GrowNYC's Board of Directors

In Memoriam: Marian S. Heiskell

Marian S. Heiskell, among many accomplishments, was a former newspaper executive, lifelong conservationist, and a leader in numerous public and philanthropic activities. She was a member of the Board of Directors of The New York Times Company from 1963-1997, and also served as its director of special activities from 1963 to 1977.

In 1970, Mayor John Lindsay created The Mayor's Council on the Environment of New York City - which we now know as GrowNYC - and persuaded Ms. Heiskell to lead it.

Mrs. Heiskell and her late husband, Andrew Heiskell, a former chairman of Time Inc., held many honors, including being recognized in November of 1999 as "Living Landmarks" by The New York Landmarks Conservancy for their efforts towards preserving New York City.

In recognition of her years of service to the city and her efforts to make its neighborhoods green, vital and more humane, the Marian S. Heiskell Garden was opened in September 1997.

We miss you Marian. Thank you for everything.


Robert J. Kafin, Chair

Robert J. Kafin is an environmental lawyer at Proskauer Rose LLP. He is the founder and a member of the firm’s Environmental Group and has a long history of involvement in non-profit conservation and civic matters.

From 1991 to 2009, Bob was a member of the senior management of the Proskauer firm, serving as its Chief Operating Partner for 15 years and also as its General Counsel.

In his legal career Bob has handled complex problems covering the entire spectrum of environmental issues including  air and water quality, solid and hazardous waste management, environmental impact, analysis, toxic substances, agricultural and forestry practices, public park protection, navigable waterways, land use and development regulation, wetlands, and conservation easements.

In addition to his position at GrowNYC, Bob is also Chair of the Times Square Alliance and the Adirondack Council.  He is a Director of Parks and Trails New York and a member of the Executive Committee of the New York State Bar Association’s Environmental Law Section, both of which he previously chaired.  Bob has served on many other boards and other entities including The Broadway Association, the Preservation League of New York State, the Carl Schurz Park Association, Manhattan Community Board No. 8, Citizens for Clean Air, the Solid Waste Advisory Board of the Manhattan Borough President, and Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts.


Sonia Toledo, Vice Chair

Ms. Toledo is a Managing Director at Frasca & Associates LLC, a woman-owned transportation consulting and financial advisory firm. Prior to joining Frasca & Associates in June 2017 to build the firm's general municipal practice, Ms. Toledo was a public finance investment banker. Over her 29 year career, she led complex transactions designed to solve public infrastructure funding challenges throughout the Northeast Region.

Ms. Toledo is a resident of New York City and a graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Business School.


Charlene Balfour, Treasurer

Charlene Balfour is a Managing Director and Head of KYC Strategic Programs. She also serves as the Business Initiatives Lead for Corporate and Investment Bank (CIB). Charlene is responsible for delivering the business and regulatory KYC agenda for CIB.

Prior to her current role, Charlene managed the Global Operations Control Managers within Banking Operations and was the CIB Compliance Lead within Internal Audit. In these control roles, Charlene oversaw plans and control reviews related to BSA/AML, Sanctions, Payments, Market and E-communications Surveillance, Dodd-Frank and Volcker.

Before joining JPMorgan, Charlene worked at Lloyds Banking Group where she was the Chief Compliance Officer for North America and the BSA Officer. In that capacity, she was responsible for providing day to day oversight of BSA/AML and OFAC Programs enterprise-wide, in addition to the regional execution of the corporate compliance and compliance testing programs.

Charlene joined Lloyds Banking Group from Bank of America where she served in several roles including the Head of the Compliance’s Surveillance and Monitoring team and as a senior member of the ABS Syndicate Desk. Charlene is a Salomon Brothers alumna where she first became licensed by NASD, CFTC to execute bonds, commodities, options and derivatives transactions.

Charlene was recently recognized as a 2018 Harlem YMCA Black Achievers in Industry (bai) award.


Jordan Barowitz, Secretary

Jordan Barowitz is a Vice President and the Director of External Affairs for The Durst Organization.

