Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx


The Natural Areas Conservancy is a champion of NYC’s 20,000 acres of forests and wetlands for the benefit and enjoyment of all. Our team of scientists and experts promote nature’s diversity and resilience across the five boroughs, working in close partnership with the City of New York.

Our work makes the city a healthier and more vibrant place to live and thrive.


  • Sarah

    Executive Director and Cofounder

    Bio & Contact

    Sarah Charlop-Powers draws on her background in land use planning, economics, and environmental management in her work. While working as a planner at Jonathan Rose Companies, she was the lead project manager for the creation of a new management entity for the South Bronx Greenway, where she focused on the creation of local revenue streams.

    Sarah worked for seven years as the parks manager for Scenic Hudson, managing 15 parks, and has also worked as a consultant for NYSERDA, the NYC DOT, and the Mohonk Preserve.

    Sarah’s favorite thing to do in nature is listen, and she loves seeing trillium and trout lily in the spring.

  • Bram Gunther


    Bio & Contact

    Bram Gunther also serves as the Director of the Urban Field Station, a joint research facility of the NYC Parks, the Natural Areas Conservancy, and the U.S. Forest Service.  Until fall 2015, he was Chief of Forestry, Horticulture, and Natural Resources for NYC Parks.

    He joined the agency in 1991 as an Urban Park Ranger and he eventually served as the program’s Citywide Director. In 2012, he co-founded the Natural Areas Conservancy.

    Bram has a bachelor’s degree in American literature from SUNY Purchase and a master’s degree in environmental management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

  • Hunter Armstrong

    Director of Strategic Initiatives

    Bio & Contact

    Hunter Armstrong oversees fundraising and partnership development. Previously, he was the executive director of CIVITAS, a community-based planning advocacy organization in Manhattan. He has a MS in urban and environmental planning from the University of Virginia. His favorite New York City natural areas are found in the deep forests and along the rocky coasts of Hunter Island (of course!) in Pelham Bay Park.

  • Justin Bowers

    Public Engagement and Restoration Manager

    Bio & Contact

    Justin Bowers is currently focused on a trail restoration and habitat improvement project in Brooklyn’s Marine Park. Justin has over 8 years of experience working on ecological restoration projects and spatial analysis throughout NYC. Justin holds an MEM in Ecosystem Science and Conservation from Duke University and a BA in Human Ecology from the College of the Atlantic. Justin’s favorite natural area is Inwood Hill Park.

  • Nicole Brownstein

    and Public Outreach Manager

    Bio & Contact

    Nicole Brownstein has a background in public policy and urban planning through an environmental sustainability lens. Nicole graduated from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst with degrees in Comparative Literature and Social Thought/Political Economy, and The New School with an MS in Urban Policy Analysis and Management. Nicole’s favorite nature activity is taking a book on a long hike and stopping to read a chapter whenever she gets tired.

  • Gabe Cummings

    Citywide Trails Project Coordinator

    Bio & Contact

    Gabriel V. Cummings has recently joined the Natural Areas Conservancy. His work focuses on implementing trail projects that encourage community use in NYC through volunteer engagement and partnership development. Previously, Gabriel managed students in Hurricane Sandy resiliency projects at Gateway National Recreation Area. He earned a B.S. double major in Environmental Policy & Economics at Rutgers University. He spends his weekends biking on the Hudson River Greenway.

  • Helen Forgione

    Senior Ecologist

    Bio & Contact

    Helen Forgione guides the creation and establishment of the citywide assessment of NYC’s natural areas. Helen has over 25 years of experience working in ecology in the NYC metropolitan region, and holds a MS in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Rutgers University and a BS in Biology from the University of Connecticut. Helen “loses it” when she sees Pyrola Americana, the American Wintergreen, an herbaceous plant that was once a rare sight, but is now abundant in our forests.

