2012 Honoree Bios
Ajamu Brown is a TogetherGreen Fellow from the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, where he created a green map of the neighborhood, working with residents of all ages to raise community awareness of the environmental assets in their neighborhood. The Bed-Stuy neighborhood, which covers 1,894 acres of land within a three-mile radius, is undergoing a process of gentrification which often overlooks completely the importance of green spaces. One of the goals of the Bed-Stuy Community Eco-Mapping Project is to "identify and cultivate new leaders on environmental sustainability issues in Central Brooklyn," and the map Ajamu created has been used to facilitate a series of neighborhood workshops at the Magnolia Tree Earth Center. The Bed-Stuy Community Eco-Mapping Project website highlights Bedford-Stuyvesant's many green assets, including environmentally responsible businesses, restaurants that use local foods, farmers markets, green learning centers and programs, bike lanes, community gardens, Herbert Von King Park and the Hattie Carthan Community Garden. There is also an interactive 3D map that includes several interviews with local gardeners and community members.
Ajamu has a degree in speech communications from Ithaca College and a Masters in public policy from Tufts University. He has served on the Board of Directors for the Brooklyn Movement Center. Ajamu also spent time in the Peace Corps as a volunteer on HIV/AIDS education and outreach in Namibia. He enjoys bike riding around the city, bird watching and sand boarding.
Helena Durst is Vice President at the Durst Organization, and has been our partner for a number of Project Safe Flight initiatives, including Lights Out NY and bird-friendly buildings. She is currently assisting us with our effort to map how migrant song birds use New York City, by allowing us to place microphones on the rooftops of four of their buildings in Midtown. Helena's love affair with the Hudson River waterfront began with an internship at the Hudson River Park Trust, where she not only gained a passion for the city's diverse urban ecology, but also valuable insight into the City's complex land-use review process. Helena spearheaded a comprehensive greening of the Durst Organization's building management operations that has improved landfill diversion rates, green cleaning practices, and resource conservation. She participated in the construction and management of several projects from the ground up, including The Epic, The Helena, and One Bryant Park. Helena is a board member of Citizens Union, Just Food, Governors Island Alliance, High School for Environmental Sciences, and SWAB. She studied real estate at Baruch College.
Helena's goal of building strong communities and connections doesn't stop with her vision of a network of interconnected waterfront recreation areas in NYC. When Helena's not in the city, she can be found at her family's McEnroe Organic Farm, one of the largest family-owned-and-operated organic farms in New York State. Helena started an education program there that reconnects the neighborhood with agriculture and where its food comes from.
Chris Ward is currently Executive Vice President for Major Projects at Dragados USA, part of a major international civil construction company based in Spain. A former NYC Audubon board member, he has served as the head of the Port Authority of NY and NJ, and as the DEP Commissioner. In both roles he has pioneered sustainability initiatives that will impact each organization well into the future. Chris has been a key figure in redevelopment of the World Trade Center and lower Manhattan.
Chris has a degree from Macalester College in Minnesota and is a graduate of the Harvard Divinity School, where he learned problem-solving skills that serve him well to this day. He has worked as a ranch hand in New Mexico, and on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. When he has a spare moment, Chris enjoys walking in the diverse neighborhoods and public parks of New York City, including the beautiful Hudson River Park.