Willis Elkins – Executive Director
Willis began working at NCA in 2013 and has since developed and overseen a number of the key organizational programs relating to public programming, water quality monitoring, restoration, and community access. Willis is co-chair of the Newtown Creek Superfund Community Advisory Group (CAG), a former member of Brooklyn’s Community Board 1 (including the Environmental Protection, Transportation and Parks/Waterfront committees), and a founding member of the North Brooklyn Community Boathouse where he serves on the board and actively volunteers. Before joining NCA, Willis worked in administrative capacities for various non-profit organizations and studied psychology and urban studies at New York University.
Brenda Suchilt – Horticulturist
Brenda manages the maintenance and health of various green spaces around the Watershed that NCA has established or helps maintain – including street end sites, pollinator meadows, Kingsland Wildflowers, and most recently, the care of NYC Rain Gardens in Bushwick and Sunnyside. Since 2015, Brenda has overseen and maintained various private, residential and gallery gardens throughout New York City. Brenda enjoys involving her personal work in creative projects that can incorporate the use of repurposed material in spiritual aspects that help others connect and see the beauty of rehabilitation in the urban landscape.
Tess Wenstrup – Environmental Education Coordinator
Tess is a youth development professional with a background in outdoor, environmental, and art education. She is passionate about creating a space for individuals to learn, thrive, and connect with their communities. She is experienced in program development, community partnerships, public speaking, and working in a variety of artistic media. Before joining NCA, Tess was an environmental educator at other institutions such as New York Restoration Project and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
Musa Matiwane – Environmental Educator
Musa is an educator and youth travel baseball coach with a passion for urban sustainability. Prior to NCA, Musa has worked in the environmental justice realm as a summer intern at WE ACT, and advocating for clean energy legislation and electrifying residential heating and cooling systems at BlocPower. Most recently, Musa worked at his alma mater, Brooklyn New School, as an elementary school educator as well as working with the sustainability team. Interested in bridging healthy relationships between people, built and natural environments in urban settings, he loves to lead groups of all ages, working together to find common understandings and solutions. He is excited to help NCA raise awareness and reclaim neglected spaces for people through practices like green infrastructure.
Gus Perry – Seasonal Greenspace Steward
Gus is a wildlife and waterway enthusiast with experience in landscaping, woodworking, and bicycle maintenance. Through his passion for hyperlocal history and urban-environmental intersections, Gus has volunteered with numerous community-centered endeavors – including shellfish biotoxin research, and non-native plant removal. As our Greenspace Steward, Gus helps run our volunteer events and conduct regular maintenance at various street-end sites, pollinator gardens, and green infrastructure assets around Newtown Creek. Gus studied Journalism and Environmental Studies at Eugene Lang College and lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
Krista Starrett – Administrative and Development Manager
Krista is a development professional with a background in writing, editing, and the literary arts community. Always a fan of wildlife and the outdoors, she was especially grateful for the completion of the Newtown Creek Nature Walk. She enjoys learning about the history, ecology, and restoration efforts of the Creek. As a Greenpoint resident, living in such close proximity to superfund sites and brownfields has forced her to confront the real consequences of environmental abuse and its long-term effects on the health and wellbeing of our community, including the flora and fauna. In her role at NCA, Krista supports the organization’s overall operations and development initiatives. She has an MFA in creative writing from The New School and studied English and creative writing at The University of Kansas.
Board of Directors
Mike Dulong (Secretary) is a senior attorney at Riverkeeper. His work focuses on a range of watershed and community protection issues, such as advancing sustainable animal farming practices, investigating pollution violations, and promoting strict drinking water protections for nine million New York City and Hudson Valley residents while minimizing the impact of those measures on local ecosystems and municipalities. Mr. Dulong received his J.D. from UCLA School of Law in 2011. Prior to law school, Michael received his B.A., cum laude, from The University of Massachusetts and his M.A. in British and American literature from New York University.
Rafael Espinal is the Executive Director of Freelancers Union. Born and raised in Brooklyn, Rafael Espinal became New York’s youngest elected official when he joined the State Assembly at age 26. Rafael became a leader fighting on behalf of workers, small businesses, low-income communities, and the environment. In 2013, he was elected to the New York City Council, representing Brooklyn’s diverse 37th District. Rafael’s legislative accomplishments on the City Council include negotiating a $250 million comprehensive investment plan for his district, one of New York’s most underserved. In 2019 Espinal passed legislation requiring all New York City buildings to install solar panels or green roofs as part of New York City’s “Green New Deal” to decrease carbon emissions and build green infrastructure. He also led a movement to ban single use plastics in NYC as an effort to reduce waste and clean our waterways. In 2019 The NY Times recognized Rafael’s work by noting, “In a 51-member body, Mr. Espinal has been a standout.”
