NYCCGC Board of Directors

NYCCGC Executive Director
Aziz Dehkan

NYCCGC Board of Directors, 2017

Raymond Figueroa-Reyes - President

Magali Regis - Secretary

Jill Poklemba - Treasurer

Ellen Belcher
Robin Dickens
Brenda DuShane
Aresh Javadi
Christine Johnson
John McBride
Cindy Nibbelink
Renee Peperone
Angela Maull
Nando Rodriquez
Sharon Sockwell
Haja Worley
Mike Young

Bios:

Aziz Dehkan NYCCGC Executive Director: Born and raised in New York City. Having earned a degree in Biological Sciences from Rutgers University in 1976, Aziz built a passive-solar house and started one of the first organic farms in New Jersey. After 12 years, he went into the environmental business, specializing in the disposal of hazardous waste materials. As a community activist, Aziz became a member of his local planning board, and then served as a Board member of two nonprofit agencies devoted to helping women recover from domestic abuse and breaking the cycle of poverty. Switching professional gears, Aziz created a regional major gifts program for the Humane Society of the United States, which led to senior development positions at the NYC Coalition for the Homeless; STRIVE, an East Harlem-based organization, advocating for effective workforce development opportunities; The Fortune Society, where the formerly incarcerated are empowered through services and advocacy, and Mother Jones magazine. Currently Aziz is president of the Eighty20 Group, a fundraising consultancy.

Raymond Figueroa-Reyes NYCCGC President: Strong advocate for community garden preservation.
Coordinator of Alternatives-to-Incarceration (ATI) (2011 – Present)
Policy Advisor to the NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL’s FoodWorks initiative: “FoodWorks: A Vision to Improve NYC’s Food System – Accomplishments and New Ideas”
Member of the MAYOR’s Inter-Agency Taskforce on Urban Agriculture (2012 – Present)
Recipient of in-kind grant from Columbia University’s Institute for Social & Economic Research (2009 – 2010).

Magali Regis NYCCGC Secretary: My involvement with community gardens started 20 years ago when two firemen came knocking at my apartment door (after a complaint from my landlord) ordering me to remove all the plants I had growing on the fire escape. I then transferred my plants to a local community garden, the Creative Little Garden on East 6th Street in the East Village and became a member. It was the mid-90s and many gardens were being bulldozed by the Giuliani administration and the land sold to developers. My friend and neighbor Francoise Cachelin, an avid and determined garden activist, drafted me to attend rallies at City Hall, make flyers and phone calls to elected officials and help plan the ‘Standing our ground’ rally at Bryant Park with Pete Seeger as our special guest. I’ve been a garden activist ever since. I joined the NYCCGC in the fall of 2005 and currently a member of Campos Garden on East 12th Street, Toyota garden on East 11th Street and LUNGS (Loisaida United Neighborhood Gardens). I am also an architect, a world traveler and I love avocados.

Jill Poklemba NYCCGC Treasurer: The Fortune Society Prior to joining Fortune was the Director of Communications and Fund Development for STRIVE International.  She has also worked as a Senior Policy Analyst for Income Security and Workforce Development for the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA).  In each of these positions, Jill has been a staunch advocate and supporter of Green Pathways out of Poverty and programs that offer sector-based skills training related to green construction and environmental sustainability, including urban agriculture and community gardening.

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.

Robin Dickens - A lifelong backyard gardener, I look forward to joining the NYCCGC Board and learning how best to help in establishing, growing and preserving our beautiful NYC gardens.

As a homeowner, in the same house my family has lived in for over 85 years, I was ecstatic to see the Mandela Community Garden members at work in the abandoned lot adjoining my yard. I was so happy to join, and it will be a pleasure to be part of transforming this space into the garden and community venue we're all envisioning. 

During my five years in insurance sales, I've had many opportunities to address the varied communities of NYC--in their schools, churches, parks, homes & workplaces--about the importance of planning ahead and sowing for the future: They would totally get the need to fight for and preserve community gardens!

At the same time, the artist in me has always been amazed and inspired by all the beautiful ways each community has managed to engineer their personal "imprint" onto their cityscape: whether through murals, fence art, mosaics, graffiti, seasonal decor on homes. Also, all manner of gardening is going on, from rooftop gardens, manicured lawns with cottage-styled planting beds, single flowerpots on windowsills, or the many gardens cultivated by the lovely 84 years-young Marian Dolphus of South Jamaica Houses, my new muse! A colleague and I met her by chance last month, when I happened to comment to a NYCHA worker about how amazing this building looked because of the plantings. He said his mother had organized it all, and took us up to meet her. She welcomed two weary agents into her apartment full of gardening awards, plaques, citations and large-format color photos of all her various gardens, representing decades of work and care: it energized our day and brightened my week. I want to be her when I grow up!

But she also helped me realize: "community" can mean so much more than just your immediate few blocks or neighborhood, once we've all found common ground around such a beautiful cause: a greener NYC.

