ABNY SPOTLIGHTS OF THE MONTH 

Every month, ABNY honors two Young Professionals working to make New York City a better place to live, work, and visit. This month we are recognizing two ABNY YP's making NYC a more sustainable city. 

Next month we are honoring two young professionals working to develop and protect NYC's workforce. Please nominate YP's here

 April: Sustainability 
We are honoring ABNY YP's making NYC a more sustainable city.
Congratulations to our April Spotlights of the Month, Sarah Charlop Powers and Alex Zablocki!

  


Alex Zablocki
Executive Director, Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy

How did you get to where you are today?
Throughout my career in public service, I've been fortunate enough to work for great leaders and within teams of people guided by doing good. I would not be in the leadership position I am in today at the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy without others willing to let me take risk and support me every step of the way, through success and failure. 

What are you most proud of?
Every day I have the opporunity to improve parts of our city that do not often receive a lot of attention or public investment. Throughout my career, I am most proud of being able to advocate for undeserved communities and seeing positive change come from this advocacy. 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in your field?
Simply put: If you believe in something and are passionate about it, and willing to work hard, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. This is especially true for anyone who is looking to work in the non-profit field, or in park management and envrionmental stewardship. Networking helps as well, so connect with me or others in this field, and start there. 

When did you realize you are a New Yorker?
I was born and raised in New York City, so this city is in my blood.  But that moment when I realized what is so special about New York City and its people was just after September 11, 2001. Seeing my neighbors and our entire city come together to support each other and the victims of our country's worst terrorist attack - and being a part of that - showed me how great a people we are. This is what being a New Yorker is all about: we are tough when we have to be, always compassionate, have each other's backs, and remain resilient. 

 

  


Sarah Charlop Powers

Executive Director, Natural Areas Conservancy

How did you get to where you are today?
When I was a kid, my mom used to load our car full of neighborhood kids and drive from our neighborhood in the South Bronx to the NY Botanical Garden because our neighborhood was nearly devoid of trees. My parents were tenant organizers, and taught us that it was not enough to have a safe place to live. People, especially children, also need to have access to nature - to be able to play, explore, and experience the freedom and wonder of time spent outside. I spent my 20s living and working in the Hudson Valley. It was a very formative period that laid the foundation for both my work in natural areas management and in building and sustaining programs. In hindsight, returning to New York City felt inevitable. At this stage in my career, I'm energized by the idea of ensuring that urban nature provides refuge and recreation for city dwellers, and I am deeply motivated by the opporunity to work to make our planet more resilient to climate change. 

What are you most proud of?
I’m proud to have co-founded the Natural Areas Conservancy in 2012. I took a professional risk when I left a full-time job to develop the business plan for this organization.  There was no guarantee that we could establish and fund a public-private partnership to champion NYC’s 20,000 acres of forests and wetlands. It was the right idea at the right time.  Over the past seven years, we’ve grown from a start-up to a mature organization.  Two achievements that exemplify the NAC’s work are the development of a 25-year framework for NYC’s forests (with NYC Parks), that serves as a roadmap to expand public access, improve forest health and address climate change.  I’m also really proud of our work with young people.  We’ve trained more than 100 high school and CUNY students, and helped many of them launch careers in urban conservation

What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in your field?
One thing that I wish someone had told me earlier in my career is that you don’t have to be a scientist or an avid outdoors person to be an environmentalist.  At a public meeting I once saw a sign that said, “We live here.  We’re experts too.”   In New York City there are incredible organizations working on a range of environmental issues.  I would encourage people to get involved in work that you find personally motivating, even if it means starting as a volunteer. 

When did you realize you are a New Yorker?
I’ve known all my life! I was born and raised in the Bronx, attended public school K-12, and my wife and I are currently raising our son in Brooklyn.  

 

March: Gender Equality
We honored ABNY YP's making strides to advance gender equality

Congratulations to our March Spotlights of the Month, Chelsea Goldinger and Sasha Ahuja! 

  Chelsea Goldinger
Chelsea Goldinger
Government Relations Manager at The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Community Center


How did you get to where you are today?
Defaulting to "yes" early on in my career, and later learning the value of saying "no." Asking for help and knowing when to step back, listen, and learn. I also write everything down, I am obsessed with lists and inbox zero. And the easiest part, I follow my passion. For me, that means helping women and girls through whatever I am doing. 

What are you most proud of?
In 2014, I helped Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul plan roundtables with college students to discuss the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses and ways to help. This was especially meaningful for me; I had the opportunity to work on an issue that is deeply personal and provide a space for young women whose voices are too often silenced.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in your field?
Don’t be scared to ask for help and admit what you don’t know. I built meaningful relationships through reaching out to people who I admire (and sometimes have never met!) to ask for their advice. Over-prepare for every meeting; you never know where it will lead. Also, networking events, especially those geared towards feminists, can be super fun and social! Show up at events and get to know people. Chances are you’ll make a new friend.

When did you realize you are a New Yorker?
The day I rode my Citi Bike to catch the ferry to Greenpoint to head to a cocktail bar where the drinks were cheaper than in Manhattan.

 

Sasha Ahuja
Sasha Ahuja
Chief of Staff at Girls for Gender Equity

 

How did you get to where you are today? 
Since I was 17 years old, I have worked on the front lines of the progressive movement – from grassroots labor organizations to direct service to political campaigns to city government. In all of these years, my work has been fundamentally the same – driving teams of dedicated people to advance a racial and gender justice agenda in the face of unprecedented threats to our communities, increasing uncertainty in our work and inevitably, the nonstop news cycle. I got to where I was by continuing to move with our movement – and being unapologetic about my vision for a more just city.

What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of being able to see the necessity for an “inside-outside” strategy to advance progressive change. The best example of this was in 2015 - I served as Deputy Director of the Policy Division to former New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito. In response to a call to action from feminist activists across the country in response to President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, we launched the first dedicated initiative for women and girls of color, the New York City Young Women’s Initiative. The City Council advanced numerous policy and legislative priorities that lifted up women and girls of color, continues to fund the Young Women’s Initiative at +$5M a year and we spurred the creation of the Commission on Gender Equity. 

What advice would you give to other Young Professionals wanting to work in your field? 
You're not too good or too smart or too experienced to answer the phone, make copies or stuff envelopes. Don’t be that person. 

When did you realize you are a New Yorker?
When I was 16, my dad taught me how to drive by putting me on the Belt Parkway and saying, “go!” Pretty damn New York to me.