantha also spent a semester studying economic and workforce development in post-Katrina New Orleans. Samantha returned to Bronx Pro full time in August 2008 to spearhead larger scale development projects and new business development. Samantha has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Urban Studies from Barnard College and a Masters of Science in Urban Planning from Columbia University. Samantha is a board member of Enterprise Gotham Society, a member of the New York Housing Conference’s Young Leadership Council as well as an active alumna of Barnard College.
Sara Pesek is the Director of Program Development and Strategic Engagement at the Center for Sustainable Community Solutions. She is also the Director of the Environmental Finance Center at Syracuse University, which focuses programming throughout EPA Region 2: New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Ms. Pesek specializes in program design and delivery, and has experience in the areas of environmental finance and policy, project management, environmental communication and engagement, information technology, public outreach, and program development. She sits on a Technical Advisory Committee for a new ICLEI (Local Government for Sustainability) and US Green Building Council (USGBC) program, the STAR Community Index, which will be a metric system for community sustainability. Among her professional engagements, she is a board member of the USGBC Upstate Chapter and has led work in the following areas: agricultural markets, green building and green infrastructure education, pharmaceutical by-products in water, biomass to energy programs, waste management, infrastructure management, wind energy regulation, and the development of a city-wide energy reduction strategy. She has presented at conferences in India, Italy and across the United States. Ms. Pesek also delivers seminars for the National League of Cities at their Leadership Training Institute and is an Adjunct Faculty member at NYU in the Environmental Studies Program, currently teaching a class on Low-Impact development and stormwater management. She received her Master of Public Administration from Syracuse’s Maxwell School and has undergraduate degrees in biology and chemistry.
Clyde Romero is an artist and co-founder of the Lower East Side Ecology Center. Clyde is a longtime resident of the community and has worked to better the lives of people in the Lower East Side by being involved in various community programs. Clyde founded the East 5th Street Community Garden, and was one of the founders of 309 E 4th Street All People's Homestead. Clyde is also well know for his public art projects in Washington Square Park, re-using dead trees and turning them into public sculptures. At the Ecology Center, Clyde has helped to nurture the organization from its beginnings and is currently the Director of the Arts Exposure Program.
Hilary Semel, JD, has been chair of the board of directors of Sustainable South Bronx since 2007. For the past five years, she has been an associate in environmental and construction law at Tannenbaum, Helpern, Syracuse & Hirschtritt, LLP, during which time she oversaw a four-year Brownfield remediation project (Mt. Vernon) that was recognized as a model by the state of New York, and played a key role on a team that negotiated an agreement with a major utility and a multi-state public agency to launch a renewable energy project. In addition, she is adjunct faculty at Milano The New School for Management and Urban Policy for the new Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management Master’s program. She has also served as pro bono advisor to the US Green Building Council, NY Chapter and is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED AP). She earned a BA at Barnard College, Columbia University, and an MA in Marine Affairs & Policy at the University of Miami, where she was a Rosenstiel Fellow.
Dani Simons is the Director of Marketing and Communications for the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, an NGO that promotes sustainable and equitable transportation worldwide. Prior to joining ITDP, Ms. Simons served as Director of Strategic Communications for the New York City Department of Transportation where she managed the agency’s online communications, social media, large-scale marketing campaigns to promote safe and sustainable transportation and started New York City’s Summer Streets program. Prior to that Ms. Simons was the Director of Development and Communications at Transportation Alternatives. For the past decade, she has worked on urban environmental issues on the city, state, national and international levels and coordinated a myriad of special events that bring community and media attention to the relationships between social equity, transportation and public space. She is a daily bike commuter.
Ed Campbell is a recycling expert with more than 20 years experience working in the public, non-profit and private sectors. The Ecology Center developed its in-vessel compost system with Ed's assistance when he was working for the Empire State Development Corporation's Recycling Investment Program. While serving as the Director of Recycling for Per Scholas, a non-profit organization in the South Bronx, he worked closely with the Ecology Center in establishing New York City's first electronic waste collection events. He currently is an independent consultant working on several projects in the Hudson Valley. He lives in Mt. Kisco, NY with his family where he volunteers as the Chair of the local Conservation Advisory Council and is an active member of the Bedford Central School District's Sustainability Committee. He is an avid backyard composter and the worms that he purchased from the Ecology Center 10 years ago are still working hard all year long.
MaryEllen is the Executive Director of Reuse Alliance, a national association that increases the public’s awareness of reuse and strengthens the reuse sector by connecting, supporting and promoting its members. She has worked in the reuse and recycling sectors for over 13 years with several notable organizations, including the NY WasteMatch, NYC Materials Exchange Development Program, London Community Recycling Network and Materials for the Arts. MaryEllen is passionate about reuse and works to strengthen the reuse sector by developing and implementing a wide range of capacity-building services. She provides ongoing input into the sector’s growth and development, and is highly knowledgeable in reuse operations and service delivery programs. MaryEllen received her degree from the State University of New York at New Paltz, is a member of the Social Venture Network, and is on the Board of Directors of three reuse organizations.
Venetia Lannon is the Regional Director for Region 2 (New York City) for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Prior to this, she was Senior Vice President of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, where she led the Maritime group, overseeing the City’s efforts to develop its marine terminals, port facilities, private ferry landings, heliports and freight rail assets. In her previous work at EDC, she was an active participant in the development and negotiation of the City’s 20-year Solid Waste Management Plan, including developing a materials recovery facility at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, overseeing the evaluation and potential piloting of new waste management technologies, as well as an evaluation of the current rate cap on commercial waste hauling. Before joining NYCEDC in 2003, Ms. Lannon was a Deputy Director at the New York City Department of Sanitation’s Recycling Bureau where she oversaw the composting program. Ms. Lannon holds a Bachelors degree from Vassar College and a Masters in Public Administration from Columbia University.
Neil Seldman is co-founder and president of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Since 1974, ILSR has been providing technical assistance to community development organizations, government agencies and industry in sustainable economic development. Seldman focuses on starting or expanding recycling and composting enterprises as joint ventures between community organizations and private firms or government programs. Major US cities and counties have changed their solid waste management systems based on Seldman's efforts, including Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Austin, Hawaii County, HI, St. Lucie County, FL, Alachua County, FL and King County, WA. He has also assisted the World Bank, National Science Foundation, US EPA and US EDA. Prior to co-founding ILSR, Seldman was a manufacturer in NYC and a lecturer in political science at The George Washington University.
Antonia Bryson is an environmental and land use attorney with broad experience in New York City issues. She has been the chief of the environmental section of the Law Department of the City of New York and the Deputy Commissioner in charge of New York City’s air and noise pollution control and hazardous materials programs at the City’s Department of Environmental Protection. Most recently she has been providing low-cost legal assistance to groups and individuals fighting local environmental problems and advocating for improvement of the environment in New York City, through her non-profit, the Urban Environmental Law Center. She has been a member and chair of the Manhattan Solid Waste Advisory Board, co-chair of Subcommittee on Climate Change of the Environmental Law Section of the New York State Bar Association, and a member of the Law Committee of the Municipal Art Society. She graduated from Brown University and received her law degree from New York University.
Antonia served on the board of the Lower East Side Ecology Center as Chairperson as well as general member.
Ciyalana acquired the official title of "Ecology Center Mascot" since his abandonment and subsequent discovery in the tall grasses of East River Park. Upon his arrival in August of 2006, this African Spurred Tortoise showed children how tasty dandelions can be, reorganized office furniture, and entertained park-goers. In late 2009, Ciyalana took a one-way trip to the warmer (and greener, year-round) pastures of Florida, which is closer to his natural desert habitat than seasonal New York City. When we last saw his mischievous grin, he weighed a whopping 30 pounds and was strong enough to dent Caroline's fridge. Of course, we miss him but we look forward to his monthly letters.
Arriving at the Ecology Center's in 1998 and enjoying her life as the Queen of East River Park until 2013, Lucky was the first mascot of the Ecology Center. Christine fished Lucky out of the East River in a milk crate and Lucky repaid the favor by faithfully sitting on important documents, walking on keyboards, and basking on sunny windowsills.
project manager 2007-2011
Carey Pulverman, often known as the "worm lady" by her students, worked as an educator at the Lower East Side Ecology Center since 2007 and then became the Project Manager of the New York City Compost Project in Manhattan. In summer 2011, Carey left the Lower East Side and moved to Austin, Texas to pursue her Ph. D. in psychology.
Kate Zidar is the founder of the North Brooklyn Compost Project. She is an Environmental Planner and her professional focus has been on urban watersheds, stormwater management, and solid waste management. She is a founding member of S.W.I.M., the Stormwater Infrastructure Matters Coalition. She is a faculty member at Pratt Institute's Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment, where she teaches courses ranging from Solid Waste Management to Verbal and Visual Representation. She is a consultant for Habana Outpost -- New York City's first "eco-eatery", a Brooklyn cafe that features a solar-powered kitchen; toilets flushed with rainwater, and a courtyard that doubles as a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat.
Kate served on the board of the Lower East Side Ecology Center.