Brenda DuShane - My background is in documentary filmmaking, not-for-profit sector work as well as community organizing. The daughter of a retired NYC private sanitation worker/owner in the pre-Guiliani era I have a unique perspective on NYC, its people, its development, its waste. A life long New York resident I grew up along the Hudson River, spent my whole adult life in Brooklyn and for the last 15 years I’ve called Bushwick my home. During Diana Reyna’s final term in City Council (2013) I sat on the Rheingold Advisory Committee as a community member advocating for the Environment and Open Space. My voice at the table expanded the demands beyond the either/or paradigm of ‘affordable’ housing or open space and healthy communities, and helped to insert community land ownership (CLTs) as a tactic to protect neighborhoods from real estate speculation and outside moneyed interests.  The experience stressed to me the power of unaffiliated community members having a voice at the table, the overall lack of vision and creativity held by private and political players and the urgency to protect land in service of
the public good. NYC’s Community Gardens are a huge community asset accessible to all.
NYCCGC ‘s collective voice must be included in all future citywide planning and it is necessary that existing gardens obtain full garden permanency once and for all. It’s clear to me, that’s the space in our city's decision making NYCCGC needs to occupy. I’m happy to help move this agenda forward if asked to do so.
As Co-Director of BK ROT I focus on grassroots composting efforts in public spaces through a lens of social justice, effectively changing the methods and culture around waste. BK ROT is a project that could not exist without free access to public land. Every Sunday year round our work is done in a community garden in Bushwick. Joining NYCCGC’s board would allow me to connect such localized community determined resiliency work with larger NYC efforts, by working to protect public land keeping it accessible to all.
Garden Affiliations: EL Garden (2013- Present, Member), 1278 Myrtle Community Compost Site & Wildlife Garden (2014 - Present, Member/Organizer)

Aresh Javadi – Aresh has promoted the enhancement and preservation of community gardens as well as the cultivation of fallow land in New York City for decades. Since 1998, he has led the effort to preserve and enhance over 400 community gardens through art, education, grassroots organizing, legal, legislative and direct action and currently serves as Executive Director of More Gardens.

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.

John McBride - John is a member of the Electric Ladybug Garden. He has been working with the NYCCGC and 596 Acres and has been very active in the fight to protect and preserve gardens currently threatened by HPD’s recently issued development program, which immediately puts the future of 17 community gardens in question. John has helped with the recent demonstration at City Hall, and has spoken numerous times at Manhattan’s Community Board 10 along with representatives from other threatened gardens.

Cindy Nibbelink Worley - (aka Cindy Worley) was born in a huge old Iowa farmhouse which, sans roof and windows, was the only thing left standing for miles around after a tornado struck only months after her birth. She grew up in Iowa cornfields, or hayfields—as you will—among tomatoes, pumpkins, sunflowers, melons & beans and between the rows of corn. Little brown striped ground squirrels were her constant companions.
One way or another, she got to New York City, leaving the cornrows and ground squirrels mostly behind, where she has lived, in Harlem on West 122nd Street for the last 30+ years. With her landlord and friend, Mr. Joseph Daniel Wilson, and a group of teenagers, she founded, in 1985, what has become known as the Joseph Daniel Wilson Memorial Garden on West 122nd Street. Cindy met Haja Worley in 1887. Their close friendship blossomed into marriage and together with friends and neighbors they became part of the Community Garden Movement. Together, Haj & Cindy were part of the original City-wide garden coalition, which, through trials and turbulations, has become what it is today—almost twenty years later. Cindy took Giuliani et al to court in the late 90’s arguing (foolishly but fervently) that the destruction of community gardens is “domestic violence” as defined by the United States Constitution, Article IV, Section 4—and persuasively contended by Michael Diamond in his revolutionary book: If You Can Keep It: A Roadmap to To Environmental Security, 1996.
Cindy is passionate, though not always considered reasonable, in her belief that—and fight to make— community gardens [are] one of the most critical pieces of our urban infrastructure—in terms of health, food provision, youth education, societal wellbeing and more.
Cindy holds an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is the author of Gypsies, Animals (poems, Green River Press), and, recently, Wild Wild Roses (poems, Mulberry Garden Press), with The Magic Detective and Other Realities, A Book of Tales soon to be released. In NYC, she has taught at Malcolm King College, Marymount Manhattan College, and with the NYC Department of Education. She is, obviously, married to Haja Worley and they reside, with their pets and others, on 122nd Street across from the JD Wilson Garden.