Mr. Barowitz oversees the government and media relations and corporate giving for the New York real estate builder, owner and manager. He oversaw the public affairs of the construction and opening of the 2.1 million square foot One Bryant Park, the first LEED Platinum skyscraper ever built. He helped win the RFP for One World Trade Center and manages the company’s government affairs and public relations for the Western Hemisphere’s tallest building. 

In 2013, with the project team, he successfully won the zoning changes for a 709-unit residential rental tower on West 57th Street. He is the former First Deputy Press Secretary for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York City, served as press secretary on the Mayor’s re-election campaign in 2005 and was the Communications Director for the New York City Council.  He is a native of New York City and a graduate of Friends Seminary High School and Vassar College. 

Mr. Barowitz is an Executive Board Member of GrowNYC, a Vice Chair of the Brooklyn Public Library, a Steering Committee Member of the Association for A Better New York (ABNY) and The Durst Organization’s representative to the Grand Central Partnership, Times Square Alliance and Bryant Park Corporation and a member of the CLS BID. 


Arline Bronzaft

Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D. is a Professor Emerita of Lehman College, City University of New York and an Expert Witness on noise impacts. Dr. Bronzaft conducts research, writes and lectures on the adverse effects of noise on mental and physical health.

She has written broadly on noise including Why Noise Matters 2011 of which she is a co-author, chapters in environmental books and encyclopedias, published articles in academic journals and has writings in the popular press.

She is frequently quoted in the media in the U.S. and abroad and in 2007 assisted in the updating of the 2007 New York City Noise Code.


Wellington Chen

Wellington Z. Chen is the Executive Director of the Chinatown Partnership. The Partnership is currently working with NYC Department of Transportation to design a wayfinding pilot project which is expected to have the first trial test prototype installed in the ground within 12 months.

As the Executive Director, he aims to create transformative projects while creating an infrastructure that can sustain and thrive to deliver meaningful results for the Partnership. Wellington has a long record of community service and civic engagement.

As a young volunteer and student studying architecture and environmental studies, he began to see his neighborhood worsening – inspiring a lifelong interest and pursuit in community resuscitation and rejuvenation. In the process Wellington became the first Chinese American to serve on a community board and local development corporation in Queens and was eventually recruited to serve on the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals.

He led numerous initiatives and co-founded a number of organizations, including a firm to offer strategic advice and insights to help shape and guide public/private policies. His work as Landmark Committee Chair helped to preserve and restore Flushing Town Hall and he designed the structure that now houses the Tonga Mission to the United Nations.


Victoria Contino

Vicky Contino was a partner at Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman, & Dicker LLP, led the firm’s Government Relations practice in New York City for 16 years and was actively involved in matters in Albany, NY and at the federal level. She represented more than two dozen of the firm’s high-profile clients, from associations in the tourism, banking and real estate industries to individual Fortune 500 companies and non-profit organizations.

Several times each year Vicky spoke at conferences of the New York Bankers Association, New York Hotel Board, New York Association of Realtors, Broadway League and other firm clients on pending government issues and their impact on membership.

Currently retired, Vicky now enjoying traveling the world with her husband.


Bret Csencsitz

Bret Csencsitz is the Managing Partner of Gotham Bar and Grill and long-time friend of GrowNYC. 

At Gotham, he ensures that the restaurant lives up to its legacy while continuing to push boundaries and elevate itself among New York’s best and most beloved restaurants. Prior to working at Gotham, Mr. Csencsitz was a leader for seven years in Daniel Boulud’s restaurant group. Before entering the restaurant industry, he worked in the performing and cinematic arts as an actor, director and producer.  

Mr. Csencsitz has demonstrated his commitment to New York and fresh local food through his work with GrowNYC since 2009. He began by supporting GrowNYC’s educational programming, believing younger generations could greatly benefit from understanding where their food comes from and how to eat better. However, he has consistently supported GrowNYC’s mission throughout his tenure by highlighting fresh local produce from the Greenmarket on the Gotham menu, celebrating Gotham’s 30th Anniversary with a stylish GrowNYC fundraiser and donating proceeds from various Gotham campaigns to support Project Farmhouse.  GrowNYC looks forward to having Mr. Csencsitz and Gotham  Bar & Grill as a neighbor in 2016.


