New Appointments to Governors Island Board of Directors Announced

Governors Island. Image credit: Trust for Governors Island.

The six new appointees will help oversee the Trust’s planning , operations, and development decisions. On April 14, 2021, Mayor de Blasio announced new appointments to the Trust for Governors Island Board of Directors. The appointments are Donnel Baird, Alice Blank, Lisa Garcia, Grace Lee, Michael Oppenheimer, and Matthew Washington. The appointed members have a combined wealth of knowledge and backgrounds in the fields of green technology, climate science, environmental justice, architecture, business, government, and advocacy. The appointments will be overseeing the Trust’s activities in planning, operations, and development of Governors Island.

The Trust for Governors Island’s board provides oversight, approves budgets, authorizes leases, and approves significant contracts all on Governors Island. The board has 17 members including the new appointments.

Donnel Baird is the founder of BlocPower, a New York City clean technology startup. BlocPower develops clean energy portfolios, retrofits underserved communities, and connects investors with opportunities for social, environmental, and financial returns. Baird has spent 4 years as a political and community advisor and 2 years managing an initiative to leverage energy efficiency investments in underserved communities.

Alice Blank is the principal of Alice Bank, Architect, an architectural studio that works to innovate residential and commercial projects since 1995. Blank has worked as an architect in Cairo, Egypt and in Neuchatel, Switzerland. Bank has also taught architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning at various universities. She is the Vice Chair of Manhattan Community Board 1 and the Chair of the Board’s Environmental Protection Committee. Alice Bank will serve on the Trust’s Board of Directors as a representative of Manhattan Community Board 1.

Lisa Garcia is the Director of Fix, a climate solutions lab that is a part of the media organization that brings stories on climate solutions. Fix identifies a diverse array of leaders that are developing environmental and social justice solutions and brings them together to collaborate and accelerate solutions. Garcia has worked under the Obama administration as an associate administrator and advisor to the Environmental Protection Agency’s administrators. Garcia helped to implement Plan Environmental Justice, drafted President Obama’s 2014 Environmental Justice Proclamation, and led the federal Environmental Justice Interagency Workgroup. Garcia also has experience working in public-interest law when she served as the vice president of Earthjustice.

Grace Lee co-founded Children First, a parent-led advocacy group focusing on the toxic site by South Street Seaport. Lee has also served as the events director for Swing Left, the progressive political group. She co-founded Nine Naturals, a toxin-free beauty line directed towards moms. And prior to her political work, she was the Vice President and equity analyst of the financial sector. Grace Lee will serve on the Trust’s Board as a representative of Councilmember Margaret Chin.

Michael Oppenheimer is a Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs in the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, the Department of Geosciences, and the High Meadows Environmental Institute at Princeton University. He is a Director of the Center for Policy Research on Energy and the Environment at SPIA. He is also a Faculty Associate of the Atmospheric and Ocean Sciences Program and the Princeton institute for International and Regional Studies. Oppenheimer also has experience working at the Environmental Defense Fund, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the National Academy of Sciences.

Matthew S. Washington is a Deputy Manhattan Borough President. He oversees the distribution of capital funding to enhance parks, theaters, hospitals, museums, affordable housing developments, community centers, and public schools. Prior to this position, he served as Deputy Director of External Affairs at the Durst Organization. He also has a background in non-profit management as the Executive Director of Friends of the High School for Environmental Studies and as Deputy Director of Friends of Hudson River Park. Washington will be serving on the Trust’s Board as a representative of Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer.

Governors Island will be reopening on May 1 and returning to its pre-pandemic seasonal calendar. Governors Island ferries will be serving two Brooklyn locations in addition to the usual Manhattan locations. The ferry service will now come to Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park and Atlantic Basin in Red Hook.

Mayor Bill de Blasio stated, “The Trust for Governors Island does extraordinary work to maintain and improve an iconic open space in this city. These new expert voices will further that work and keep the island a vibrant, accessible, and enjoyable destination for generations of New Yorkers to come.”

President and CEO of the Trust for Governors Island Clare Newman stated, “With strong ties to the New York City community and vital expertise in civic, parks and environmental stewardship, we’re thrilled to partner with our board in realizing Governors Island’s potential as a recreational and cultural resource, and its growing use as a center for climate solutions.”

Deputy Mayor Vicki Been stated, “Donnel, Lisa and Michael are leading voices in climate and environmental fields, and their expertise—along with the experience in architecture, advocacy and government that Alice, Grace and Matthew bring—will be critical to moving the Island towards its next, exciting phase.”

By: Patrick McNeill (Patrick is the CityLaw intern and a New York Law School student, Class of 2022.)


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