Board Elections: Who’s on the Ballot?

NYCCGC Board Elections are on Thursday, April 20th.

On the ballot: Ray Figeuroa-Reyes, Aresh Javadi, Renee Peperone, Jill Poklemba, Sharon Sockwell, Mike Young (new), Christine Johnson (new), Ellen Belcher (new)

Learn more about current board members.

More about the new candidates:

Mike Young is president and director of Padre Plaza Community garden located on 139th Street and Saint Ann's Avenue in the Bronx. Since 2006 Young has attended and taught several educational learning workshops and events in gardening, compost, soil testing, tree pruning, healthy eating, and planting organic vegetables and fruits. One of the main goals at Padre Plaza community garden is to establish, maintain, and continue to enhance the quality and safekeeping of community gardens as well as the importance of hardworking gardeners of all races and ages. We teach gardeners to work as a team and to provide the youth with strong leadership training of productivity. Young is honored to be considered to become a member of the NYCCGC team.


Christine Johnson is an avid gardener and has been gardening for the past 12 years in the historic Pleasant Village Community Garden in East Harlem. For two years, she served as the PVCG events coordinator and then for four years as garden president. Chris moved to NYC in 1983 after high school to study ballet at the Joffrey Ballet School. She later received her Ph.D. in Biopsychology at The Graduate School & University Center of CUNY, and completed her dissertation on the chemical communication of ‘slave-maker’ ants and their hosts. She spent a year in Finland doing post-doctoral work on wood ants and a year in Belgium lab working on a special group of south-east Asian and Costa Rican ants. At the American Museum of Natural History, Chris now works as the Curatorial Associate for the Division of Invertebrate Zoology. Chris serves as Publications Chair for the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections and Managing Editor for their journal Collection Forum (this tenure will end shortly – thankfully – it’s a lot of work) and as Managing Editor for Entomologica Americana. Currently, she is a ‘master composter’ and member of the Solid Waste Advisory Board in Manhattan.

Johnson came to know of the New York City Community Garden Coalition when Pleasant Village Community garden first became aware of the plan to build three luxury towers between 30- 50 stories tall as part of the East Harlem Mall, which would reduce PVCG’s sunlight by 40%. She would be honored to be part of the board so that I may help promote NYCCGC’s mission and advocate to save our community gardens, as well as to help them grow in sustainable and healthy ways.

Ellen Belcher has been an assistant professor and special collections librarian at John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY since 2004. She is also an archaeologist and holds a PhD in Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology from Columbia University. She is a Master Composter, trained at Seattle Tilth, a community cat colony caretaker and a bike commuter and activist. Belcher has been involved in NYC community gardens and open space as an activist, organizer and gardener. Belcher became involved in activism and open spaces as the gardening coordinator for Time’s Up! from 2004 to 2008. During this time she coordinated garden cleanups, Roving Garden Parties, and a Save Harlem Gardens Ride to highlight the 21 endangered Harlem Gardens. She joined the Morris-Jumel Community Garden on West 162nd Street 10 years ago, held membership at Children's Magical Garden, and previously served on the NYCCGCboard. In all her work, Belcher has focused on direct action, non-hierarchical consensus decision-making, transparency and respect for all community members. Belcher is seeking to rejoin the NYCCGC board because recent City pressure on gardens and neighborhoods in the name of ‘affordable housing’ is very disturbing and familiar.  She wants to lend a hand in the community organizing around these issues at the grassroots level.