Samara Daly

Samara is a partner at Bolton St. Johns, where she brings her expertise in stakeholder partnerships and community engagement along with extensive work with affordable housing developers and non-profit capital projects.

Samara is also co-founder of DalyGonzalez an M/WBE boutique government and community affairs firm where she has helps to navigate and nurture public-private partnerships for their diverse range of clients. Samara has extensive experience in city government and working with non-profits and developers ranging from cultural, education institutions to mix-use developers and high-tech companies.

She spent over 12 years as a senior aide in the Speakers Office in the City Council where she oversaw the Scheduling and Advance Department and public-private partnerships for the Speaker. After working in the Speaker’s Office, Samara was the Director of Strategic Partnerships for Macro-Sea, a local developer working on innovative projects that included the creation of New Lab at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the restoration of the iconic Chelsea Hotel and oversaw the Public Affairs for St. Ann’s Warehouse redevelopment of the Tobacco Warehouse at Brooklyn Bridge Park. She continues to work with St. Ann’s to date. Samara works in New York City and in the Mid-Hudson Valley Region. Samara sits on the Board of Directors of All in Bklyn, Chairs Council of BRIC and the Service Learning Project NYC.

Samara resides in Carroll Gardens with her husband, 11-year-old son and their dog, Morris.


Jacqueline Dryfoos

Ms. Jacqueline D. Dryfoos is a psychotherapist in private practice in New York City.

She has a lifelong interest in environmental issues and has been on the GrowNYC board for more then 20 years.

She strongly feels that maintenance of our natural resources is critical for our mental health.


Nancy Elder

Nancy Elder was the Vice President and Chief Communications Officer for JetBlue Airways from 2014-2017.  She oversaw all internal and external communications as well reputation and crisis management programs.

Ms. Elder co-founded Matter Unlimited and served as its Chief Operating Officer and then Chief Strategy Officer from 2011-2014.

Prior to this, Ms. Elder was the Chief Marketing Officer for Marsh.   While at Marsh, she led a comprehensive restructuring of its global marketing function while simultaneously repositioning the brand and launching the award winning "Find the Upside" advertising campaign.

Ms. Elder has spent her career shaping strategies and redefining brands for some of the world's leading companies, including General Electric, MasterCard and Time Warner.  Nancy started her career in PR and advertising at several of the world's largest agencies on behalf of clients including American Express, IBM, General Motors, and Hasbro. Over the course of her career, she has worked on a number of transformative communication strategies including the MasterCard "Priceless" campaign and GE's "Imagination at Work."

Nancy serves on Governor Cuomo's New York State Tourism Advisory Council and is a David Rockefeller Fellow.  She is also a board member of the JetBlue Foundation, JetBlue Technology Ventures, Matter Unlimited, and the Montauk Playhouse Community Center Foundation. She graduated from University of Georgia with a bachelor's degree in journalism.


Christopher Elliman

Christopher Elliman serves as CEO of the Open Space Institute, a land conservation organization based in New York, which has protected 2.3 million acres and created or expanded over 60 public parks. Previously, Mr. Elliman has worked in both financial and environmental sectors. He has worked as President of Gray, Seifert & Co., Inc., an investment management company; Managing Director of Barrett Associates, Inc.; General Partner of Elmrock Group. He was Director and Chairman of Piggly Wiggly Southern, director of Fresh Fields Markets, and he held the post of President of the Overhills Group.

Mr. Elliman has served on many other non-profit and foundation boards, including the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the Wilderness Society, the Wildlife Conservation Society, Overhills Foundation, Storm King Arts Center, Environmental Defense, the Dalton School, and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Everard Findlay

Everard Findlay is the founder and CEO of Everard Findlay LLC (EFLLC), specializing in International Brand and Development Strategy.

