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Ernest Tollerson and Maria Castaneda join Riverkeeper Board of Directors


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For Immediate Release: June 30, 2016
Contact: Leah Rae, Media Specialist
(914) 478-4501, ext. 238; [email protected]

Ossining, NY — Riverkeeper, New York’s clean water advocate, has appointed two new Directors to its Board: Maria Castaneda and Ernest Tollerson.

Maria Castaneda has served as Secretary Treasurer of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East since 2007. The union represents over 400,000 healthcare workers in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Florida, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. It is the largest union in New York, and the largest healthcare union in the nation. Maria holds the union’s second highest rank after President George Gresham, and among U.S. labor leaders she is the highest-ranking woman of Asian descent. Castaneda is also a Vice President of the 2.1 million-member Service Employees International Union.

Maria Castaneda 2Castaneda was born in the Philippines and immigrated to the U.S. in 1984. She became a volunteer community organizer in New York City where she assisted Filipino nurses with immigration issues and promoted Filipino culture. During that time, she also lobbied for the Nursing Relief Act, which gave permanent resident status to thousands of Filipino nurses employed in the United States. She began working for 1199SEIU in 1985, starting as an organizer in the union’s RN Division and later serving as a Vice President and Executive Vice President.

“The addition of Maria Castaneda to the Riverkeeper Board reinforces our historic alliance with the largest healthcare union in America,” said Riverkeeper Board Member and Nominating Committee Chair Hamilton Fish. “Maria is an environmentalist at heart and will provide a well-timed boost to our ongoing efforts to build a powerful and diverse coalition to defend clean water and the regional environment.”

“I am very pleased to join the Riverkeeper board,” Castaneda said. “There is a growing recognition within organized labor and among working people that climate change threatens our common humanity and that environmental degradation affects our communities disproportionately. It’s both a global issue and a local issue for every community. Right here in New York State we are discovering ‘mini-Flints’ in the water supplies of our schools and local communities. And in the summer months, when more people are enjoying the outdoors, we see increased incidences of Lyme Disease and the West Nile virus.”

“I am proud to say that our 1199SEIU members are increasingly aware of the challenges we face and stand ready to work in every way possible to protect our water, our air and our land. Protecting the environment is, for us, a primary public health issue. As frontline healthcare workers we are dedicated to saving lives, healing and, promoting wellness. Environmental health is a key link to achieving that goal. We are happy to have found a dedicated partner in Riverkeeper, with its successful decades-long track record of defending our environment.”

Ernest Tollerson is a seasoned environmental policy maker, sustainability expert, nonprofit executive and journalist with a distinguished record of volunteer leadership. He served as a trustee of the Nathan Cummings Foundation from 2004 to 2013 including a three-year term as Board Chair; he also served as the foundation’s Interim President and CEO from August 2014 until November 2015. In that capacity he helped to expand the foundation’s focus on climate issues and environmental equity.

ErnestTollersonTollerson is the former Director of Environmental Sustainability and Compliance at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, where he led work on a Blue Ribbon Commission providing a rationale for environmentally sustainable business practices at the MTA, which is North America’s largest mass transportation network.

In his nearly 25 years as a journalist, Mr. Tollerson was a reporter and editor for a number of newspapers, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, New York Newsday, where he was the editorial page editor, and The New York Times, where he was first a national correspondent and later a member of the editorial board. Tollerson currently serves on the boards of the Hudson River Foundation, the Environmental Grantmakers Association, the South Street Seaport Museum and the New-York Historical Society.

“Ernest brings a unique combination of proven leadership in both the public and nonprofit sectors to the Riverkeeper board,” says Hamilton Fish. “He understands the inner workings of public bureaucracies and he is grounded in nonprofit governance — two important priorities for our advocacy program and our organizational development going forward.”

“It’s an honor to join the board of Riverkeeper, and I look forward to working with the board and staff,’’ Tollerson said. ”I’ve long admired Riverkeeper’s tireless commitment to advancing the recovery of the Hudson and protecting the drinking-water resources for millions of people in the Hudson River Valley watershed.”

“Throughout the Hudson’s watershed — from its headwaters in the Adirondacks to New York City’s harbor and all of the Hudson Valley communities in between — Riverkeeper’s mission and the outcomes it pursues in court and other key arenas are essential if we want to create a sustainable and socially just future.”

Tollerson and Castaneda were appointed under Riverkeeper’s bylaws Monday, June 13, after their names were submitted by the Board’s Nominating Committee.

With the new appointments, Riverkeeper’s Board now consists of 26 members, including an Advisory Board Liaison and a Junior Council Liaison. Riverkeeper’s Board Chair is Joe Boren, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is Vice Chair. Other board officers include Peggy Cullen (Secretary), Jonathan Spanier (Treasurer), Paul Gallay (President and Hudson Riverkeeper).

About Riverkeeper: Riverkeeper is a member-supported watchdog organization dedicated to defending the Hudson River and its tributaries and protecting the drinking water supply of nine million New York City and Hudson Valley residents. Since its beginnings as the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association 50 years ago, Riverkeeper has helped to establish globally recognized standards for waterway and watershed protection and serves as the model and mentor for the growing Waterkeeper movement that includes over 290 Keeper programs across the country and around the globe.

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