  • Mina Kim

    GIS Analyst and
    Data Manager

    Bio & Contact

    Mina Kim manages and analyzes the citywide assessment of ecological and GIS data of New York City’s natural areas on relational databases, and develops visualizations of the datasets.  She has over 15 years of experience in implementation of Geographic Information System, cartographic representation and database management in private and public industries.  She earned a B.A. in Geography and Energy & Environmental Policy Studies at Hunter College specializing in Geographic Information System. 

  • Leila Mougoui Bakhtiari

    Forest Management Analyst

    Bio & Contact

    Leila Mougoui Bakhtiari is an urban ecologist currently working with the Natural Areas Conservancy in New York City. She received a B.S. in Environmental Studies with a concentration on urban ecosystems from The New School. Her work focuses on urban forest health studies, restoration and conservation efforts in NYC natural areas. She is also the co-chair of the urban forestry committee with Gowanus Canal Conservancy. A true forest analyst by nature, Leila’s favorite outdoor activity is to count trees.

  • Shonet Newton

    Development Manager

    Bio & Contact

    Shonet Newton has a background in nonprofit fundraising, event coordination, public engagement, and working with young adults. She graduated from the State University of New York at New Paltz with an M.A. in English. Shonet’s favorite nature activity is to hike and explore new places within NYC. Shonet’s favorite natural area is a tie between Pelham Bay Park and Inwood Hill Park.

  • Clara Pregitzer

    Project Manager, Ecological Assessment

    Bio & Contact

    Clara Pregitzer has been working on the Forest Assessment component of the Natural Areas Conservancy’s Ecological Assessment since 2013. She previously worked with NYC Department of Parks & Recreation’s Natural Resources Group (NRG) conducting ecological assessments in over 1,500 acres of New York City Parks. She holds a B.S. in Forestry from Northern Arizona University and a M.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from The University of Tennessee.

Work With Us

Director of Conservation Programs
Conservancy Engagement Program

If you are interested in volunteering or attending one of our events, sign up for our mailing list, or Get Involved.

Board of Directors

Chair: Adrian Benepe, Trust for Public Land
Secretary: Sarah R. Moros, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
Treasurer: Stacy Sonnenberg, Goldman Sachs

Karen Brown, New York Times
Max Joel, NYS Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA)
David Langer, Latham and Watkins
Karen McQuiston, PGIM/Prudential
Clare Peeters, Axel Johnson, Inc
Julia Robbins, New York City Department of Records and Information Services
KC Sahl, Ecology & Environment
Eric Sanderson, Wildlife Conservation Society
Mitchell Silver, Commissioner of NYC Parks
Adam Silverman, Mizuho Bank
Carter Strickland, Trust for Public Land
Andrew Wallach, Spring Owl Asset Management

Advisory Board

Doug Adamo, National Park Service
Nette Compton, Trust for Public Land
Susan Elbin, NYC Audubon
Todd Forrest, New York Botanical Garden
Steven Handel, Center For Urban Restoration Ecology
Venetia Lannon
David Maddox, The Nature of Cities
Emily Maxwell, The Nature Conservancy
John McLaughlin, NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection
Franco Montalto, Drexel University
Kate Orff, Columbia University
Matt Palmer, Columbia University
Eric Sanderson, Wildlife Conservation Society
Matt Schlesinger, NY Natural Heritage Program
Melanie Sifton, Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Eleanor Sterling, American Museum of Natural History
Erika Svendsen, US Forest Service; NYC Urban Field Station


We are grateful to our funders.
Association for a Better New York Foundation
Altman Foundation
BAND Foundation
Booth Ferris Foundation
City College of New York
Con Edison
Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
Environmental Protection Agency
Fund for the City of New York
Goldman Sachs
Hudson River Foundation
J.M. Kaplan Fund
Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy
Janet and Arthur Ross Foundation
John Strang Trust
Leon Levy Foundation
Leon Lowenstein Foundation
Madison Square Garden
The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City
National Fish & Wildlife Foundation
New York City Council
New York Community Trust
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation
Robert Wilson Charitable Trust
Rocking the Boat
Rutgers University
Sidney J Weinberg Jr. Foundation
The JPB Foundation
Tiffany & Co. Foundation
The Nature Conservancy
United States Department of the Interior