The Naturally Occurring Cultural District New York (NOCD-NY) steering committee is comprised of organization representatives, contributing allies and at-large individuals.  Existing and prospective participants…

  • demonstrate a connection with artists and/or cultural workers
  • build neighborhood-up alliances and forge cross-sector networks
  • represent districts that are diverse in geography (five boroughs), ethnicity and/or mode of practice (such as arts, culture, creative manufacturing)
  • value diversity as a key component of building cultural assets
  • seek equity for the under-represented
  • fulfill their commitment to the working group


Arts & Democracy Project
Caron Atlas, Arts and Culture Consultant
and NOCD-NY Project Co-Director
Caron Atlas works to support and stimulate arts and culture as an integral part of social justice. Atlas also directs Place + Displaced–a project of Fractured Atlas–in addition to consulting with foundations and teaching at New York University and Pratt Institute.

Bronx Council on the Arts
Ellen Pollan, Deputy Director Development and Programs

Ellen Pollan manages a portfolio of art related economic development initiatives in the South Bronx. She leads the creative team for the successful Bronx Culture Trolley and Culture Trolley Saturday and the innovative Bronx Indie performance series and is currently working to facilitate revitalization of the Westchester Square business district by integrating arts and culture programs.

Council on the Arts & Humanities for Staten Island (COAHSI)
Melanie Cohn, Executive Director
Melanie is an arts organizer and creative community change agent. Her start as a visual artist still informs her work as COAHSI’s Executive Director. COAHSI works closely with artists, arts organizations, and local businesses to help create a vibrant and inclusive cultural community through art events, education, and cross-sector partnerships. Melanie led COAHSI to receive a 2009 Rockefeller Foundation Cultural Innovation Fund Grant and a 2010 National Endowment for the Arts Grant.

Monica Valenzuela, Director of Development and Community Programming
Monica is a grantwriter, project manager and freelance photographer. She works closely with the diverse cultural ecosystem of Staten Island. She identifies alternative spaces for art and is Project Manager for COAHSI’s LUMEN, a cutting-edge video and performance art festival on Staten Island’s waterfront.

El Museo del Barrio
Gonzalo Casals, Director of Education & Public Programs

Gonzalo leads El Museo in the development of a new approach to museum education, where the museum’s collections and resources are used as tools to foster cultural empowerment and understanding, social capital and civic involvement. Gonzalo truly believes that museums should be an active participant in civic life while providing a space for its constituents to learn, reflect and impact the communities they belong to.

El Puente
Anusha Venkataraman, Green Light District Deputy Director

Anusha is a Brooklyn-based planner, writer, artist, and activist. She manages the El Puente’s Green Light District, a community human rights institution that promotes leadership for peace and justice through the engagement of members in the arts, education, wellness, and environmental action.

Fourth Arts Block (FABnyc)
Tamara Greenfield, Executive Director
and NOCD-NY Project Co-Director
Under Tamara’s leadership, FABnyc has emerged from a part-time volunteer coalition into a thriving professional organization, facilitating the generation of more than $18 million in public capital funds and $600,000 in private grants for programming and technical assistance.  She has helped strengthen the fundraising and planning capacity of FAB’s members as they’ve transitioned into property ownership, capital planning and program expansion.

Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center
Brian T. Coleman, CEO and NOCD-NY Treasurer

Brian serves as the CEO of Greenpoint Manufacturing & Design Center (GMDC), which creates and sustains viable creative manufacturing in North Brooklyn through planning, developing and managing real estate and offering other related services. Since 1992, GMDC has developed over 750,000 square feet of industrial space and currently has 120 tenants with over 500 employees.

New York Chinatown History Project
Charles Lai, Visiting Scholar of NYCHP and Co-Director of A/P/A
As the NYCHP co-Director, Lai seeks to understand one of NYC’s most iconic, dynamic, and oldest ethnic neighborhoods in order to develop the informational resources and citizen participation tools requisite to increase meaningful democratic participation in the design, development, growth, and sustainability of this community. He co-founded the nationally recognized Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) and was instrumental in its $15 million capital expansion.

The Point Community Development Corporation
Danny R. Peralta, Director of Arts and Education


Queens Museum of Art
Debra Wimpfheimer, Director of Strategic Partnerships

Given a recent demographic shift in Corona, which experienced an influx of under-served immigrants to America (many of whom have limited English language proficiency), the Queens Museum of Art’s Public Events department recently spearheaded Corazón de Corona/Heart of Corona, a community coalition that aims activate and beautify Corona’s public spaces and create a cultural hub for local residents and businesses.

Maria Bauman is Director of Education and Community Engagement at Urban Bush Women (UBW).  UBW, founded by Jawole Zollar in 1984, seeks to bring the untold and under-told histories and stories of disenfranchised people to light through dance. Facilitating workshops from local dance studios to international retreats, UBW has been at the forefront of activating the intersections of professional and community art-making, civic engagement, leadership and group dynamics for over two decades. Maria is also founder of MBDance, which creates dances from a sense of physical and emotional power, a desire for equity and a fascination with intimacy and relationship. She teaches at universities throughout the country and serves as guest faculty for multiple dance festivals.


Alexandra Garcia, Community Organizer at New York Communities for Change
Alexandra is an organizer with New York Communities for Change Workers Committee, building alliances with neighbors, clergy and community members to demand fair wages and just work conditions for immigrant workers in Brooklyn.  As former Adult Public Programs Manager at El Museo del Barrio and community organizer at the Queens Museum of Art, Alexandra is interested in the intersection of the arts, community organizing, social movements and independent media.

Ryan Gilliam,  Artistic Executive Director of Downtown Art
Ryan has been working with young artists to make theater since 1988. Gilliam has directed over a hundred productions, written sixteen plays, and worked with more than 1200 young artists ages 12-19 to create original theater.  She has worked with local public schools and spearheaded the $4.5 million capital campaign to purchase and restore a vacant building as a youth arts center on East 4th Street.  Downtown Art is a founding member of Fourth Arts Block (FAB).

Michael Hickey, Community Development Consultant
Michael is an independent community development consultant serving nonprofit, foundation, public sector and corporate partners in project development, strategic planning, and organizational change. He recently served as the founding Executive Director of the Center for NYC Neighborhoods (CNYCN), the nation’s single largest foreclosure prevention intermediary.

Betsy Imershein, Consultant and Artist
Betsy has more than 30 years of experience engaging communities, small businesses and cultural organizations in economic development, cultural revitalization and sustainability initiatives. In addition to co-founding Croton Energy Group Inc and the Shop Small Stores program, Betsy has designed streetscape and sustainability initiatives for FABnyc and worked with the Bronx Council on the Arts to create a strategic/action plan for the South Bronx Cultural Corridor.


Milly Hawk Daniel, Vice President for Communications

Milly leads the team responsible for strategically applying media, online, editorial, and special events efforts to advance economic and social equity issues, including affordable housing, transit oriented development, equitable rebuilding in New Orleans and the revitalization of older core cities.

Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University
Jack (John Kuo Wei) Tchen, Founding Director
Jack (John Kuo Wei) Tchen is a historian and cultural activist who helps to give voice to individuals and communities who have been absent from our public history. He is the founding director of the A/P/A (Asian/Pacific/American) Studies Program and Institute at New York University (1996) and is co-founder of the New York Chinatown History Project (1980), now called the Museum of Chinese in the Americas.

More descriptive biographies of our working group members can be found here: working.group.bios

Categories: Our Work


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