Board of Directors
Christopher Rizzo, Chair
Teresa M. Grant Stoeth, Vice Chair
Jessica Loeser, Treasurer
Tom Carey, Secretary
Paula Luria Caplan
Eric A. Seiff
Jane E.S. Sokolow
Hon. Andrew Cohen, NYC Councilman
Hon. Ruben Diaz, Jr., Bronx Borough President
Hon. Jeffrey Dinowitz, NYS Assemblyman
Hon. Eliot Engel, Congressman
Hon. Jeffrey Klein, NYS Senator
Iris Rodriquez-Rosa, Bronx Borough Commissioner, NYC Parks & Recreation
Executive Director- Christina Taylor
Christina Taylor is the Executive Director of the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park. She has been an advocate for the Bronx since September 2000 when she began working for the Friends as the Education Coordinator; directing internship programs for local high school students and developing the Friends’ Van Cortlandt Adventures program for school groups. She was appointed as the Executive Director in March 2007. Under her leadership and with the support of an amazing Board and Staff, the Friends has grown and expanded in many ways, including:
- Increasing program participation from under 500 people a year to over 5,500 a year;
- Actively caring for the hiking trails of Van Cortlandt Park through the development of a Trails Plan and hiring of staff to implement the plan and maintain the trails;
- Expanding the Friends’ Compost Site to include 800 square feet of vegetable beds where hundreds of pounds of vegetables are grown and donated to those in need;
- Conducting ongoing water quality testing of Tibbetts Brook and Van Cortlandt Lake for the first time to better understand the impact of humans on one of the last above ground streams in NYC; and
- Successfully advocating for millions of dollars for capital projects including: the Pedestrian Bridge over the Major Deegan, an improved entrance at W. 242nd Street as part of Parks without Borders, a Skate Park, and a new Entrance at W. 261st
Christina has a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental and Forest Biology from SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry. As a dedicated NYC Parks supporter and advocate, Christina has been a board member of the Bronx Council for Environmental Quality for over a decade and currently serves as the organization’s Treasurer. She is Co-Chair of the Bronx Coalition for Parks and Green Spaces which hosts the Annual Bronx Parks Speak Up and is a member of Community Board 8’s Parks and Recreation Committee.
Director of Programs- Sara Kempton
Sara Kempton joined the Friends in January 2006 as an intern while attending Hunter College. Sara graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Science from Hunter College in the summer of 2006 and promptly joined the Friends staff as a part-time Program Assistant. As such she supervised the Environmental Internship and the Friends’ free outdoor education and volunteer programs. In the summer of 2007, Sara was promoted to Director of Programs and her responsibilities expanded to include the development and implementation of the Friends’ teacher workshops, expansion and development of programs within the Friends’ Garden & Compost site, including the addition and supervision of a Garden Crew, and expanded our education programs. Recently Sara created and supervises our Garden 2 Market internship which has grown over the years since it was first started in 2012. Sara also recently expanded her skills to become a beekeeper and is caring for two hives at our Garden & Compost Site.
Ecological Project Manager- John Butler
John Butler joined the Friends in March 2014 as the Trails Project Manager. Mr. Butler graduated from the University of Vermont with a Bachelor’s of Science in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology in May of 2013. Since joining the Friends’, John’s main role has been working alongside volunteer groups from the community to assist in maintenance and conservation within the Park. He corresponds with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to implement trails projects on the Friends’ Trails Plan as well as natural area conservation projects. John serves as the supervisor for the Summer internship and school year Environmental Internship. As his role expanded to include more than trails, he became the Ecological Project Manager and he now leads the water quality monitoring program of Tibbetts Brook and Van Cortlandt Lake while managing restoration projects along the brook.
John is currently pursuing his Masters in Geographic Information Science within the Department of Earth, Environmental and Geospatial Sciences at Lehman College (CUNY).
Alex Byrne joined the Friends’ in March of 2016 as an Environmental Educator to help lead the organization’s environmental education, restoration and research programs. Alex studied Biology (B.S) with a concentration on community ecology at Paul Smiths College where he was involved in many education and research projects that resulted in multiple conference talks and peer review publications on the ecology of amphibians and insects. Alex uses research and experience-based approaches as a tool to educate on the ecology of Van Cortlandt Park. Alex is the lead on our Scientific Training and Research program along with developing data-based management efforts for natural areas stewardship. Past Friends projects designed and implemented by Alex include mushroom cultivation workshops, the mentoring of multiple research projects for ECFS High School and the WERM program at Wave Hill, mentoring close to ten college science students in research on terrestrial and aquatic community ecology, applied ecological engineering and socio-environmental studies. Additionally, Alex plays a strong role in the analytics of the water quality monitoring program. To better reflect his role with the organization, Alex became the Friends’ Field Scientist and Research Coordinator in 2019.
Janice DeLuise, Development Assistant
Gregory Santoro, Water Quality Lab Technician