EFLLC involves a broad network of world leaders and innovators that come from an array of industries. Findlay’s work emphasizes intersections between urban planning and its impact on branding, designing sustainable environmental and social programs to reconcile public, private and NGOs, and in strengthening alliances through cultural exchange.

Recent projects include the development of a brand strategy and identity for the country the Republic of Suriname. Findlay is also currently a consultant to Ram Real Estate Development Company/The Platform, a major stakeholder in the re-development of the City of Detroit.

In addition to GrowNYC, Findlay is a member of the advisory boards for Columbia University’s National Center for Children in Poverty at the Mailman School of Public Health, The Center for Cosmic Origins at Dartmouth College, The Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Engagement at Dartmouth, Neuehouse, and UNDP's Turning Tables Project.


Mark Izeman

Mark Izeman is the New York Regional Director and a Senior Attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Over his 30-year career with NRDC, he has spearheaded numerous environmental campaigns, litigation efforts, and strategic initiatives on issues such as regional food, fossil fuels, recycling, brownfields, drinking water, transportation, and parks and open space. Mark also spent three years in Moscow, Russia working on climate change and energy efficiency issues.

Izeman is the author or co-author of numerous publications, including The New York Environment Book. He served as law clerk to a U.S. federal district judge in his home state of Rhode Island, and is Chairman of the Board of the Catskill Mountainkeeper.

He is a graduate of Brown University and New York University School of Law, where he was a Root Tilden Scholar.


Anita Kawatra

Anita Kawatra is a communications and public affairs executive in New York. She is currently executive vice president at Edelman, where she oversees a global portfolio in life sciences. She previously held leadership roles at Prothena Biosciences Inc., Elan Pharmaceuticals and Merck & Co. Anita wrote speeches for New York City Mayor David Dinkins and New York State Governor Mario Cuomo during their administrations, and she served as Mayor Dinkins’ chief of staff and media advisor following his tenure in office.

Anita holds a BA from Yale University and an MA from Columbia University.  She is an adjunct instructor in the MS program in Public Relations and Corporate Communications at New York University. She serves on the President’s Council of Sanctuary for Families and the benefit committee of the Association to Benefit Children and works with other nonprofit human services groups including Mothers2Mothers and Generation Citizen. Anita is a 2015 recipient of the Indian American Forum Achievement Award. She has presented on women’s history at academic conferences, curated a contemporary women’s art exhibition, and published short stories in collected volumes and magazines.


John S. Lyons

John Lyons is a producer who resides in New York City.  His recent credits include the Universal film Sisters and the upcoming HBO series The Young Pope. He also produced Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Pieces of April, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, and Austin Powers in Goldmember. From 2003 to 2011 he was the President of Production at Focus Features, overseeing all aspects of production and shepherding the making of a popular and award-winning slate of films, including Gus Van Sant's Milk, Joe & Ethan Coen's Burn After Reading and A Serious Man, Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain, Fernando Meirelles' A Constant Gardender, Martin McDonagh's In Bruges, Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers, and David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises.

John is the Board Chair and Founder of Edible Schoolyard NYC, as well as serving on the board of the Film Committee for the Museum of Modern Art.

He has a summa cum laude degree in the History of Art from the University of Michigan.


Lys McLaughlin Pike

Born and raised in New York City, Lys McLaughlin Pike graduated with a degree in Classical Civilizations at NYU. She served as Executive Director of the Council on the Environment of NYC (now GrowNYC) from 1978-2005.

Lys is married to Thomas F. Pike and lives in Maine and NYC.


Liz Neumark

Liz Neumark is the Founder and CEO of Great Performances, New York City’s leading catering and creative events company with a commitment to local and seasonal food, environmental stewardship and social responsibility.

Liz transformed the company from a part-time staffing agency for women in the arts in 1979 to one of the country’s foremost catering companies. Great Performances serves many of the top organizations in the tri-state area and is the exclusive caterer for distinguished NYC institutions including, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Brooklyn Museum, BAM, Apollo Theater and The Plaza Hotel. In 2006, she established Katchkie Farm in Kinderhook, NY, making Great Performances the first catering company to own and operate an organic farm. The same year she also helped launch The Sylvia Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing issues in children’s health with hands-on experiences growing and cooking healthy food.