Renee Peperone - My background is in documentary filmmaking, not-for-profit sector work as well as community organizing. The daughter of a retired NYC private sanitation worker/owner in the pre-Guiliani era I have a unique perspective on NYC, its people, its development, its waste. A life long New York resident I grew up along the Hudson River, spent my whole adult life in Brooklyn and for the last 15 years I’ve called Bushwick my home. During Diana Reyna’s final term in City Council (2013) I sat on the Rheingold Advisory Committee as a community member advocating for the Environment and Open Space. My voice at the table expanded the demands beyond the either/or paradigm of ‘affordable’ housing or open space and healthy communities, and helped to insert community land ownership (CLTs) as a tactic to protect neighborhoods from real estate speculation and outside moneyed interests.  The experience stressed to me the power of unaffiliated community members having a voice at the table, the overall lack of vision and creativity held by private and political players and the urgency to protect land in service of
the public good. NYC’s Community Gardens are a huge community asset accessible to all.
NYCCGC ‘s collective voice must be included in all future citywide planning and it is necessary that existing gardens obtain full garden permanency once and for all. It’s clear to me, that’s the space in our city's decision making NYCCGC needs to occupy. I’m happy to help move this agenda forward if asked to do so.
As Co-Director of BK ROT I focus on grassroots composting efforts in public spaces through a lens of social justice, effectively changing the methods and culture around waste. BK ROT is a project that could not exist without free access to public land. Every Sunday year round our work is done in a community garden in Bushwick. Joining NYCCGC’s board would allow me to connect such localized community determined resiliency work with larger NYC efforts, by working to protect public land keeping it accessible to all.
Thanks for your consideration.
Garden Affiliations: EL Garden (2013- Present, Member), 1278 Myrtle Community Compost Site & Wildlife Garden (2014 - Present, Member/Organizer)

Angela Maull - My name is Angela Maull. Some members call me the Godness of Chenchita's Group Community Garden. Born in and raised  Harlem. My grand mother teach me how to garden and pick potatoes at the age five.  I have been growing my our food  more than 15 years  at Chenchita's Group Community Garden.  I really enjoy helping communities and gardens. I on the garden green team at PS IS 180M. My grand children school gardens. We had seven generation attended the same elementary school. My first job in Pre-k was watering the class plants. I'm the contract person for Chenchita's Group Community Garden, NYCCGC member, NYCHA Garden, Just Food  trainer, IIN health Coach, Certificated Master Compost, Bee keeper, Youth Farm Manager, Cetificated Instructor, license NY Tree Pruner, Five Borough Farm trainer and a Garden Designer.

Nando Rodriquez - My name is Alnardo Rodriguez, better known as Nando. I was born and partly raised in the Lower East Side of Manhattan by a single parent, my mother. I am the youngest of six and one of three high school graduate, but the only one to go and finish college.
From 1988 to 1993 I live in the Dominican Republic, where I had the opportunity to experience the beautiful farming life, while witnessing the struggles young people went through living in a developing country. Both made me become more active toward focusing on developing what I call “Youth Friendly Environment”. I returned to New York City in 1993.
In the spring of 1994, at 14 teen I joined Open Road of New York a non-profit organization with a mission to create spaces with and for young people. While a member of Open Road I became a co-creator/designer of: the Hot Box (a compost bin design), Participatory Design Process (a process to help a community design a space) and Open Road Park (a J.O.P. site located on 12th street bet 1st Ave ad Avenue A). In 1995 I joined The Brotherhood and Sister Sol, a member of one of the founding chapter of the non-profit organization (Knowledge of Self chapter). This organization’s mission is to give young people Love, Guidance, Opportunity and Support, while helping them become critical thinkers during their development from a youth to an adult. I am also the founder of their Environmental program and currently employed full time by The Brotherhood/ Sister Sol as the Environmental Coordinator/ Chapter Leader.
I am a high school graduate from East Side Community High School class of 98’ and a bachelor graduate from State University of New York at Purchase College class of 03’. I am an award winner of multiple community organizing awards from both educational facilities. I am also a Master Composter of 15’ from LESEC, a certified Citizen Pruner from Trees NY and certified Roots to Success Environmental Educator. Currently I am a resource board member of Manhattan Land Trust, Coordinator of Frank White Memorial Garden (a green-thumb garden in West Harlem).
Currently 36 years old with a passion to be engaged with my community and continue to help young people have a voice and equal space in society.

Sharon Sockwell - I have been a member of the NYCCGC for the last 4 years as well as a member and on the Steering Committee of the Phoenix Community Garden. I have worked with BEES school, Shirley Chisolm Day Care and the Serpendity program. Bringing the community together. I enjoying sharing the goods news of the Coalition.

Haja Worley - Long time activist and community organizer. Member of the Black Panther Party. Co-Director, Project Harmony, Inc.-1987-present. President of the NYCCGC, 1996-97.Chair, Parks and Recreation Committee, CB#10, 1990-2000. NYCCGC Board Member, Circle of Brothers-chair, of COB Council. CERT-member Community Emergency Response Team, Manhattan 10. WHCR-90.3FM (City College public radio), Engineer (“Inside Housing” ) -Co-Host of Harlem 411. Chair, Parks and Recreation Committee, CB#10, 1990-2000.NYCCGC Board Member, Circle of Brothers-chair, of COB Council.CERT-member Community Emergency Response Team, Manhattan 10.WHCR-90.3FM (City College public radio), Engineer (“Inside Housing” ) -Co-Host of Harlem 411.

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.