Annel Hernandez (Vice Chair) is the Associate Director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance. Annel works on city and statewide climate policy issues, focusing on local advocacy and research that further equitable investments in coastal resiliency, green infrastructure, and renewable energy. She also works on various coalition campaigns to push for more aggressive climate legislation – with equity as a central focus. She previously worked with the Urban Climate Change Research Network at the Earth Institute, collaborating with scholars, experts, and advocates on pushing forward new climate change resources for cities. Annel also worked in the NYC Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity as Social Innovation Fund Advisor managing the program implementation of a multi-city initiative focused on economic opportunity programs, and was also a NYC Urban Fellow. She also worked as a Teaching Assistant at the Earth Institute and a Research Assistant at the Institute of Latin American Studies. Annel received an MPA in Energy and Environment from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, and her BA in Political Science and Latino Studies from Fordham University. Annel is a lifelong New Yorker currently residing in Bushwick, Brooklyn within the Newtown Creek sewershed.
Jay Kaplan studied environmental science and marine ecology from Long Island University. He has worked for Waste Management as an environmental protection professional for 19 years in New York City. He has focused on the development of solid waste transportation infrastructure projects that have taken thousands of diesel powered trucks off the road. He sits on the Board of the North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, and is an active leader in environmental and community improvement projects in New York City in addition to being a passionate environmentalist.
Ray Laszczych (Treasurer) is a lifetime resident of Greenpoint. He and his family reside in a long-held family home on Green Street with the East River and Newtown Creek nearby. Ray was educated in local parochial schools and earned a bachelor’s degree from Fordham University and a master’s in social work from Columbia University. Professionally, Ray enjoyed a successful 20-year career as a Program Developer and Director of Development for the Harlem Children’s Zone, helping to grow the organization into one of the most highly respected children’s providers in the country. Ray later served as primary fundraiser for a variety of well-respected New York City non-profits, culminating in joining the leadership team at St. Nicks Alliance in Williamsburg in 2015. Ray retired from St. Nick’s in January 2020. In addition to joining the NCA Board, Ray serves as Board member and Treasurer of DREAM, a Bronx-based non-profit that works to dismantle the school to prison pipeline by providing arts-based peer mediation and conflict resolution training to teachers and students in public middle schools and high schools throughout NYC.
Moe Magali is a Senior Manager and Head of Business Development for Public Works Partners, a WBE/DBE certified planning and consulting firm. In this role, he develops sustainable solutions to contemporary challenges facing mission-driven organizations and local communities by leveraging Public Works’ methods, tools, and expertise. Before assuming his current role, Moe led strategic planning, program design and implementation, and performance improvement projects for government and nonprofit clients. Moe joined Public Works in 2015 and was named Senior Manager in 2018. Previously, Moe worked at the NYC Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity, where he launched and evaluated a $20 million portfolio of evidence-based strategies tailored to the City’s vulnerable populations. He also held policy and government relations roles at the NYC Department of Small Business Services and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Moe holds an MPA from NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service and an undergraduate degree in government from St. John’s University. He currently serves as the Youth Coordinator for Surfrider NYC and maintains an adjunct appointment teaching graduate-level performance measurement and management courses at NYU Wagner.
Tom Mituzas is Vice President or Labor Relations for MCR, the 4th largest hotel owner and operator in the country. In this role he oversees labor related employment matters for MCRs hotels across the country. Mr Mituzas has 35 years of human resource, labor relations and hotel operations experience. Prior to joining MCR, Mr Mituzas served as the Area Director of Human Resources for Starwood Hotels, and he began his career with ITT Sheraton performing various operations and Human Resources roles. Mr Mituzas is a long time member of the negotiating committee for the Hotel Association of New York and he serves as a Trustee for the New York Hotel Trades Council and Hotel Association of New York City Inc Employee Benefit Funds. Mr Mituzas received his BA in Psychology from Hunter College, CUNY and an MS in Counseling and Human Resource Development from Bridgeport University. Tom lives in the Blissville section of Long Island City in the home his family has lived in since 1907. He is an active member of the community servicing as a member of Community Board 2 of Queens; volunteering his time serving as Secretary with the Blissville Civic Association.
Jan Mun is a media artist that creates social sculptures working with digital and living media. The landscape has become her framework to unfold stories about others and herself by using a combination of artistic and scientific processes that manifest in the form of interactive installations, photography, performance, and bio-art. Working with communities she innovates ideas to be realized through research, chance, and collaboration. Mun received a MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and BFA from SUNY New Paltz. Her work has been in exhibitions at The Cathedral at Saint John the Divine, NY; Battery Park, NY; Wave Hill, Bronx; as well as at the ExxonMobil Greenpoint Remediation Project, Brooklyn. She has had residencies at MacDowell Colony, International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP), New York Hall of Science, and Newtown Creek Alliance. She is the recipient of awards and grants from the New York State Council on the Arts, A Blade of Grass, the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund, Harpo Foundation and the Headlands Center for the Arts. She teaches at Parsons School of Design.
Natalie Vichnevsky (Chair) is the Manager of Entrepreneurship Services at Evergreen, a non-profit Industrial Economic Development Corporation based not far from the Newtown Creek’s English Kills tributary. Evergreen provides business services to and advocates for Brooklyn’s industrial and manufacturing community with the underlying mission of retaining and growing good quality jobs at all skill levels for the residents of North Brooklyn. Natalie has lived in the Williamsburg/Greenpoint area for just shy of 20 years and was a local small business owner prior to her economic development days. Natalie has a Bachelor’s in Urban and Environmental Planning from the University of Virginia and MS in City and Regional Planning from the Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.
Former NCA Board Members: