By Steve Dwyer
For Mari Cate Conlon, one of the Partnership’s newest board members, involvement in the organization commenced six years ago, and in vital volunteerism role.
Conlon, a licensed New York geologist with Haley & Aldrich, a current annual sponsor of the Brownfield Partnership with more than 700 environmental and engineering consultants, began her relationship with the Partnership by volunteering in 2015 to be part of the Big Apple Brownfield Awards (BABA) nomination committee, where she collaborated under the leadership of current Partnership treasurer, Michele Rogers (Blue World Construction), to help select the gold standard of NYC brownfield redevelopments. That involvement was just the tip of the iceberg as the relationship’s trajectory has been upward and onward ever since. Conlon has since co-chaired the most recent four BABAs and was elected a Partnership board member in the fall of 2020.
The BABA experience afforded Conlon a front row seat to sorting through excellence that underpins NYC brownfield redevelopment. The relationship with the Partnership has now evolved to where Conlon envisions big things for the organization as she eases into her board seat.
“I am very thankful to be involved with the Partnership—everyone on the board is unique. It is a strong and special group. I am looking to help out in any way I can,” she says.
Let us count the ways…
Conlon, who received her master’s from Boston College in geology and previously worked as an environmental geologist with other organizations prior to H&A, is getting ready to tackle two major initiatives: Bolstering the Partnership’s social media presence and recruiting a new breed of members for the future—all in an effort to make the organization more diversified.
Conlon is helping the Partnership recruit a broad-based cross-section of NYC’s finest industry participants. On diversifying membership, Conlon says “we are eager to bring in new categories of members. We know that we have a strong presence of consultants, attorneys, developers, and more. Now we want to bring in more not-for-profits, architects and others. And, to recruit this new members means leveraging our social media platforms to find them.”
Started With BABA
Conlon, who was born on Long Island and grew up in Connecticut and currently resides in northern N.J., says one takeaway from the BABA selection experience was having to “review all the applications and then try to boil down the details to select winners—and there were a lot of worthy candidates so it wasn’t easy,” she says.
Conlon says that working with Michele Rogers has produced a nice synergy, as “Michele has great people skills and can build a consensus [from the nominating committee.]” Conlon says she has her eye on candidate-projects that focus on championing green, open space, particularly where it was lacking in a specific community.”
Advocating for more affordable housing conversions is at the top of Conlon’s wish list as well, plus the conversion of brownfields into so-called “healthfields,” defined as establishing a greater number of health care centers in communities that need it most.
In taking a lead role in beefing up the Partnership’s social media platforms, Conlon plans to places an emphasis on LinkedIn and Twitter, as they offer the best bang for the buck. Cultivating a more robust LinkedIn presence allows for more precise recruitment of environmental and engineering professionals, including younger talent. “ LinkedIn enables us to post about our events, such as the BABAs. LinkedIn is a solid social media platform that allows us to fan out, appeal and reach many people, and then spread the news about what is occurring in the NYC brownfield industry,” says Conlon.
This outreach would include scouting for and reaching students who might have a vested interest in the industry—plus “we also want to reach out to local officials by activating Twitter, to enlighten them about our industry and the developments at the local levels.”
She calls the social media initiative “a group effort, and will get ideas for posts from my fellow board members.”
Professional Goals Aplenty
With Conlon’s day job at Haley & Aldrich, one of her more fervent quests is staying current on changes to environmental standards and guidance. She spoke of the PFAS guidance that “affects all our project teams: for me it’s helpful to get updates in real time, and on a consultant end about how those changes are implemented, the interactions with regulators—all while having a back and forth about staying on top of the industry.”
Of course, this industry has been significantly affected by Covid, starting with construction shutdowns occurring last year, which impacted “some of our projects, hindered them moving forward and they stalled out for a couple of months, while waiting for the ban to lift,” says Conlon, who has been a Project Manager at H&A since Nov 2018. It is in this role that she provides consulting services in environmental investigation, site remediation and engineering control design as well as expertise in navigating clients through city, state and federal regulatory programs.
“Currently, I think a lot of projects have rebounded to move full steam ahead, as we see an uptick. We’re hoping to avoid government restrictions that could potentially be imposed. In addition, to foster communications and operational efficiency at H&A throughout the pandemic, we made efforts to stay connected with our staff, and recently we’ve been slowly returning to the office
Professionally, Conlon helps clients identify the best remedies for sites with environmental impacts. “I have extensive experience providing due diligence Ph I and Ph II assessments and guiding developers through city and state environmental regulatory programs.”
Running concurrent to this capability, Conlon, on the not-for-profit level, is eager to help the Partnership identify its own “best remedies” as it moves the needle forward on fostering NYC brownfield excellence.
The Partnership is thrilled to have her on the board.