c. Martin Seck

Climate Week NYC: Equity and the Power of Parks

COVID-19. Racial injustice. Climate change. Parks and open spaces have often served as a haven for New Yorkers in good and challenging times. Our parks are essential. They provide a safe and inclusive space to experience nature and come together as a community in celebration and in protest — all while cleaning our air and improving our environment. 

As New York City works to become a more equitable city in the face of these growing challenges, what role do our parks and natural resources play in achieving that goal? Whether they’re mitigating the Urban Heat Island effect or simply providing safe and inclusive spaces to experience nature, our city’s parks need investment by our government, as well as community support, funding, and advocacy to be beneficial for all New Yorkers. 

During Climate Week NYC, join the Natural Areas Conservancy, Prospect Park Alliance, and WE ACT on Tuesday, September 22, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. for a virtual panel discussion as we share how our organizations are employing a wide range of strategies and solutions to advance equity and accessibility in New York City’s parks. 

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About the Speakers:

Camilla K. Wilson, Lead Park Naturalist, Prospect Park Alliance
A Brooklyn native who grew up exploring Prospect Park, Camilla develops and leads environmental education programs at the Prospect Park Audubon Center, the first urban Audubon Center in the nation. In her role, she mentors urban youth through the Alliance’s Park Youth Representative program. While earning her degree from the City University of New York, Camilla interned with ECO-Schools, and has since maintained a constant and solution-based presence in the field of conservation.

Sue Donoghue, Prospect Park Alliance President and Park Administrator
Sue is responsible for setting the vision and overall strategy for Brooklyn’s flagship, 585-acre park. She oversees park operations, and fundraising and revenue-generating activities that provide $11 million in general operating support for the park each year. She also has raised over $50 million for capital improvements to increase park accessibility. Sue previously served as a NYC Parks Senior Advisor and Assistant Commissioner, where she played a leadership role in PlaNYC. She is a neighborhood resident, and she and her husband and three children avidly enjoy Prospect Park as part of their daily life.

Sarah Charlop-Powers, Natural Areas Conservancy Co-Founder and Executive Director
Sarah’s work builds on her background in land use planning, economics, and environmental management. Most notably, she led the development of a 25-year Forest Management Framework for New York City, a data-driven plan to restore and create public access in 7,000 acres of forested parkland. Prior to founding the NAC, Sarah spent seven years as the parks manager for Scenic Hudson, where she managed 15 parks. She was a planner at Jonathan Rose Companies, where she led a team to develop a new management entity for the South Bronx Greenway. She also worked as a consultant for NYSERDA, the NYC DOT, and the Mohonk Preserve. She has a B.A. in Economics Binghamton University and a Masters of Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies where she was a Doris Duke Conservation Fellow.

Sonal Jessel, Policy and Advocacy Coordinator, WE ACT
As one of the Policy and Advocacy Coordinators at WE ACT for Environmental Justice, Sonal Jessel works to advance the organization’s New York City policy agenda and leads our climate justice initiatives, including our Heat, Health, & Equity campaign to address the threat of extreme heat on the low-income communities and communities of color in Northern Manhattan. Prior to joining WE ACT, she conducted research in energy insecurity, housing, and public health at Columbia University, and coordinated clinical trials at Weill Cornell Medicine. Sonal has an MPH in Population and Family Health with a concentration in Climate and Health from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, and a BA in Organismal Biology from Pitzer College, in California.

About the Natural Areas Conservancy 
The Natural Areas Conservancy is a nonprofit devoted to restoring and conserving NYC’s 20,000 acres of forest and coastal areas. We preserve and promote ecological diversity and resilience across the five boroughs in close partnership with NYC Parks.

About Prospect Park Alliance
Prospect Park Alliance is the non-profit organization that sustains Brooklyn’s Backyard, working in partnership with the City of New York. We provide critical staff and resources that keep the park green and vibrant for the diverse communities that call Brooklyn home. 

About WE ACT for Environmental Justice
WE ACT for Environmental Justice is a Northern Manhattan membership-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to build healthy communities by ensuring that people of color and/or low-income residents participate meaningfully in the creation of sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices. Founded in 1988, WE ACT has offices in New York City and Washington, D.C.