In addition to the GrowNYC board, Liz sits on several food- and community-related boards such as the New York State Council on Food Policy, West Side Campaign Against Hunger, and the Food and Finance High School. She is the Board Chair of the Hudson Square Connection and The Sylvia Center. She is also author of Sylvia’s Table, a highly acclaimed seasonal cookbook for the family, and writes a blog on the Huffington Post. 


Charles Ramat

Charles S. Ramat is presently the President and CEO of Neurotrope, Inc (NTRP), a biotech company with a lead compound in clinical trials exploring disease reversal in Alzheimer's Disease  as well as pre-clinical investigation in other neurodegenerative  diseases affecting children and young adults. He is also an investor in and consultant to various industries, among them real estate, mortgage banking, wireless communications and medical devices, and the founder and owner of Bethel Farms Communities, an environmentally friendly series of gated communities on aprox. 1000 acres in the Catskills, where he also owns Wagging Tail Farm, a 200 acre organic farm producing hay, organic fruits, vegetables, eggs and maple syrup.

Mr. Ramat also served for several years as a Director of The City Parks Foundation, and as the CEO of various public and private companies engaged in real estate, apparel design and manufacturing, and restaurant operations and franchising.

He presently resides at Wagging Tail Farm in Bethel,N.Y. as well as in Manhattan, and is married for forty years to Ora Ramat, a prominent yoga instructor and the owner of Wagging Tail Yoga. Together they have three children.

Mr. Ramat graduated cum laude from Yeshiva College and from the Columbia School of Law.


Frances A. Resheske

Ms. Resheske manages government relations, regulatory relations and the energy markets policy departments. She oversees Con Edison’s corporate communications; media relations; digital and social media; branding and advertising. She also oversees community relations, economic development, corporate philanthropy and volunteer programs. She manages a budget of $40 million and a staff of 120. Ms. Resheske is a member of the company’s Corporate Leadership Team.
Ms. Resheske is board president of Queens Theatre and a board member of BAM, St. Joseph’s College, the Lincoln Center Women’s Leadership Council, and the Association for a Better New York and its Foundation. She is a member of the Women’s Forum. She has served on numerous non-profit boards throughout the years.

Before joining Con Edison, Ms. Resheske was the general manager of government relations and community development at KeySpan Energy. Previously, she held several positions in community relations and economic development in the administration of New York City Mayor Koch.

Ms. Resheske is a summa cum laude graduate of St. John’s University with a degree in government and politics. She is a certified Economic Development Finance Professional by the National Development Council, received her Certificate in Corporate Community Involvement from the Boston College Carroll School of Management, and a Certificate of Professional Development from The Wharton School. She is currently enrolled in in the Women’s Senior Leadership Program at the Kellogg School of Management.

She is a graduate of Leadership America, Leadership New York, and the Rockefeller Fellows program.


Barbara Samuelson

Barbara Samuelson is a Senior Vice President at Merrill Lynch where she has been for more than 30 years. She oversees a team of investment professionals who manage client portfolios. Early in her career, she wrote investment articles for Barron’s and The New York Times.

A lifelong New Yorker, she is very interested in improving the environment where we live and in helping others to improve it too.

She is on the board of the American Israel Cultural Foundation, the President’s Commission at Wheaton College, an active member of the Westport Country Playhouse and a Senior member of the Financial Women’s Association.


Lea Savoji

Born in Paris, and raised in Washington, DC, Lea graduated with a Bachelor in Economics from the George Washington University, where her thesis was focused on the impact of agricultural subsidies on farmers. During her time in DC, Lea worked at the World Bank until pursuing a Masters in Economics, with a focus on development, from Boston University.

Lea is currently a Vice President within Capital One’s Commercial Bank, where she implements risk reduction and mitigation efforts.

Lea has a strong passion for concepts of social equity, equal availability of resources, and sustainability through innovation. She currently resides in Glendale, Queens with her fiancé Eduard and her rescue dog, Jabba.


Nick Scharlatt

Nick is a co-founder of Foothold Technology, a software company that works with nonprofit agencies across the country.  Foothold helps human service agencies keep track of the people they are providing services to and then report back to different funding streams.  Since 2000, Foothold has expanded to work with over 900 agencies across more than 26 states in all areas of human services, from mental health and homelessness to substance abuse, developmental disabilities and beyond.

Nick’s career prior to Foothold included work in the sports media and business sector most recently in sales and marketing positions at The Sporting News magazine.  He has also spent time at ESPN Classic, Major League Baseball, CBS Sports during the Albertville Olympics and working as a sous chef at the Boonville Hotel in Northern California.  Nick graduated from Vassar College with a BA in English.


Eugene Schneur

Eugene is the co-Managing Director and co-founder of Omni New York LLC. Since Omni’s inception in 2004, Eugene has overseen the day to day operations of the organization that has grown into a full service real estate organization (development, construction and management) employing over 600 full time employees. During this period, Omni has acquired and rehabilitated (or is in the process of rehabilitating) 64 properties totaling over 12,700 units of affordable housing with an aggregate transaction amount of approximately $1.5 Billion dollars.

Prior to becoming a principal with Omni New York LLC, Eugene was a Mergers and Acquisitions attorney with Olshan Grundman Frome Rosenzweig & Wolosky LLP in New York.
Eugene holds a degree from Cornell University in Industrial and Labor Relations, a J. D. from Benjamin Cardozo School of Law, and is a graduate of Stuyvesant High School in New York City.

Johan Segergren

Johan Segergren is a Top Account Manager at Google Inc. 

Marianne Spraggins

Marianne Spraggins is an investment banker, attorney and marketing executive with extensive experience in municipal and mortgage finance, private equity and asset management.  She began her Wall Street career at Salomon Brothers where she was part of the team that created residential mortgage securities and marketed this new product to institutional and public pension fund investors. Later, while at Smith Barney, she became the first African American female Managing Director on Wall Street. She also served as Senior Counsel to the Congressional Oversight Panel, a body created by Congress to oversee the U.S. Treasury’s implementation of the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

She is now part of several entrepreneurial ventures that are developing new products including BondFactor, a company that is developing a disruptive approach to municipal bond insurance and app.ology, a custom voice messaging app for enterprises.

Ms. Spraggins is a former director of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation ( S.I.P.C.), where she was appointed by President Bill Clinton and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to the agency that protects investors in the event of broker/dealer failure.

She formerly served as a member of the Executive Committee of the Democratic National Committee, co-chair of its Credentials Committee and as a super delegate to several Democratic National Conventions.

A native New Yorker, Ms. Spraggins received an LL.M. in International Law from Harvard Law School, a J.D. from the New York Law School and a B.A. in English Literature from Boston University. She is a member of the Bar of the State of New York and is a member of the federal bar in the Southern District of New York.  

Commissioner Oxiris Barbot, NYC Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene
Commissioner Katherine Garcia, NYC Dept. of Sanitation
Commissioner Vincent Sapienza, NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection
Commissioner Mitchell Silver, NYC Dept. of Parks and Recreation
Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, NYC Dept. of Transportation

Your locally grown Christmas trees, wreaths, and boughs will stay fresher longer and smell amazing.

  • Food Access & Agriculture

    Our network of Greenmarket farmers markets, Farmstands, and Fresh Food Box sites, coupled with GrowNYC Wholesale, ensures that all New Yorkers have access to the freshest, healthiest local food.

  • Conservation

    We provide food scrap drop-offs, clothing collections, Stop 'N' Swap® community reuse events, and zero waste trainings to make resource conservation easy for all.

  • Green Space

    We build and rejuvenate community & school gardens in all 5 boroughs, and support even more gardens through volunteer days, technical assistance, school garden grants, & more.

  • Education

    We foster future environmental stewards by providing 66,000 children each year with programs that provide meaningful interactions with the natural environment.